In advance of the award-winning South Carolina rock band’s sold-out acoustic show at Fountain Street Church on Saturday, singer Bear Rinehart had a lively chat with Local Spins writer Ricky Olmos.
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With its ascension from scrappy Southern rock road dogs to recognizable mainstream success, NEEDTOBREATHE has maintained its resilience and sincerity.
Since its start toiling away in campus coffee shops in the late ’90s, the South Carolina band (Bear Rinehart, Bo Rinehart, Seth Bolt and Josh Lovelace) has released six studio records and three live albums, toured the globe, and amassed a staggering fan base for music that spans alt-rock, Christian rock and more.
Having released its “Acoustic Live Vol. 1” last year, an endearing collection that showcases the nuances of the band’s songwriting and live
performances, another North American acoustic tour is under way. (The band last played Grand Rapids in November 2017 when it performed at 20 Monroe Live.)
A week before the band’s sold-out stop at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids on Saturday (Feb. 23), Bear Rinehart’s gravelly voice comes through the phone on the other line, laid back and fashioned with a Southern cadence.
Local Spins: What are you doing right this second?
Bear Rinehart: I’m sitting in my studio in Nashville just hanging. This is the last day before we leave, so I’ve been packing all morning actually, getting ready to roll. We’re rolling out tonight at midnight on the bus.
Local Spins: I saw that your brother, Bo, who is also in the band, is playing the celebrity NBA all-star game later today. How’d that come about?
Bear Rinehart: Yeah, it’s awesome man. He’s always dreamed about it. He loves basketball. Out of all the guys in the band, he’s by far the biggest NBA guy. So I think he kind of put it out to some people that work for us last year, and they came through with it kind of last-minute. I think he’s stoked and he’ll probably kill it. He’s got a great shot and he’s good under pressure, so we’ll see what happens.
Local Spins: Has getting older and having families changed the way you approach your profession?
Bear Rinehart: Not a whole lot, honestly. What’s been nice is that the profession has kind of changed alongside that whole process. We used to do a couple hundred shows a year, and now, even if we didn’t have families, 50 or 60 shows would be the target. The shows have gotten bigger and it takes a lot more to get ready for them. And we can hit most of the places in America in that amount of time. I definitely think family makes things not as life and death as it used to be. We all just kind of get along a little better.
Local Spins: Are there any downsides to this job?
Bear Rinehart: I don’t think so man. I think the downside would be not being able to do it if this is what you love to do. Certainly it’s not a wise choice if you could do anything else. I tell people that when they ask me what they should do. I’ll tell ‘em to make sure they really love this because it’s going to be a long road. I think we all really do get a lot of life out on the road, and I think we can be better fathers because of that.
Local Spins: Any tour routines you try to adhere to?
Bear Rinehart: Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot healthier about it as the shows have gotten bigger. When we started out we were playing 45 minutes to an hour and now it’s like two hours-plus every night. A lot of health stuff, as far as getting sleep and having a warm-up routine. I like to exercise. It’s really important for me to try to give the same show 50 times if we’re going to be out 50 nights.
Local Spins: What content are you consuming right not? Netflix, books, podcasts?
Bear Rinehart: I just watched the new Sam Cooke documentary. And the one about Quincy Jones. I loved that.
Local Spins: What are some items you always take on tour?
Bear Rinehart: Number one is bathing suit.
(Editors Note: At this point, the interviewer misunderstood the word “bathing suit” as “baby food” and a moment of slight confusion ensues.)
Local Spins: Ohhh. BATHING SUIT. I thought you said baby food.
Bear Rinehart: *laughs* Yeah, that’d be weird. No, swimming trunks! That’s my number one pro tip about traveling. Never know when a pool or jacuzzi is gonna pop up. I also take a mobile recording rig now.
Local Spins: How do you feel about bears? Like the animal kind?
Bear Rinehart: *laughs* I wouldn’t mess with ‘em! I guess I have some sort of affinity towards everything with bears, since that’s my nickname. I have a bunch of bear jewelry. And I think my kids are just kind of realizing there’s a different kind of bear, you know, in our house.
Local Spins: Do you have a bear rug?
Bear Rineheart: No, but I’ve always wanted to. That’s definitely a photo shoot that will happen in our career at some point. The nude bear rug sort of a Burt Reynolds thing. *laughs*
Local Spins: If you could time travel to any decade, which would you choose?
Bear Rineheart: I might go back to the ’80s and redo some of the things I chose to wear.
Local Spins: What’s the most unforgivable thing you ever wore while performing?
Bear Rinehart: I remember when I wore white jeans at a club one time, back when the band was playing small rock clubs. And every friend I had told me how embarrassed for me they were after the show. That’s the only thing I’ve ever worn where I really shamed myself and my family’s name.
Local Spins: What advice would you give yourself when you were just starting out as a musician?
Bear Rinehart: That it’s a long road and any given night or opportunity is not going to make or break the band. So care about the people around you more than you do that opportunity. I think we drove pretty hard toward everything and felt like we couldn’t say no for a really long time. And that ended up causing issues when we needed to say no for somebody’s sake and we just never would. And honestly, I think that kind of drive isn’t what makes bands work or not. Thinking back now, it would have been better just to side with the person, rather that the opportunity.
VIDEO: NEEDTOBREATHE, “Brother” (Acoustic Live)
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