Nashville, TN

NEEDTOBREATHE Delves ‘Into the Mystery’ with New Album, Tour and Upcoming Documentary

Deborah Evans Price

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NEEDTOBREATHEPhoto credit: David O’Donohue

By Deborah Evans Price

In the music business these days, a lot of time and effort goes into planning and strategizing the release of every song and every carefully crafted social media post, but sometimes the best things just happen organically. Such is the case with NEEDTOBREATHE’S latest Elektra album, Into the Mystery, and upcoming documentary of the same name due out November 5th.

“When I was writing these songs, it was during the pandemic. I wasn’t writing for any record. We had just put one out [2020’s Out of Body],” NEEDTOBREATHE lead vocalist Bear Rinehart tells News Break. “The whole thought for me was just I want to learn how to do demos myself, so I’m going to finish some of these songs, and I want to write every day because I’m really enjoying it. It’s kind of nice listening back to these songs. A lot of things got in there that maybe would have gotten held out on our normal album cycle.”

The documentary, which will be in theaters and on demand at iTunes/Apple TV and Prime Video, also came about organically. “It was another thing that just kind of happened,” Rinehart says. “We thought we were going to do episodes for every song, and we got in there and were like that doesn’t make sense for this,” he says. “So, we kind of recorded it that way and it make a lot of sense as a documentary. It’s the making of the music, but it’s a lot about where we are as people, where we are as a band and all those things that we’ve been through.”

The documentary captures the NEEDTOBREATHE’S recording sessions at a historic house-turned-recording studio in Columbia, TN. Over the course of three weeks during the pandemic, band members Rinehart, Seth Bolt (bass, vocals), Josh Lovelace (keys, vocals), Randall Harris (drums) and Tyler Burkum (guitar) sequestered themselves at the rural house and created Into the Mystery.

“I really do feel lucky to be a part of what we just got to be a part of at the house,” Rinehart says. “It could not have happened if we weren’t off the road. It could not have happened if the pandemic didn’t happen. It could not have happened if my brother hadn’t left the band at the time he did, just all the million things that happened to come together for it to be just like really three weeks of us feeling like we were at camp and having the best time of our lives. So, to have cameras there on top of it we were all stoked.”

Directed by Chris Phelps, NEEDTOBREATHE: Into the Mystery was produced in partnership with Elektra Records and Foundations Music and will be released by Greenwich Entertainment. The film release will follow NEEDTOBREATHE’S 38-city tour this fall, which kicks off Sept. 7 at St. Louis Music Park in St. Louis, MO. The lineup also includes Switchfoot and The New Respects.

Rinehart is looking forward to performing new songs from Into the Mystery on the band’s upcoming trek. “I think the world as a whole wants to be together and music is the thing that brings people together,” he says. “My favorite thing about our shows is how broad the audience is. It’s all over the place age wise, faith wise, and that part is really cool to me. To think that all these people who don’t believe the same way or do anything else during the week the same, they get together and sing the same songs somehow. That’s just really sweet.”

Into the Mystery features intriguing collaborations that Rinehart is excited about, including “I Wanna Remember,” a duet with country superstar Carrie Underwood, and “Carry Me,” with Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman. “I had the chorus and the first verse and I sent it to him and was kind of joking in a way, and said, ‘If me and Jon Foreman were to write a song together, it should sound something like this,’” Rinehart says. “And he was like, ‘I love it!’ And in 20 minutes he sent me back the other verses and the bridge. I was like, ‘Wow, maybe this is going to happen.’ Then it worked out for him to fly in and be a part of the recording which was awesome for us. We’ve been fans of him for so long and he’s such a mentor to us. We got to sit around the campfire at the end of the night and ask him questions, interview him like, ‘What was one of the most embarrassing things that has happened to you on the road? What are the regrets and those kinds of things?’ It was just really awesome for us.”

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Carrie Underwood and NEEDTOBREATHEPhoto credit: Jacq Justice

Rinehart’s collaboration with Underwood started in a Nashville church. “I actually went to a church one day and I met her for the first time,” Rinehart explains. “She said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but I was [going] to call you this week to sing on my record.’”

Underwood recruited Rinehart to sing on “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus” on her gospel album My Savior. “I went and sang harmonies, which I don’t do, on her record and it was the most nerve-racking thing,” he admits. “She’s one of the best singers in the world and I felt like I was throwing left-handed in there, so she was really patient and super sweet about it.”

Underwood returned the favor joining NEEDTOBREATHE on “I Wanna Remember.” “I didn’t send her the song until actually we had gotten back from the house recording and listened to the mix of it,” he says. “So I sent her the tracks and she came back really quickly [saying], ‘I love the song! Let’s do it.’”

Underwood also appears in the video for the song. “We just had a good time honestly,” Rinehart says of the video shoot. “It was really easy. We did it here in Nashville and it’s cool when you have a collaboration that the other artist actually wants to do it and secondly is open to whatever and she was that way. She was like, ‘I’ll stay as long as you need me to. I don’t want any money for it. Just tell me where you need me, I’ll be there,’ which is kind of awesome.”

Rinehart says he was surprised to learn that Underwood is such a big rock music fan. “I was asking her, ‘Well who would you want to collaborate with that you haven’t? She was like, ‘Axl Rose.’ I was like okay, I did not see that coming, but I get it,” Rinehart says with a smile. “I think she enjoyed kind of being in the band for a little bit. Obviously when you are a solo artist it’s a little bit different. And none of these guys ever shut up. They just talk all the time and joke and so I think it was fun for her to be around that for a little bit.”

Rinehart also enlisted another talented Nashville songwriter/artist to join him on the poignant ballad “Don’t Throw All the Good Things Away.” “Natalie Hemby was one of my first writes in Nashville and was just so awesome and soulful. I just loved what she’s done,” Rinehart says. “And I selfishly was like, ‘We need a girl to sing on this, but we also need someone to help me write the bridge.’ She’s the first one that came to mind. I was like, ‘If we can get her to come over to help me write the bridge and sing on it in the same day, I’ll be happy,’ so it just worked out. She was close enough and kind enough to take the [COVID] test before she came over to hang with us.”

The songs on Into the Mystery represent some of Rinehart’s most personal lyrics. He tempers the uncertainty of the current times with hope on the tender ballad “Chances” in the lyric that shares, “It's always hard to find the courage to start dancing/But I am determined to take my chances/But peace can be hard to find in all this misunderstanding/But I am determined to take my chances.”

The title track explores some issues from childhood. “The song originally for me was about growing up with conservative Christian parents that were doing their best for sure, but it felt like at times they loved me as long as I was doing right, as long as I was within these lines,” Rinehart says. “I know that wasn’t their intention, but that’s the way it felt growing up. I was grappling with that a lot over the last year especially after having my own kids because it’s something you tell your kid, ‘We’ll love you no matter what you do,’ but then your six-year-old punches somebody at school and it puts it to the test, so I was just exploring what that meant.

“And when I got into the studio with the band it really felt like the band was asking our fans that. It felt like, ‘Man, this is not just a different kind of record for us, this is a different direction we’re taking and a different way of doing it. It doesn’t mean all the records are going to sound like this, but do you have enough faith to listen to something that is a little bit off for us or a little more serious?’ It was just empowering in that way and it felt a lot like we were stepping out into something that was unknown.”

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NEEDTOBREATHEPhoto credit: David O’Donohue

That willingness to take risks and explore the unknown keeps NEEDTOBREATHE moving forward nearly two decades into the band’s career. They made their major label debut with the album Daylight in 2006 and over the course of the next seven studio albums have continued to build a diverse fan base. Rinehart says after all these years, the band is still hungry.

“Hungry is a good word, I think,” he says. “We’re really inspired. We can see things in the future that we haven’t gotten to that are within reach and I don’t mean success wise. I don’t mean ticket sales or records sales or anything like that. I mean in terms of our creative thing, the statement we’re going to make as a band. We all feel like it’s out there in front of us and that’s really cool after 20 years of making music to have that feeling. We have a childish sort of admiration for music right now, which is kind of awesome to be around.

“We went and saw the Black Crowes a couple weeks ago here in Nashville and we just had the best time in the world” he continues. “We haven’t seen a show like that in forever and so we were going home and Josh was like, ‘Should we go like rehearse?’ And we go, ‘Yes let’s go do it!’ So we literally had somebody come over to the space and open it up and we just jammed until 3 am. I haven’t done that since high school. It’s been a long time. That is kind of the spirit that is in the room with the band right now. I just feel like it makes you want to work a lot harder. This tour we’re about to do it’s like 30 something songs that we’re going to play, probably 10 more songs that we’re going to play than any tour we’ve ever done. It’s the most ambitious production wise we’ve ever done and definitely the most preparation we’ve ever put into a tour. It’s not grueling. We all want to go to work which is great. We’re excited.”

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Being a journalist is like having a special license to explore the world, and I've found over the years there's no place I love exploring more than Nashville, Tennessee! After decades in Music City, I'm still finding new people and places that fascinate me. Join me on the journey!

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