Band of Brothers – Q&A with Needtobreathe
South Carolina’s own Needtobreathe is back with a new record and a new sound. Here’s a Q & A with band member Seth Bolt.
Y’all have said that the new album H A R D L O V E is different and adventurous for the band. How so?
Our South Carolina roots have always shaped our sound. I think we could make an all out dance record and it would still have a Southern accent. It can take years for a band to craft a sound they can call their own. We’ve been a band now for 15 years and every time we write and record a new record we feel more freedom to explore new sounds. H A R D L O V E is our foray into the land of synthesizers and heavy drumbeats, so this is the biggest sounding record we’ve ever made.
You recently announced the second leg of your TOUR DE COMPADRES. What can we expect to see on stage this year?
And spoil all of the surprises? No way! (laughter) I have no idea how many 18 wheelers it’s going to take to move this show from city to city, but we are all very pleased with how big the show looks and feels, so far. We’re gonna have video for the first time because our crowds have grown to 10,000+ and we want everyone from the pit to the back row of the arena to feel like they are connected with us. Okay, okay…a few hints: a dance party with Mat Kearney, gold limousines, a 9 iron, and some ice cubes.
The tour will have you going non stop for four months. How do you keep yourselves entertained on the road?
The whole idea behind TOUR DE COMPADRES is creating a one-of-a-kind mini-festival…
1. All the bands are friends and grew up touring together.
2. These lineups are probably a once-in-a-lifetime pairing because each band is a headliner in their own right.
3. It’s everything you love about a music festival minus walking from stage-to-stage in the hot sun.
TOUR DE COMPADRES is our way of guaranteeing that touring will be fun for us and for our fans. If only we could fit everyone backstage for the late-night jams and collaborations.
Y’all always do an unplugged song (no microphones) during your live shows. How did that start?
We saw Will Hoge sing “Carousel” unplugged at The Handlebar. He was standing on top of the bar with his acoustic guitar and you could hear a pin drop. It was then and there we realized the powerful connection we can have with the crowd when we push all of the technology to the side for a moment. Also, we’ve been harmonizing our voices since we were 7 years old (we were the de facto stars in many low-budget Christmas musicals when we went to school together—and I’m very glad none of it has made it to YouTube).
Tell us about the Needtobreathe Classic.
The NEEDTOBREATHE Classic is an annual golf tournament that raises money for OneWorld Health (OWH), a Charleston based non-profit that builds health clinics in developing countries. The tournament raises awareness and resources that directly impact the lives of everyday people who have ZERO options for healthcare where they live.
We have seen OneWorld Health save and enhance the quality of life for over 100,000 of our brothers and sisters living well below the poverty line. A profound priority shift happened in me the first time I watched a 4-year-old boy named Ronald smile from ear-to-ear as he finally took his first steps with leg braces provided by OneWorld Health. His muscles were very weak from Yellow Fever. They were able to treat that too. His mother cried and kept saying “God bless you” in Swahili. Life changing moments like this happen every day and OneWorld Health is growing rapidly because it has a sustainable business model which people love because they know that the money they donate will be multiplied.
I have to brag on our fans. They realize how important this is. Last year, our fans raised enough money to build a brand new OneWorld Health clinic in Nicaragua (~$250,000)! We are more proud of this than any amount of success we’ve had in the music industry.
Your music has evolved a lot over the years. Has that been organic or intentional?
Both. Bo Rinehart (guitarist, songwriter) is also a crazy talented visual artist. He is the mind behind every NEEDTOBREATHE graphic you’ve ever seen and he is constantly using different mediums to achieve different looks—oil paint on canvas, crayons on wax paper, mascara on a sketchpad. In the same way, every record starts with us going into the studio every day and making a big mess with art supplies. At the end of the day, it’s all about whether the song is good or not.
How has your songwriting process evolved over the years?
I have had a front row seat for watching the songwriting process of principle writers, Bear and Bo Rinehart. They are both prolific and extremely hard working. Bo has over 1500 song ideas to pull from at this point, so assembling great records is getting both easier and more difficult because there are so many different feelings, sonically and lyrically, that may never see the light of day.
Bear and Bo are from Possum Kingdom, South Carolina. What is Possum Kingdom like?
I have been there many times! We all went to summer camp there. Bear and Bo’s dad, Bill Rinehart, ran the youth camp—and being the mischievous hooligans we were, we often broke into the candy stash. Possum Kingdom epitomizes life in the country. Wide open spaces and busy bare feet, swimming in the pond, building forts in the woods until dark. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I’m actually glad cell phones didn’t exist back then… it might have taken half the fun out of those genuine moments of boyhood. As technology transitions from being a matter of convenience to a matter of dependency, we must be careful not to abandon the innocence of childhood and the simple pleasures of life. If you need a reset, go to Possum Kingdom or to my treehouse retreat, which is nearby.
Are there any new bands or new records that you guys are into right now?
Welshly Arms blew us away on The Rock Boat, so we recruited them for TOUR DE COMPADRES 2016. Charleston based Shovels & Rope are a favorite for all of us, too. They make a guest appearance on our new record H A R D L O V E, (which came out July 15th.)A few other bands to mention are Colony House (from TDC 2015)
WATERS, Brother, Dorothy…
Guilty pleasure music—anything you are fans of that’s not too embarrassing to share?
My wife blasts Bieber’s new record PURPOSE on the regs and I love it.
H A R D L O V E was recorded at your Plantation Studios in Charleston. What are the advantages and disadvantages to recording in your own studio?
I end up sleeping in the studio a lot so that I can work super late and then get up and start again. The advantage is that it doesn’t cost us a fortune to experiment with every possible tweak, the disadvantage is that we end up experimenting with every possible tweak.
Y’all could live anywhere in the world. What brings you back to South Carolina?
This is where most people would say “It’s home”, and luckily for us it is. During my childhood I was a little embarrassed to claim South Carolina because we only made the news for race-division issues like the confederate flag and for low standardized testing scores. I am proud that my generation is writing a new chapter of love and equality.
I’d like to see our state leading the charge to eradicate systemic discrimination built into old legislation. The Carolinas are home to some of the prettiest backdrops in the world. I got married seven weeks ago at my family farm (Bolt Farm) and my bachelor party was on Lake Keowee —I cannot imagine a more inspiring setting. We all live in Charleston, SC now, which has been racking up awards recently as the #1 city in the U.S. and the world. We discovered this about 10 years ago and have been broadcasting the beauty of Charleston ever since.
I don’t want to say we deserve all of the credit for these awards (laughs), but I will confirm that after touring the world and visiting every city in the U.S. over a dozen times, there is no place else we’d rather call home.