WATCH: Members Of NEEDTOBREATHE Reflect On The Band's Rich Southern Roots
We chatted with the South Carolina-based rock stars on all things Southern: football, food, and good people.
Charleston, South Carolina-based rock band NEEDTOBREATHE wow their sold-out crowds nearly nightly with a gritty, soulful, musical, experience. It’s clear that this band garners musical influence from Southern rock, soul, and gospel, and the result is a powerful punch of tunes that fans connect with strongly.
This perfect combination of three distinctly Southern sounds is due, primarily, to the deeply planted Southern roots held by the men behind the music. Bandmates and brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart as well as childhood friend Seth Bolt all hail from small towns in South Carolina, and rounding out the quartet core is Knoxville, Tennessee native Josh Lovelace.
Southern Living recently caught up with the guys on a tour stop in Birmingham and discussed the impact that a Southern upbringing had on each of the musicians as well as how they stay rooted in Southern traditions while out on the road.
For brothers, Bear and Bo, even their names are rooted in Southern heritage—inspired by the unofficial second religion of the South, football.
“Yeah both of our parents are from Alabama and, right after I was born...they nicknamed me Bear after Bear Bryant from Alabama…And then when he was born, they named him Bryant. Just went ahead with it,” Bear said.
“So we really didn’t have a choice but to love the team and so we’re kinda live and die [fans],” Bear added. He also noted that people give them a hard time about it because Alabama football is so good now, but they remember when that wasn’t the case. Bear admitted that many tears were shed over lost games. That’s a sentiment we certainly understand.
Bandmate Seth Bolt pointed out that even band business takes a backseat to the Crimson Tide.
“There’s a chance you might cancel sound check if the games are close or something,” Bolt joked with the elder Rinehart brother. But, it’s clear that they take their Bama football seriously.
Another Southern staple the fellas are serious about is the cuisine. They may travel far away from their homes while on tour, but they make sure to fill up on their favorites whenever they can.
Josh Lovelace is partial to a hearty dish his grandmother always made. “If you can find a classic chicken and dumplings platter anywhere, find the best one and that’s usually what I would go towards,” he said.
Bolt, while on the road, dreams of a meal with his wife at their favorite restaurant back home. “My wife and I love eating at Middleton Place. Amazing low country food and they have a farm there so much of it is fresh, right out of the backyard.”
For the brothers Rinehart, their favorite food hails from the kitchen of a back home haunt, The Walhalla Steakhouse Cafeteria. “They do not serve steak in there. It’s a fried chicken and meat-and-three kind of place. They have Snickers Pie in there and it is absolutely ridiculous. Even now, when we play now in Clemson near there, we order out,” Bear said.
“I still have not understood the concept of that–why they say steak house and then they don’t have steak...You get in there: 'Oh I’ll have steak!' 'No, we don’t have steak.' 'Well but we’re already here [might as well stay],'” Bo joked.
Finally, we discussed what being Southern truly means to them and it’s clear by their answer that all of what makes their sound distinct comes directly from their upbringing.
“I think the South owns some of the best music, soul music, and, really, Rock and Roll was born in the South. So that’s important to us, obviously. And, it means sweet people,” Bear said. Bo added that the South also has great food.
“It means great food. What else do you really need? We talk a little slower. We enjoy things more. A Southern man tells better jokes,” Bear said with a playful smile.
Although NEEDTOBREATHE isn’t a staple in Top 40 radio, their shows are packed and it only takes 30 seconds of the first song to see the profound connection they feel with their fans, those "sweet people" Bear mentioned. It’s also clear that this connection comes from a place of authenticity and being true to who they are and where they come from. The men also fully recognize their success comes from those fans. So, when they saw that so many of their fans were suffering after the destruction of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, they knew they couldn’t sit idly by. This was a time for one of the most basic principles of Southern folk—neighbor helping neighbor.
The band, along with their record label Atlantic Records, made the decision that a song they’d planned to release as a single would take on new life and a different, more meaningful path. From now until the end of the year, all of the proceeds –including single sales, streaming revenue, and licensing fees–of the band’s new song, Walking On Water, will be donated to benefit victims of the recent hurricanes.
“We were like, 'We gotta do something.' It made sense to go with this song,” Bear said.
Indeed it did. It seems as though the song was written specifically for this cause, with the opening line:
“The wind is strong. The water is deep. My heart is heavy and my mind won’t sleep.”
But in fact, the song was penned well before the hurricanes hit.