South Carolina rock band NEEDTOBREATHE has seen their fair share of ups and downs over the course of their career, but their latest chapter left them on a particularly high note unmatched by any of their previous work. Their blockbuster 2014 album Rivers In the Wasteland landed the band their first-ever Grammy Award nomination, topped Billboard’s Top Rock Albums and Top Alternative Albums charts, and earned their highest-charting single yet with the RIAA GoldCertified Top 10 hit “Brother (feat. Gavin DeGraw).” But when it came time to record its followup, the Charleston, South Carolina-based band decided to completely alter their creative approach and break into entirely new sonic terrain.
Building off the impassioned, anthemic alt-rock dynamic that’s come to define the band, brothers Bear Rinehart and Bo Rinehart, Seth Bolt, and Josh Lovelace brought their sixth studio album H A R D L O V E to life by delving into the world of electronic effects and instrumentation.
“We were in a dark place when we made the last record, but to me this album is mostly a story of redemption,” says Bear. “Most bands would’ve broken up ten times by now if they’d gone through what we went through, but I think it made us stronger than ever.
On lead single “HAPPINESS,” with its soaring vocals and Southern gospel flavor, NEEDTOBREATHE gives a closer look at the personal toll of pursuing that greater good. “‘HAPPINESS is about how the people around you are the ones who get hurt the most by you going after your dreams—but it’s also about knowing that the people who really love you will stick by you through it all.”
But before heading into the studio, the band spent nine days writing and demoing at a rented house tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina. Working from sunset to sunrise every night, the band set up four recording stations throughout the house and dedicated themselves to pursuing any song idea that sprung to mind. “You could be eating breakfast and hear someone playing guitar upstairs. Suddenly, you get a spark of inspiration, and go running to their nearest station to get that idea down,” says Bo. After coming up with nearly a dozen new songs in those nine days, NEEDTOBREATHE threw themselves into another intensive writing session back home in Charleston, before settling in at their own Plantation Studios to start recording. “Once we got in the studio, we went from being a bunch of redneck hippies jamming around the mountain house to buckling down and focusing on nailing the exact sounds we were looking for,” Bo recalls. That included tapping into new inspirations like the bright textures of modern pop, as well as mining longtime influences like “old church music and soul and gospel and all that rock-and-roll stuff that’s got a certain level of swampiness to it,” according to Bear.
Throughout their journey as a band, NEEDTOBREATHE have strived to create music that’s part of an ongoing, all-encompassing conversation on life and love—an ambition that’s even inspired details like the stylization of their new album title. “There’s something very tough and bold about the concept of H A R D L O V E—it’s about full-on commitment, and it’s a statement that we want to sing proudly and loudly,” explains Bo. We hold that in our mind when we’re writing, and we keep on refining everything until we feel like it’s in a place that absolutely deserves to be a part of that conversation.”