by Vincent Harris
It’s been four years since Seneca, South Carolina’s Grammy-nominated Needtobreathe released an album. That’s the longest layoff in the platinum-selling group’s two-decade history. In those four years, members have started families and lead guitarist Bo Rinehart left the band.
Perhaps all that change is why the remaining members of the band, singer/guitarist William “Bear” Rinehart, bassist Seth Bolt and keyboardist Josh Lovelace, focused so much on transition and the passage of time on their new album, Out of Body.
You can hear it in Rinehart’s lyrics throughout the album. “You can look back over your shoulder, yeah, but don’t look too long,” he sings on the anthemic “Hang On,” the first single from Out of Body.
“Got the hounds of hell chasin’,” sings guest artist Drew Holcomb on “Survival.” “My time’s runnin’ thin.”
On the closing ballad, “Seasons,” Rinehart finds both comfort and uncertainty in the inevitable changes that life brings: “We won’t be here forever,” he sings, “Just a moment then we’re through/ But I found me a rhythm/ It takes time to realize that your life’s gonna pass you by.”
This is music made by a group that has had time to watch its young children grow and change over the last few years.
“Kids have an innocence, and just no shame,” Bolt said with a laugh. “There’s just no fear. It’s a beautiful thing. If you can find a road to that childlike innocence and faith, you can maintain the hope that we have that things can change, and tomorrow is a new day and it can be better.”
The album is full of the big music Needtobreathe gained a following on: Soaring sing-along anthems with nods to the band members’ Christian faith — though they don’t identify as a contemporary Christian band. Songs like “Hang On,” and the kettle-drum-driven “Banks” will sound familiar to fans. But the most affecting moments on Out of Body are when things get stripped down, most notably on the acoustic guitar-centered collaboration with the Holcombs, “Survival.”
“We’ve known them for years,” Bolt said, “and they’ve become like family to us. They’ve toured with us more than anyone else, and they’re just incredible people.”
It probably felt good to have familiar faces around. Bo Rinehart was Needtobreathe’s lead guitarist for more than 20 years, and Lovelace said recording without him for the first time was nerve-racking.
“When you go into the studio to make a record, or you’re going into a tour, for a band like us, you have some things that you always do when you walk in the door,” he said. “Bo brought a lot of creativity.”
On the plus side, it allowed Needtobreathe to do things differently as it became a different band. The last album, 2016’s HARDLOVE, used synthesizers and electronics extensively, and they pop up occasionally on Out of Body, but overall the trio took a more organic approach.
“This album, more than others, was made in that way where the takes were live, and we were all playing at the same time,” Lovelace said. “We really went into the room to play our instruments together and do something that felt youthful and free and wide open. We didn’t have all of these rules in our heads or these things that we’ve always done.”
Needtobreathe has dealt with personnel changes before. In fact, the band never officially hired a replacement for drummer Joe Stillwell after he left in 2012, though it’s been working with Randall Harris behind the kit for years. But Bolt said the band’s ability to carry on without Bo proves the band is bigger than its members.
“It’s up to us to just use the talents and the opportunities we have as part of this collective and try to put out great music and put on great shows, and leave people feeling like there’s something bigger than themselves,” Bolt said. “That’s the goal.”
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