South Carolina rock band NEEDTOBREATHE has five albums behind them, a Grammy nomination, and sellout arena shows. Their latest album, Hard Love (July 2016) made the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums as well as the Top Christian Albums charts. You’ll notice this album dives into the world of electronic effects and instrumentation. Says The Musical Melting Pot, “On this album, NEEDTOBREATHE are an unstoppable sonic force.”
If you think that’s great, read what Seth Bolt (vocals & bass) shares about how your concert tickets impact medical care in other parts of the world!
PM: What inspired the name NEEDTOBREATHE?
Seth Bolt: The name came from a story we heard in college about Socrates. One of his students asked him this big philosophical question, “How would I know if I’m truly seeking after my purpose in life?” At the time we were personally seeking for our purpose in life. We were trying to figure out if we should create this band. Is this music thing a pipe dream? We felt like we were supposed to be playing music, so that story resonated with us. The way the story ends is Socrates, instead of verbally answering the student, takes the student over to a pond and dunks his head underneath the water for a little bit. When he lets the student up, he’s gasping for air and thinks, “What’s going on?!” Socrates looks at him and says, “When you want that purpose as badly as you need to breathe, that’s when you know that you’re truly seeking after your purpose.”
PM: That’s fantastic. Did you all meet in college?
SB: We actually met during childhood. I was seven years-old when I met Bear and Bo. We were playmates; we went to summer camp together and played sports together. We literally spent pretty much all of our lives together that we can remember. That really feeds into the music that we make, because we have so much life chemistry that’s turned over to the musical chemistry.
PM: Tell us about your new album Hard Love. What inspired it and the new electronic effects that you dive into?
SB: Hard Love is a story of redemption. The album that preceded it was titled Rivers in the Wasteland, and when we were making that record we really did feel like we were in a wasteland. We had gotten a little bit lost in success and really had to stop everything, step back, and refocus on our purpose. We had to remember all the things that were special to us that made us want to be a band and travel the world making music in the first place. Once we did that, that was the beginning of rediscovering our love for one another and for music. Anytime we do anything for a job long enough, doesn’t matter what it is, people tend to get burned out on it. With all this rediscovery coming back into our lives and our relationships, we simultaneously became inspired by music again and by new sounds, by the sonic possibilities that hadn’t really inspired us in the past. All this was the catalyst for providing new inspiration for the album.
We’ve always been a band that values playing instruments and really singing—not relying on computers or sounds made by holding down one note on the keyboard and then you’ve got a song. The way technology has advanced, sometimes music production is that simple these days. You don’t really have to know much about music or even know how to play an instrument to make music. We were always resistant to that type of music because we thought it undermined the instrumentalism, the skills that we worked so hard to attain on our instruments. Then we thought, “Let’s just get over ourselves and use all these tools that we haven’t been using in creative ways. Let’s play these like an instrument and embrace electronic music.”
PM: My personal favorite on Hard Love is “Testify.” The lyrics acknowledge that it’s only by coming to the fountain that we can be satisfied. How did you personally first come to the fountain? And how in your current relationship with Him do you continue to come to the fountain?
SB: A great question. My parents are Christians, so I grew up in a very healthy Christian environment where they demonstrated God’s love to me on a daily basis. The message of God’s love made sense to me. I heard it from them. I got to see them practice that to others in our community. My parents were the people who were constantly welcoming lonely people into our home on Thanksgiving, at Christmas, and constantly trying to give back to the community and shine lights. In terms of my childhood, I couldn’t have asked for better role models. I found that through adolescence and adulthood, time after time, I had encounters with God where I knew it wasn’t just a belief system to lean on for support. It’s a real thing, and there’s a real relationship there that’s available to everyone.
My favorite lyric in “Testify” is, “There’s a peace/there’s a love that you can get lost inside.” Probably just in this last month, it occurred to me that as much as people talk about God’s love, sharing God’s peace with modern people is really an intriguing new way to begin talking about faith with modern people. Because I think everyone has sort of heard, “Jesus loves you and God loves you.” But when you talk about the peace of God, peace is something I feel modern people lack. Even Christian people struggle sometimes with feeling peace. That peace is 100% found and realized when you fully accept and embrace God’s love, because God’s love is everything we need, and it provides peace.
That song probably shares our faith more than any song we’ve ever written. We felt that if we wanted to testify about one thing, it’s the peace that can be found in the love of God.
PM: That’s powerful. How is prayer a part of NEEDTOBREATHE?
SB: For us it has been a long learning process. We always try to make it clear that we don’t have everything figured out. Certainly one thing that has become a bedrock for the band is the prayers we lift up on a daily basis for each other, with our families. We’re praying for each other. Last year, one of my big realizations was that if you pray for someone long enough, you will love them, no matter what you have been through, or how they have harmed you. It’s impossible to genuinely pray for someone, to lift them up, and not begin to love them more. It’s a heart softener. That has been key to our longevity as a band, and being able to be around each other day after day after day. Also, as we have gotten married and had kids, the family element has absolutely redefined the way we work together.
Prayer is a daily thing. It’s just a conversation, but I haven’t found anything that’s more unifying than prayer. Because it’s a conversation you’re having together, you’re lifting up your needs, you’re asking for direction. That to me is the most unifying thing for both my family and my band.
PM: What excites you most about the future of NEEDTOBREATHE?
SB: So much. Our next trip is to Tola, Nicaragua to do a ribbon cutting ceremony for a medical clinic that our fans built. For every concert you ever attend for NEEDTOBREATHE, we give a dollar of the ticket price to OneWorld Health, an organization that we’ve partnered with to provide health care to parts of the world that do not receive health care. Just a few dollars can literally be the difference between life or death for people who are waiting on simple medicine, simple procedures. It can be life changing for someone to be able to have a broken leg set; they don’t have to live the rest of their life with a leg that won’t allow them to walk properly.
I’ve been there, and I went to Uganda, where one of the first clinics was built. We’re super excited to be cutting the ribbon on the medical center in Nicaragua. I couldn’t be more proud of our fans. This is a really big win for people, and for us. Ultimately, we feel like the work we’re doing with OneWorld Health is going to be something that lives on way longer than our music. We’re happy to know that in terms of legacy, this is going to help so many people.
That’s one thing we’re really excited about. Another is we just got a call from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill to play some shows with them. That will be coming up as well.
Captain Pamela Maynor, Editor