Interview: Seth Bolt of NEEDTOBREATHE

Photos by David O’Donohue
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After quietly composing and recording throughout the fall of 2020, Grammy Award-nominated rock band NEEDTOBREATHE has announced the release of their eighth full-length studio album, Into The Mystery. To herald the record’s arrival, the band has shared the album’s first single and title track “Into The Mystery”.

The band also announced its first tour in over two years. NEEDTOBREATHE will embark on their Into The Mystery Tour in the US with support from Switchfoot and The New Respects. The tour will stop in Moorhead at the Bluestem Amphitheater on Thursday, September 23.

NEEDTOBREATHE played a special acoustic concert to a sold-out Fargo Theatre audience in 2019. Switchfoot returns to the Bluestem Amphitheater, five years after their co-headline concert with Lacrae. The New Respects also return to the Bluestem Amphitheater after opening for OAR and Matt Nathanson in 2018.

We got a chance to speak with Seth Bolt who plays bass and sings backing vocals for the band.

Talking to everybody in the entertainment industry, everybody experienced 2020 in a different way, but also in some very similar ways. NEEDTOBREATHE did some virtual concerts and recorded a new album. How did 2020 change the band?

Wow. Good question. Well, I think for us, you know, we really had to look at the reality of our jobs going away as something that was a real potential. I mean, we didn’t know we would have to cancel a tour in 2020. We didn’t know if live music was coming back or when it would come back. And if it did come back, would it be the same. So that was all really challenging to kind of try to process through.

And then at the same time, you know, the band itself was going through changes and just, you know, processing a lot. So we were hurting like everyone else and we did what we’ve always done, which is turned to music and let music be the medicine that it can be.

So that’s what we did. We, we just started writing songs. We had just released — in March 2020 — we had just finished recording Out Of Body, the album and really when that was released in like August we immediately went and started recording another album in September. And I think that was our way of trying to keep busy and also focus all the energy that we had going towards the tour and towards making the music.

We stayed in the house — a country farmhouse in Tennessee — for three weeks to make  Into The Mystery. And that for us was just a really sweet time because we had all been home and isolated. And I think even though we were making a record, no one knew we were making a record. We didn’t know what the future of it would be or if it would come out or anything. We were just so happy to be together again, and getting to make music in that way when everything else was shut down.

So it was a very sweet time for the band. There was time for us to just process and heal through the recording of the music. And, now that we’re on the other side of it, we’re so glad that we had that time together and that now we can, once again play all of it to our fans on stage.

So you mentioned that the band had gone through some change. Bo [Rinehart] left the band and he was a big part of the NEEDTOBREATH. What has his leaving meant to you personally and to the band’s music, do you think?

I think personally, you know, it was one of the things where it was out of my control. I couldn’t control the situation so I was just there to respond to it the best I could. I grew up with [brothers] Bear and Bo. I was seven years old when we all met. So that’s all I’ve ever known is them as a pair.

I mean, it’s a hard thing to be in a rock band for all of your adult life and just a really different thing. It can be challenging with the traveling and the band, all that stuff. There’s a lot of aspects to it that are amazing, but a lot of challenges too. And I think it’s even harder to do that with your brother and they did an incredible job of it for a long time. And, and they also did a horrible job of it at times but I think ultimately they tried every way they could to make it work and, and just weren’t able to stay in sync.

None of us wanted Bo to leave the band, but I think once he had had his heart set on it we were like, all right, well, let’s figure this out and move forward in the best way we can. So that’s where we are now.

This leads me to a question about Into The Mystery. What makes this album different from previous albums? Obviously, I think the pandemic is going to play into that, but what do you feel is kind of became the overall theme?

Well, Into The Mystery is a song that Bear wrote and he said in the song that he was thinking about his childhood and then just thinking about his own kids’ childhood and this idea that  you can tell somebody that you’ll love them no matter what and that that’s easier to say than it is to do. And really the mystery that we were faced with is the uncertainty of live music’s future, the uncertainty of what was going to happen with the world, the uncertainty of what was going to happen with the band. I mean, we just had a lot of that.

Really the question we were asking both to ourselves, to each other, and to our fans was will you follow us into the mystery, into the unknown, and to this next chapter.

What is your favorite yet-to-be-discovered track on this new album?

We’re ending the show with a song called West Texas Wind. It’s a beautiful, beautiful song — a ballad deep on the record.

I love those songs that can be like the last track on the album. It’s a powerful song that features everyone singing harmonies as hard as they can.

NEEDTOBREATHE identifies as a rock band, but there aren’t a ton of modern rock bands that have mandolins and banjos. Are genre labels really important, do you think, and what are your influences?

I think genre labels used to make sense, but I think the lines have blurred between genres so much that it’s that it got to be a very limiting thing. Personally, I’ve never really liked the idea of trying to — I mean, I understand the idea of trying put music into one box or another, but I feel like where we’re at with music right now, all artists are influenced by so many different genres and what they’re creating is some sort of cross-section and Venn diagram of a lot of different music and influences and being just one thing or another feels a little off base to me.

Speaking of influences, who are you listening to these days? Anything new that you’re excited about?

There’s a band called Surfaces that I’ve been listening to quite a bit. It’s a very good vibe. Their music feels like a vacation.

NEEDTOBREATHE has been together for over 20 years. What of that original band remains when you look around? When you look around, is it hard to find that original band, or do you just still feel like you’re a bunch of friends playing music?

I think that the DNA is the same. I think the expressions change year over year in a very sort of organic way based on who we’re becoming, and what we’re learning, but like the DNA is the same there.

Our lead singer Bear started the band and those founding principles are still here. You know, the ones that guide the way we think about putting together a live concert setlist, how we make an album. You know, what matters.  I think remembering for us — because we’ve been doing it since we were teenagers — in some ways we’re frozen in time.

They say that when you join a rock band, you stop maturing [laughs] and it’s all we’ve ever known. So I feel that it’s still the same. The same mindset before we walk on stage now, as it was when we were playing in dive bars that had no air conditioning and really no place for us to even go before the concert, no backstage, that kind of thing. We’d be in a broom closet.

I mean, we’ve seen it all from just doing music our entire lives and climbing very slowly, stepping from the smallest venue in town, up to the next smallest and all the way to where we are now, where we’re getting to play some of these awesome amphitheaters and arenas.

So, for us there’s so much that’s still the same. We still look at each show as being crucial to being able to come back and play in the city, we’re always trying to make the biggest show we possibly can. So we’ve always brought a lot more production than probably that room or that that audience has seen before.

That’s still true today. We’re just trying to put on the biggest, most enjoyable show that we can.

Fargo’s got a pretty vibrant little scene. Talking to the bands, I hear about goofy stories from on the road, especially with small bands that go on a tour in a van together. Going back 20 years in your mind, does anything stand out as just something that you remember instantly when you think about going on those first tours?

We were from a really small town in South Carolina and we were intimidated to leave. I don’t know. I wonder if we were a band from Fargo if we would feel the same way. We were just– most of us had never really traveled that far outside of our state. And yet here we were in a van and a trailer traveling around.

The first time we went to the Midwestern part of the country, we were almost afraid to talk because we just thought everyone’s going to make fun of our Southern accidents. [laughs]

Add to that, we had no idea how to drive in the snow. We nearly — we spun out driving through our first shows up in the Dakotas. There was snow on the road and our guitar tech miscalculated. We ended up spinning the whole van and trailer around several times. Luckily there weren’t any other cars on the road. [laughs]







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