Taylor Swift Called: She Wants Your Autograph
@needtobreathe is my opening act for the Speak Now Tour. It’ll be a nightly challenge to get ready for my show instead of watching theirs. :) –Taylor Swift via Twitter, December 1, 2010
A country pop princess and an unruly southern rock band is an unlikely combination. So no one was more surprised than NEEDTOBREATHE to receive a personal phone call from country sensation Taylor Swift with an invitation to open for her upcoming tour.
“She called us up because she was a big fan, and at that point, you don’t say ‘no,’” explains Bo Rinehart, one-half of the Rinehart brothers who are the primary songwriters for the rock outfit. The foursome – which also consists of Bo’s brother Bear (lead vocals, guitar) and longtime friends Seth Bolt (bass) and Joe Stillwell (drums) – has been playing sold-out arenas and stadiums on the “Speak Now Tour” since the end of May, and Swift has been gushing about her opening band via Twitter ever since.
Knowing it was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, they didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the tour until they experienced it first-hand. For a band accustomed to headlining shows at clubs and auditoriums, a stadium filled to capacity with screaming fans is both exhilarating and intimidating. Admittedly, this is a learning experience.
“It’s not just the amount of people you’re playing in front of, but how it works, just the curiosity of how you work an arena, how you work a stadium – especially as an opener,” says Rinehart.
Just because they are opening for a mainstream superstar, don’t expect the band to compromise their live performance.
“We’re not trying to fool anybody into liking some version of what we do,” he says. “We love the idea of challenging the fans to make a decision – do they like what they’re seeing and hearing?”
With a “take it or leave it” attitude, NEEDTOBREATHE has always been an interesting and often misunderstood dichotomy with one foot in Christian music and the other in the mainstream rock scene. Rinehart admits it’s been a slow build as Swift’s younger audience gets enthralled with her portion of the evening – complete with fireworks and acrobats – only to discover weeks later that they really enjoyed NEEDTOBREATHE.
For longtime fans, the band is playing what they have dubbed “secret shows” in select cities while on tour with Swift. These performances find the foursome playing in smaller, more intimate settings with shows announced last minute via Facebook and Twitter.
The band has been previewing new music from its forthcoming album, The Reckoning (Atlantic/Word), releasing September 20, at these undisclosed locations. According to Rinehart, their fourth studio album, produced by Rick Beato (Shinedown, Jump Little Children), is “miles and miles ahead of anything we’ve ever done.”
As they began to write for the new record, songs came out in shades of gray as they dealt with burnout and the toll of relentless touring.
“Some of the songs we had written were just bitter and hateful,” shares Rinehart. “We had been on the road for literally two years straight. It wasn’t that we were unhappy, but I think we were just questioning everything, so a lot of the songs came out very dark.”
It was in the midst of this dismal place, where new, shining single “Slumber” was born. It was a wake-up call to the band to seize the opportunities in front of them. “If you choose to sit on your hands, then opportunities will slip by you,” says Rinehart. “Then you don’t have anybody to blame except yourself.”
The band continues to take advantage of opportunities afforded them and to take risks creatively. They have been elevated to new career heights, thanks to Swift’s personal endorsement and the way the band’s previous album, The Outsiders, unexpectedly connected with fans. The album generated a string of Top 10 hits at Christian radio and earned the band a GMA Dove Award for “Group of The Year” two years running.
“We were definitely more shocked than anyone that we won awards,” says Rinehart of the wins. “We didn’t go to the award shows because we thought, ‘There’s no chance!’ We didn’t think we were even in the running.”
Even with the awards affirming their impact in the Christian genre, it’s still hard for the band to imagine they have been so well-received in Christian music. “It’s strange. We don’t spend a ton of time trying to cater to Christians,” says Rinehart, a preacher’s son. “We’re just doing what we do, and the fact they like it and have accepted it is really cool.”
For more information on The Reckoning, upcoming tour dates with Taylor Swift and more, visit www.needtobreathe.net.
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