Whole Notes

Whole Notes

A conversation with NEEDTOBREATHE lead singer Bear Rinehart

posted by Chad Bonham
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NEEDTOBREATHE (left to right): Bo Rinehart, Bear Rinehart and Seth Bolt. (photo courtesy of The Media Collective)

Bear and Bo Rinheart’s lives could have gone a lot of different directions. Bear was a star football player at Furman University and was talented enough to pursue a career beyond his college days. Bo appeared in the film Radio and was on the verge of accepting a recurring role in the television series “One Tree Hill.”

But having been raised on a church campground in South Carolina where their artistically gifted parents were the caretakers, it seemed only natural that their love of music would dictate the path they would collectively walk. While many might have assumed the Rinehart’s band NEEDTOBREATHE would head towards the Christian market, it was actually a unique opportunity from Atlantic Records in 2006 that pushed them headlong into the mainstream.

Since then, NEEDTOBREATHE has released five critically acclaimed albums, has toured with Taylor Swift and appeared on major television programs including “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” and “Conan.” NEEDTOBREATHE has been equally embraced within the faith community where the band has won 10 Dove Awards and placed numerous singles on the Christian radio charts.

In this Whole Notes interview, lead singer Bear Rinehart talks about changes the band has gone through over the years, why they have been embraced in multiple markets, and how a rift between him and his brother Bo nearly destroyed it all:

Chad Bonham: How much have you guys changed from the earliest days of NEEDTOBREATHE and in what ways do you feel like you’re still the same?

Bear Rinehart: We’ve gone through some serious changes throughout our career for sure, but I think it’s all been a process of trying to get back to who we really are as people. The Outsiders was a record that was kind of a peek into who we are. I think this new record (Rivers In The Wasteland) is the most vulnerable that we’ve been. It’s probably the most true to who we are. I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to shed some of those layers, whether its production or things that are surrounding the band. But I really think that this record is what we’re all about and I do think it’s similar to how we grew up and what it would be like if weren’t trying to make records and if we didn’t have the mics turned up.

Bonham: I’ve never seen anything like what’s happened with this band. Like no other artist, you guys were immediately embraced in both the general and Christian markets and you’ve been able to play music wherever you want to play without dealing with much criticism from either side. Have you ever been able to figure out how that happened?

Rivers In The Wasteland is NEEDTOBREATHE's fifth studio album. (photo courtesy of The Media Collective)

Rivers In The Wasteland is NEEDTOBREATHE’s fifth studio album. (photo courtesy of The Media Collective)

Rinehart: We’ve been very fortunate in that way. There are a lot of bands that made that possible. Switchfoot was one of the bands that paved the way for that to happen. They fought some battles that we didn’t have to fight. We’re thankful for that for sure. It was really intentional, in terms of how we approached the early part of our career from a business standpoint. We got offered a lot of Christian contracts when we first came out and we turned those down because we wanted to make sure we set it up the right way and give ourselves a chance to be able to do everything we wanted to do. We made some mistakes along the way. I’d be lying if I said we did it all right. It hasn’t always gone according to plan, but at the same time, we’ve been really fortunate to do what we set out to do, which was make music for as many people as possible. We wanted kids who were like us to enjoy our music, but we also wanted their friends to like our music too. We wanted people that would never go to a Christian store or go to a church to listen to music to be able to get into our music. That’s what we set out to do. I think we’ve been able to keep that dream alive. God put that on our hearts and it’s been His plan, which has been amazing to be a part of.

Bonham: You’ve been pretty open recently about some struggles you and your brother Bo have gone through while working on music and touring together with the band.

Rinehart: It got pretty intense there for a while. We had talked ourselves into believing that it was actually good that we were fighting. It was competitive. We were writing songs. He would write a song and I would try to beat it with another song. It just got to be almost a joke. It was two leaders of a band that were trying to be right all the time. It was really childish when you look at it. In the thick of those things, because our priorities had gotten screwed up a little bit, it made sense to us somehow. The process for making this record was huge for us. We were able to take some time off and look back at the situation. It drove us back to a place where we were ready to quit. We were over it. If this was the way it was going to be, we weren’t enjoying it anymore. It was tearing up our family relationship. That’s not how we got into this. We got into this because we loved every second of it. We got into this because we love each other. This couldn’t be our identity. We do it because God gave us this gift, but it can’t be more important than anything else. So we started backing up from that and it’s changed everything about how we do things. Our relationship has never been better. There’s a song on the record called “Brother.” It has a line that says, “Let me be your shelter.” We just want to defend each other. We want to be there for each other.

Bonham: But it wasn’t like The Police back in the ‘80s when Sting and Stewart Copeland were getting into fistfights during TV interviews before they broke up.

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NEEDTOBREATHE (photo courtesy of The Media Collective)

Rinehart: No, it really was like that. It had gotten so bad. We got to the point where we were in different dressing rooms on the last tour. And it’s just childish. I can say it in a laughing way now, but it really speaks to how dark of a place we were in. Just like the first track on our record says, we were in a wasteland. “I’m the first one in line to die when the cavalry comes.” That’s the way it felt at the time. We titled the album Rivers In The Wasteland because we felt like God put a river into our relationship and something had to be done and was done. It was something new and refreshing that God did. He revived us from a dying place. It was a miracle. It really was. It took us a year to make that record that should have taken us three weeks to make. We had all the songs written and next thing you know it’s a year later. It just showed what kind of place we were in when we started. It was a God thing. He broke through and changed everything.

Bonham: Anyone can be fulfilling their calling and walking out the path God laid out for them and still somehow wind up getting lost. Is that what happened to you guys?

Rinehart: Definitely. We felt like we had hit the bottom. We felt like we had really messed things up. What you’re saying is true. There were a lot of our friends and some other artists that saw us during that time and they would come to us and tell us how our music had impacted them. So God can use you regardless of what you’re doing. He can still work through you. That’s just a picture of God’s grace throughout this whole thing. Even in our darkest times, God was still ministering through what we were doing in an incredible way. He chose not to take this thing from us, which is absolutely unbelievable to me. This process has felt like an absolute gift. We feel incredibly blessed to do what we’re doing.

Bonham: After what you guys went through the last couple of years, was it important for this new record to be stripped down and transparent?

Rinehart: I think it was, but I also think people sometimes give us too much credit when they listen to our record and think about the forethought that goes into how a record is going to end up. A lot of times, a record, when you’re writing it, is so raw. A lot of the songs are written during those tough times. We were amazed at the end of process how God put this record together. It was almost prophetic in a way. You know what you’re writing about because you’re in the situation, but you don’t necessarily see the end of the situation and how it’s going to tie itself up. Some of the tracks at the beginning of the record are in a really dark place and at the time, to be completely honest, I didn’t know what the purpose of putting those songs down was. I just knew that’s where I was. That’s the real power of the record. It was a real journey being documented. I think you can hear that in the songs. It keeps us humble for sure. It makes us know that we don’t have all the answers. God allowed us to finish the process, but it was like He was reminding us that we have to trust Him moving forward. We had to learn while we were making this record. Our best records have been made that way. We couldn’t see the end of it before we started and we didn’t know how it was going to wrap up.

To keep up with the latest from NEEDTOBREATHE, check out the band’s official website: www.needtobreathe.com

A conversation with Newsboys lead singer Michael Tait

posted by Chad Bonham
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The Newsboys (l-r): Jody Davis, Jeff Frankenstein, Duncan Phillips and Michael Tait. (photo courtesy of The Media Collective)

Watching Michael Tait backstage before a performance with The Newsboys is a fascinating experience. The legendary front man has an infectiously charming habit of engaging nearly everyone in his path. Tait might not always look you in the eye but it’s not because he’s being aloof. On the contrary, the attention-challenged singer is usually on high alert for another opportunity to make someone smile while fully locked in on the person at hand.

Having personally observed his pre-concert routine on numerous occasions dating back to 1991 (when dc Talk opened for Michael W. Smith) and later in 2001 (when he led the band simply known as Tait), it’s quite possible that Tait has the same amount of energy (perhaps more) than when he was breaking down walls within the Christian industry alongside musical partners Tobymac and Kevin Max.

These days, Tait is equally adept at commanding the attention of 20,000 kids of all ages. And with recent hit singles like “We Believe” and the title track to the film God’s Not Dead (in which The Newsboys made a significant cameo), Tait has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

In this Whole Notes interview, Tait talks about what led to his connection with The Newsboys, how he maintains his energy, and why God’s Not Dead was such an important film for this generation:

Chad Bonham: It still seems a little surreal that you’ve been a part of two of the biggest Christian recording acts. In a nutshell, how did the Newsboys gig come about?

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The Newsboys’ Restart cover art (photo courtesy of The Media Collective)

Tait: I needed the Newsboys desperately and they needed me desperately. (Former lead singer) Peter (Furler) was just worn out. He wanted to stay home for a while. So when I came in, Peter was the one who handed me the baton. He told me to take it and run with it. I’ve loved every second of it. God has blessed this band, in spite of me and in spite of my weaknesses.

Bonham: Where do you get your energy to keep performing at such a high level night after night?

Tait: Good question. I feed off the crowd a lot. I love to see their faces, singing the words. I feed off their emotions. I want to give that back to them. I want God to speak through me to the crowd. I want to get them excited about their faith. I always want to give it my heart and soul.

Bonham: How do you answer the skeptics that say it’s unlikely for a young person to be spiritually impacted in a large concert setting like an arena tour or a Winter Jam event?

Tait: From my vantage point, I know that God uses the band in those settings. There’s a song we do called “Home.” It’s about my mom dying. There are a lot of people that come to our shows who have lost a loved one and they know what I’m feeling when I sing that song. We have another song called “We Believe.” That’s a powerful song. In those moments, we can feel it. I always encourage the crowd to make that song their creed and then we worship together and give glory and honor to the Creator and the master of the universe. I know that song connects with people. I can just feel it. So I think it’s quite possible for people to be impacted in those times.

Bonham: As you got to spend some time getting to know Lecrae during Winter Jam, what are your thoughts on his rise in popularity in both the Christian and general markets?

Tait: Lecrae wants to share his past. He wants to share his heart with people. But trying to reach people on both sides is a very tricky and treacherous trail. I’ve told him that. You’ve got to be careful. At the end of the day, he is human. But he has a solid foundation. He has a very sweet heart.

Bonham: After so many years doing this, are you compelled to reach out to guys like Lecrae and other young artists and give them advice on how to avoid some of the pitfalls that come with being a part of the music industry?

Tait: I enjoy that so much. I really do. I’m proud to be that guy. When a young artist asks me a question, I want to do what I can to give them an answer if I have it within me. I know what I know. I won’t make up stuff. But if it’s something I’ve been through, I’ll share my experiences and tell them the truth.

Bonham: Why is a movie like God’s Not Dead so important for this generation?

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God’s Not Dead took in over $60 million at the U.S. box office (image courtesy of Pure Flix)

Tait: We need to use outlets like this to help people’s lives intersect with Christ. For us, it was an opportunity to take the band out of the arena and out of the church youth group and get into the movie theater where kids can go with their unsaved friends and loved ones. That is powerful. That was the goal of this movie. It’s about a college student fighting for his faith in a pretty dark environment, which isn’t unlike what’s really going on these days. This is the time. We need to shine our lights the brightest in these situations. We’re in that day. It’s getting darker and darker out there. We need to shine brighter and brighter.

Bonham: Before we wrap up, I want to make sure you remember that I didn’t ask you about when dc Talk is getting back together.

Tait: Thank you for that! I’m pleasantly surprised. (laughs)

Bonham: It’s probably the first or last question you usually get.

Tait: Every time! Every time! (laughs) I’ve learned to roll with whatever comes my way. I don’t mind the questions. I’m just blessed to be doing this after all these years.

Keep up with the latest from The Newsboys by visiting the official website HERE.

A conversation with recording artist and The Voice contestant Anthony Evans

posted by Chad Bonham

AEvans1Sustaining an eight-year music career under the radar is quite the impressive feat these days. It’s difficult to last in a cutthroat business where, even within the Christian industry, longevity is always hard to come by. But somehow, Anthony Evans managed to record six albums between 2004 and 2011 without the help of a major breakout hit.

For some, Evans might be known as the son of nationally recognized pastor Dr. Tony Evans. But until his appearance on season two of The Voice in 2012, he was an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter whose time to shine was just over the horizon. When Evans sang “If I Ain’t Got You” in a battle round with Jesse Campbell, not only did it go down as one of the show’s greatest performances, his part in the duet also launched his career into unchartered waters.

Earlier this month, Evans released his seventh album and first project since that fateful national television appearance. According to the soulful vocalist, Real Life, Real Worship is a testimony of God’s work in his life over the past two years.

In this Whole Notes interview, Evans talks about how he landed on The Voice, how a conversation with Grammy-Award winning artist Christina Aguilera changed his perspective and how he hopes both the Church and the general market embrace his latest collection of songs:

Chad Bonham: How has having a well-known minister for a father impacted your music career?

Anthony Evans: To me, he was always just my dad. I had to figure out my own faith. That was something I figured out a while ago when I was 18. But I can always stand on the fact that he’s been a great example for me. Beyond that, building my career hasn’t been attached to my dad. It’s been me figuring things out for myself.

Bonham: What was the process that led you to participate in The Voice?

Evans: Some friends of mine encouraged me to send a video way before the show even debuted. I got a phone call to meet with the production team. At that point, I had people telling me I should try it. I had my own thing going but they encouraged me that I was only going to achieve things if I took chances. I wasn’t trying to do something broader at that time, but there was something in my heart saying, “There’s got to be more.” It’s not like I was discontent with what I was doing, but I felt like God was calling me to step outside of the four church walls and do something different. The Voice was obviously that opportunity for me. I didn’t make it the first season, but then they called me back to do the second season. That’s how the doors were opened to all the opportunities I have right now. Being in LA inspired me to do this new record. I’ve been in sessions with some monster artists that I never thought I’d ever be around. It’s also shown me that you’ve always got to be on it. The best people in the world are in LA. You have to step it up.

Bonham: Did your battle round song with Jesse Campbell feel like a game changer for your career?

Evans: That was a game changer for me. That performance opened up the door for everything I’m doing now. That 90-second song with Jesse did that for me. I’ll be forever grateful to The Voice for giving me the opportunity. They called me after that battle and told me they were having a new thing called “The Steal” or what they called “The Anthony Evans Rule” because they were sorry I wasn’t there anymore. They had rules that they couldn’t change for my situation, but they changed them for the next season.

Bonham: What are you currently doing with the show?

Evans: I’m going on the road with the show. I’m on a team of talent producers and we whittle down this monstrous number of people to the ones that are going to be on the blind auditions. It’s fun to be a part of that. A lot of the contestants recognize me from the show so I get to coach them through the process.

Bonham: It seems like the new album is a combination of songs that reflect your upbringing and songs that convey some of the new things you’ve experienced in the last couple of years. Is that an accurate description?

Evans: That’s a hundred percent accurate.

Bonham: How did you balance the two concepts considering the fact that some people in the Church get nervous when Christian artists delve into topics outside of the traditional messages of faith and worship?

AEvans_CoverEvans: There’s nothing to get nervous about. All I’m doing is being authentic and real and singing about the emotions I go through as a human being. I don’t think we should be nervous about expressing who we really are when it comes to being a believer but also when it comes to being someone who goes through real life. You have to experience real life before you can understand what it means to really worship. That’s it. This whole concept started at Christina Aguilera’s house. She asked what a worship leader was. She wanted me to explain that to her. And I thought, “If I start talking to this girl in church terms, it’s going to freak her out.” If I wasn’t a Christian and I didn’t know about church and I started using worship terminology—if I started talking about “the Lamb that was slain” to Christina, she would think, “You’re in a cult.” It’s a weird thought. So in that moment, I knew I had to connect to her through real life issues. I told her about me going through a broken engagement. Then she talked about how she went through some hard things in her life. That was real life. But then when she started to talk about how I handled it, and I was able to talk about real worship. That’s how this record came together. It’s just me being honest about my emotions and writing songs that people outside of church can connect to. The creative director for the video was Cher’s creative director. I want those kind of people involved. I want them to hear the song and go get the record and hear the worship songs and go, “Oh this is what Anthony is all about.” That is the objective of this whole project. I’m not nervous about the church being anxious. I just want Christians to embrace the fact that music is made not just for the church, but it’s also for the people that need to hear about the love of God.

Bonham: How would you describe the evolution of your music since 2004?

Evans: Over the last 10 years, stylistically I’ve gotten to the point where I want to explore and do things with excellence. I want to write songs that resonate with me and will resonate with a live audience. I’m exploring fresh sounds. This is the first Christian record that my producer (Max Stark) has ever done. He naturally brought sounds that were not normal for Christian music. On the show, Christina Aguilera and Jewel taught me something important. They both told me that I didn’t have to fit into a mold. You make the mold. People can smell a rat. If you’re doing thing for marketing and for a record label, you’re going to set yourself up to be called a phony. As long as it’s true to you, you do it. If you make great music, you can become a mold breaker or a trailblazer. It’s a little scary to do that because you can’t always see what’s in front of you, but you’re clearing out a path for people behind you to follow.

Bonham: Do you feel like your experience on The Voice and the subsequent successes have breathed new life into your career?

Evans: I know artists that have tried for a long time in the Christian industry and then they were on a TV show and all of the sudden the doors swing wide open. Christians want to connect with things that are mainstream. So for me, people see that Christina Aguilera thinks I’ve got something to offer and all of the sudden they think maybe they should give my music a shot. I have a producer friend from the show who came to me and said, “How is it that you’re 28 years old and I’ve never heard of you before?” It made no sense to her that she had didn’t know anything about my music. That changed my mindset. I realized that I had been operating within a box. So now, there is no box. If you want to do it, you can do it.

Stay up on Anthony’s latest news and tour dates by visiting his official website HERE.

Exclusive video interview with Dove Award winning artist Francesca Battistelli

posted by Chad Bonham

On Tuesday, April 22nd, Dove Award winning artist Francesca Battistelli releases her third studio album If We’re Honest. In preparation for the upcoming project, Whole Notes is exclusively premiering a video interview as the Grammy-nominated artist talks about her new music.

Battistelli is fresh off the heels of a hugely successful Son of God tour where she appeared alongside Natalie Grant, Meredith Andrews, Jason Gray, Chris August and Sidewalk Prophets. She also performed the lead single “Write Your Story” on ABC’s “Good Morning America” back in February.

Check out what she has to say about the new music in this video that can only be seen on Whole Notes through Sunday, April 20th:

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Fans can pre-order the new album by visiting her official website HERE.

Fans can also check out If We’re Honest this week via iTunes “First Play” program by clicking HERE.

Previous Posts

A conversation with NEEDTOBREATHE lead singer Bear Rinehart
Bear and Bo Rinheart’s lives could have gone a lot of different directions. Bear was a star football player at

posted 4:30:02pm Oct. 22, 2014 | read full post »

A conversation with Newsboys lead singer Michael Tait
Watching Michael Tait backstage before a performance with The Newsboys is a fascinating experience.

posted 5:15:54pm Sep. 20, 2014 | read full post »

A conversation with recording artist and The Voice contestant Anthony Evans
Sustaining an eight-year music career under the radar is quite the impressive feat these days. It’s difficult to last in a cutthroat business where, even within the Christian industry, longevity is always hard to come by. But somehow, Anthony Evans managed to record six albums between 2004 and 201

posted 2:00:55am May. 07, 2014 | read full post »

Exclusive video interview with Dove Award winning artist Francesca Battistelli
On Tuesday, April 22nd, Dove Award winning artist Francesca Battistelli releases her third studio album If We're Honest. In preparation for the upcoming project, Whole Notes is exclusively premiering a video interview as the Grammy-nominated artist talks about her new music. Battistelli is fresh

posted 11:15:09am Apr. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Documentary to feature American Idol songwriter Regie Hamm
Music video director and veteran celebrity photographer Devin Pense is embarking on a unique journey as he attempts to tell the story of his good friend Regie Hamm in the documentary One More Song. For the average music fan, Hamm's name may not be terribly familiar. But to those within the industry,

posted 7:00:49pm Nov. 22, 2013 | read full post »


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