Needtobreathe brings a fresh, acoustic vibe to the Arlington Theatre tonight, focused on connecting with its eclectic fan base that has accumulated over nearly two decades
Needtobreathe, with Sean McConnell
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Arlington Theatre
Tickets: $55-65, $1 donated to OneWorld Health
Information: 963-4408, www.axs.com
Bear Rinehart has heard the question over and over and over and over …
How is it to be in a band with his brother, Bo?
“We don’t have to be too nice to each other,” said Mr. Rinehart, the lead singer of Needtobreathe, who will perform at the Arlington Theatre tonight.
“We can be direct. But, first, we are always going to be brothers.”
Mr. Rinehart’s vision wasn’t always on becoming the lead singer of a Grammy-nominated band, as the 38-year-old was more focused on what he could do on the football field, even landing a spot as a wide receiver at Furman University.
After all, Mr. Rinehart is named after legendary Alabama head coach, Bear Bryant.
The name stood out in his native South Carolina, but upon attending his first ‘Bama game while in college, he was surround by “500 people named after Bear.”
But if Mr. Rinehart was being honest with himself, aspirations of a free agent NFL contract were a bit of a stretch — knowing that his other passion, playing his guitar (he started at 16) and singing alongside his brother at coffee houses near Furman would be his future.
In 2001 he couldn’t have imagined the success that decision would bring, although the band’s uber-focus on success and making a name for itself is something that Mr. Rinehart would do differently if he was to start it all over again.
“We wouldn’t cancel a show for any reason,” Mr. Rinehart said. “Now, there will be another night, another show.”
The show coming through Santa Barbara will be a bit different for those who have taken in a Needtobreathe show, as the band released its first acoustic album this year, aptly named Acoustic Live Vol. 1.
Why go acoustic now? It’s all about the storytelling.
“There’s lots of freedom, with song choices,” Mr. Rinehart explained. “We talk a lot more. We are sitting down on this tour. We don’t know where the stories are going to go, that’s an adrenaline rush.
“At end of it, we had a show together (with fans), instead of playing to them.”
The band has consistently focused on its fan base, and making it as broad as it can. Early on, the band was characterized as “Christian Rock,” something that felt too limiting and categorized.
After touring with the likes of Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, labels seemed to fall away, allowing the band to hit alternative, rock and Christian charts all over the world.
“At this point, we are thankful for whoever listens to the music, whatever audience it is,” Mr. Rinehart said, who says that the band would love to tour with The Killers and continue to be inspired by the likes of Bruce Springsteen.
“The band is bigger than we’ve ever been. The way people find our music is insane.”
The band’s success hasn’t been limited to the stage or album sales, as they are the namesake behind the Needtobreathe Classic, a benefit event that raises awareness and funds for OneWorld Health.
Having just hosted it for the seventh year, Mr. Rinehart feels it was a situation of being in the right place at the right time, as the band wanted to truly give back without any expectation of anything in return, while OneWorld had a vision of combining the world of sports and music to help the world’s underprivileged.
The golf tournament, held at Daniel Island Golf Club in Charleston, S.C., was a sellout and the after-party featured a musical lineup that included Gavin DeGraw and Andy Grammer.
A dollar of every ticket sold to a Needtobreathe show is donated to OneWorld, something Mr. Rinehart calls a “ticket tax.”
“The fans have raised well over $2 million,” Mr. Rinehart said.
That money has helped build medical facilities in Nicaragua and Uganda, with a pediatric wing being built in the latter that will open in 2020.
Alongside his wife, Mary Reames, a nurse practitioner, the effort has been humbling.
“The fact that it is kids is even cooler,” he said.
Mr. Rinehart will take some child-like joy in returning to Santa Barbara, an area where he loves to take in some good waves.
“It’s one of our favorite places in America, and I don’t say that in all of the interviews,” Mr. Rinehart said.