Rock band Needtobreathe released their ninth studio album, Caves, last week, hailing it as their most ambitious project to date.
When they set out to create the project a few months back, band members Bear Rinehart, Seth Bolt, Josh Lovelace, Tyler Burkum and Randall Harris, stole away to a serene mountaintop cabin in Utah. There, in the company of each other, they did most of the writing for the album over the course of a couple weeks. They fostered their personal friendships while out west, clearing the way for the album to take shape.
“It started in Utah. We met and we thought we were making demos, so we didn’t put a lot of pressure on the recording part. It wasn’t a real studio, it was a house,” explains Rinehart.
“It was about reconnecting as people first,” he says. “We were getting to have these conversations late at night that we don’t have as much anymore.”
Lovelace remembers, “We’d get up in the morning and we’d work all day. Then, when most people clock out and go home to do their own thing, we were like, ‘Now is the time to invest in our friendships.’”
In the cabin’s living room—surrounded by mountain views—the band brought ideas to each other, workshopped and recorded what would become Caves.
“We honestly got back [home] and were like, ‘Woah, this sounds like a record. Maybe we can use a lot of this,” explains Rinehart. “On this one, there was no [deadline for] the album to come out or any of that. It was more, ‘We’re going to work on this until we feel like it’s finished.’ That’s a huge luxury to have in music. That’s what we see as success—the ability to have that creative freedom.”
In a two-part documentary series, A World Without A Mirror – The Making of CAVES, the band shares insight into the Utah trip. One of the greatest benefits of that time away came with one of the biggest challenges of creating art: the listener’s reaction.
“You’re making something that no one is hearing along the way,” says Rinehart. “You’re trying to image there’s 10,000 people there—what does this feel like? You’re trying to remind yourself of that the whole way through.”
Burkum adds that chasing the live performance feeling of the music is an inspiration. He says, “[The music is] going to go through so many different iterations, but that’s a very life-giving thing: to keep your eye on the prize and get excited about those songs.”
As a band that’s spent nearly two decades on the road in front of crowds, from opening for Taylor Swift to selling out arenas, Needtobreathe wanted to write an album with the live shows in mind. They stacked this album with old friends and new, and blended genres through featured artists.
“We have Foy Vance who we’ve been friends with for a long time. He’s one of the greatest artists making music now—maybe ever,” says Lovelace. “Then we have our new friends in Old Dominion and Carly Pearce.
“For Old Dominion, we met them at an event we did and realized that we’re a lot alike. They had been listening to our band and we’d been watching them. We also had our friends, Judah & The Lion, who we’ve known forever,” Lovelace adds.
Needtobreathe will kick off “The Caves World Tour” in October with their friends Judah & The Lion.
“It’s fun to do things with people that you admire and respect,” continues Lovelace. “We play a song called ‘Waste of Time’ with Old Dominion. It’s really fun. On the record it’s three and a half minutes, but when we’re playing [it live], it’s like 11 minutes long right now and it keeps getting longer and longer. It’s a jam.”
Whether fans listen to the album or hear it played live on tour, Bolt says, “I hope when people hear it, they hear a group of people are just really inspired to do what they do.”
Needtobreathe feels grateful heading with their ninth studio album out. With a couple thousand live shows under their belt, they are determined to make each song, album and tour as special as the one before.
“It’s a really special thing to make this much music with people you grew up with and experience life with,” says Bolt. “I remember early on when we were making our first and second records, you’d hear people say, ‘A lot of bands don’t make it past their second record or their third record.’ So to be making the ninth one just feels very extraordinary.”
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