South Carolina quartet NEEDTOBREATHE have traveled outside of their comfort zone – both creatively and geographically – for their adventurous new EP, Forever on Your Side (Niles City Sound Sessions) (out July 13 on Atlantic Records). With a new release and subsequent tour ahead of them, we chatted with the band’s Josh Lovelace about recording outside of their home studio, heading out on tour with a batch of hand-picked opening bands, and much more.
NoiseTrade: You’ve got a new EP coming out July 13 called Forever on Your Side (Niles City Sound Sessions). What inspired the idea to record outside of your home studio in South Carolina and to also use outside production assistance from Niles City Sound?
Josh Lovelace: When we finished up touring for H A R D L O V E, we were already starting to think about the new project and what it would look like. We had the idea of trying to create something different but that also felt very “now” and in the moment. We had so much unfinished stuff from the last couple of tours that we had been writing and working on. We wanted to get that stuff finished and recorded and get it out so that we could continue writing for future projects. We had been on the road for a lot of 2017, so we were feeling inspired by new places and new scenery. We wanted to record somewhere we had never recorded before, where we didn’t know what’s in the room and we didn’t know what the walls had to say to us yet. The plan was to just get into a new space to create and see what would happen. There are so many great records that have come out of Niles City Sound – we really love the Leon Bridges record – and we just love that sound. We’re really inspired by old ’60s soul music. Production-wise, we’ve been a band who has done a bit of both – on our own and with other producers. We’re very hands on with everything we do, but for this project we tried to be a little more hands off when it came to the recording gear, for the most part at least. Most of the time we like to get under the hood and be a part of the whole thing. But this time we tried to stand back a bit and let the process kind of happen to us. It was a great situation because we got to think about the craft of songwriting a bit more with fresh ears and from a fresh perspective. It was fun to take a step back in that way. It ended up being a really cool experience and we’re excited to finally get this new batch of songs out.
NT: You’ve released two singles from the new EP: “Bridges Burn” and “Darling.” What’s the story behind each of those songs?
Lovelace: All of the NEEDTOBREATHE songs come from a very personal space and I think that’s what connects with our fans. I’m proud to say that when a song gets put on one of our records, it’s because it’s been lived already. 99% of our songs run through that filter. Like “Darling” for example. Bear wrote it for his wife and family because we were gone a lot last year on tour. We were seeing amazing new things with our eyes and our families were back at home seeing different things. That came out of an overflow of missing home and also an appreciativeness of the life that we get to lead. We love it but we’re also ready to come home just as soon as we leave.
“Bridges Burn” comes from a personal place of us looking at our lives and seeing the direction that we want to go. Sometimes you have to burn bridges to move on from the hurt and pain and things that we’ve gone through, both personally and as a band. From what we’ve heard from our fans, they’ve really taken that song and applied it to their own lives and stories. It takes it to a whole other level for us. It’s their story now and we just get to be the facilitator of it.
NT: The tour for Forever on Your Side (Niles City Sound Sessions) kicks off on August 10 and will hit 37 cities. What’s your favorite part about touring behind a new release and do you have a least favorite part about touring in general?
Lovelace: For me, as far as touring goes, I’m a big fan of uphill battles. Anytime you play new music, it’s exciting to the band but the fans want to hear the songs they know. The challenge of trying to win them over during that three minutes of a new song, that’s really fun for me. I love getting to see their faces light up when they came for something else but they realize they like the new songs too. Getting to play new songs and new arrangements is the best side of touring for me.
As far as the least favorite part… probably eating out of styrofoam boxes most of the time. I’m fine with having to choose between just chicken or fish, but I wouldn’t mind it being on a plate from time to time. That’d be awesome. Otherwise, I’m always stoked to get back out on the road.
NT: Let’s talk a little bit about the bands that you’re taking out on tour with you. First up, JOHNNYSWIM will be with you for the whole tour. What do you like about the duo and what made you guys decide to bring them out for the whole trek?
Lovelace: They are one of the bands that our fans always ask us about after shows. More so than any other band probably. Like, “when are you guys going to take out JOHNNYSWIM on tour?” kind of stuff.We’ve heard that so many times. We as a band have been fans of their music for a long time as well. Also, we’re fans of them as people. They are just the sweetest people in the world and they’re so talented. For us, we love our opening bands and we’re always close with them. Just like with Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, who we’ve toured with probably more than anybody. We like to feel like we’re in the thing together. So we’re excited to finally get to tour with JOHNNYSWIM and see them play every night. That’s one of the things that is so cool about what we get to do for a living: we get to bring out some of our favorite bands and then watch them play night after night. We’re really stoked for that.
NT: You’ve also got a trio of artists who will be playing various shows with you as well. Tell us why you all chose to bring out Billy Raffoul, Forest Blakk, and The Rocketboys.
Lovelace: All of our opening bands for this tour are stellar and it’s going to be an amazing show for our fans to see. Billy Raffoul, we’ve had him out on the road with us a few times before and he’s probably the quickest act that we’ve brought back again in such a short time. We just love him so much. We’ve been following Forest Blakk for a long time and we’re big fans of his voice and his songs. The Rocketboys, we’ve done some stuff with them on some festivals and a cruise ship before and we were really blown away by their talent. They’ve been at it a long time and we’re excited to introduce them to our fans and hopefully have some of their fans get introduced to us.
NT: As a band who seems to really value the openers they bring out on tour, who are some of the bands that you guys opened for over the years who have shared that same spirit of respect and camaraderie?
Lovelace: We’ve been lucky to have had some really great experiences opening for other bands. There’s nothing worse than signing up for a multi-show tour and then finding out just a few shows in that you hate the experience and the headlining band doesn’t want you around. Luckily, we’ve been very fortunate. Will Hoge really took us under his wing when the band was starting out. We would watch him from the side of the stage every night and take notes on what he did and how he worked the crowd. He showed us the ropes a lot. Switchfoot has been really great as well. Some of us learned how to play guitar in our bedrooms playing along to “Meant To Live” and it was crazy to get to eventually open up for them. They were and still are so gracious to us. Any time we get to work with them is great because they are as true as you can get, as far as people go. They are also super fun to hang out with and play shows together.
NT: Finally, I always love it when bands put out smaller, tighter EP standalone releases. Do you have any favorite EP recommendations from any other artists?
Lovelace: Man, that’s a tough question… I don’t know if I have a favorite one off the top of my head, but I will say that I’ve always loved when bands go off cycle a bit and put out exclusive vinyl releases before the next full studio record. That’s one thing I love about our band. I wasn’t in NEEDTOBREATHE from the beginning and so I can honestly say that when the band did stuff like that in the early days, I got the record and thought it was so cool. I’m glad that we still do things like this and I hope fans think it’s a cool thing too.
Forever On Your Side Tour 2018:
Friday, Aug. 10 – Whitewater Amphitheater, New Braunfels, Texas*
Saturday, Aug. 11 – Zoo Amphitheatre, Oklahoma City, Okla.*
Sunday, Aug. 12 – Mud Island Amphitheater, Memphis, Tenn.*
Tuesday, Aug. 14 – Meadow Brook Amphitheatre, Rochester Hills, Mich.*
Wednesday, Aug. 15 – RBC Echo Beach, Toronto, ON*
Friday, Aug. 17 – The Anthem, Washington, DC*
Saturday, Aug. 18 – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, Boston, Mass.*
Sunday, Aug. 19 – Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, Pa.*
Tuesday, Aug. 21 – Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre, Charlotte, N.C.*
Wednesday, Aug. 22 – Red Hat Amphitheater, Raleigh, N.C.*
Friday, Aug. 24 – Verizon Amphitheatre, Alpharetta, Ga.*
Saturday, Aug. 25 – Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, Tenn.*
Sunday, Aug. 26 – Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park, Indianapolis, Ind.*
Tuesday, Sept. 4 – PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center, Cincinnati, Ohio^
Wednesday, Sept. 5 – Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, Cleveland, Ohio^
Friday, Sept. 7 – The Armory, Minneapolis, Minn.^
Saturday, Sept. 8 – Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, Chicago, Ill.^
Sunday, Sept. 9 – Starlight Theatre, Kansas City, Mo.^
Monday, Sept. 10 – Pinewood Bowl Amphitheater, Lincoln, Neb.^
Wednesday, Sept. 12 – Red Rocks, Morrison, Colo.^
Friday, Sept. 14 – Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland, Ore.^
Saturday, Sept. 15 – WaMu Theater, Seattle, Wash.^
Sunday, Sept. 16 – Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre, Abbotsford, BC^
Tuesday, Sept. 18 – The Fox, Oakland, Calif.^
Wednesday, Sept. 19 – Vina Robles Amphitheatre, Paso Robles, Calif.^
Friday, Sept. 21 – Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre, San Diego, Calif.^
Saturday, Sept. 22 – Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, Calif.^
Sunday, Sept. 23 – Comerica Theatre, Phoenix, Ariz.^
Thursday, Sept. 27 – Walmart AMP, Rogers, Ark.+
Friday, Sept. 28 – The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory, Irving, Texas+
Saturday, Sept. 29 – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands, Texas+
Sunday, Sept. 30 – The Wharf Amphitheater, Orange Beach, Ala.+
Tuesday, Oct. 2 – Daily’s Place, Jacksonville, Fla.+
Thursday, Oct. 4 – Legacy Arena at BJCC, Birmingham, Ala.+
Friday, Oct. 5 – Thompson Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.+
Saturday, Oct. 6 – Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C.+
Sunday, Oct. 7 – Volvo Car Stadium, Daniel Island, S.C.+
All dates will be supported by Los Angeles duo, JOHNNYSWIM
*Dates opened by Billy Raffoul
^Opened by Forest Blakk
+Opened by The Rocketboys
Tickets are on-sale now at foreveronyourside.com