I have always loved music. Anyone that knows me can easily vouch for the fact that I’m almost always playing my music too loudly in some portion of the house or blasting it irresponsibly in my car and ears. I could write five million pieces on why music is my life; I have extremely eclectic taste and have at least a few songs in my library that anyone in my presence would appreciate. Depending on my mood, I could be belting out Tswift, rap battling it out to TI, J-Zay, or Eminem, or twanging it up with some Jason Alden or Rascal Flatts. Of course I can always go hard on my R&B legends (I love me some Mary J. Bilge), my Hip Hop crossovers (Miguel, J. Cole) , and my pop divas (All hail Queen B!). It’s not uncommon for me to be dancing it out to a Disney or musical show tune, (my knowledge of the Frozen soundtrack borderlines on creepy) or simply enjoying the sunshine with the greats in a mix of the best decades (Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, etc…).
In between are a collection of songs I’ve heard on TV, in stores, or even just in someone else’s car that wouldn’t even fit into just one genre of music. Sometimes, after a while, those one off songs will trend in a certain artist direction. It then turns from liking the song, to liking the album, to liking the artist, to becoming a fan. I’m a fan of a lot of people but over the course of eight years there’s been only one band that has truly stolen my heart – NeedToBreathe.
A small band started by two brothers in rural South Carolina I would describe NeedToBreathe as the quintessential mix of modern bluegrass alternative (made popular via Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers) rock alternative (i.e. The Fray, Coldplay, The Killers), and southern soul & gospel. They manage to straddle the line between those sounds in different ways with every album, because they are ever evolving, ever experimenting, and always playing authentic music.
I started casually listening to their second studio album, and first crossover success, my freshmen year of college with the song We Could Run Away, and then Washed By The Water. They were great songs, forever repeating on my iPod Nano over that summer as I started actively liking them more and more. When I found out the they had a new album that was hitting in August, I was ecstatic. The Outsider’s was when I fell in love with this band. Every song, including the album inspired song, The Outsiders, played on a continuous loop during my early college days, staged in front of a Washington DC still buzzing from the arrival of President Obama and my arrival into the “adult” world. I remember listening to Lay Em’ Down at the top volume while whizzing through the DC Metro tunnels. I was able to time listening to Something Beautiful while walking up the steps and into the front doors of the Longworth Capitol building when I was interning there. It was, and still is one, of my favorite albums of all time.
The album cemented the “fan” part of my love of NeedToBreathe. Then right before starting my senior year of college NeedToBreathe came out with another album, The Reckoning, and my fandom grew sky-high. I was hooked as I transitioned in my life to post college and everything that comes with being in your early twenties. Drive All Night became my anthem when I was zig zagging across the country during the 2012 election, and Devils Been Talking was an easy favorite as well. When NeedToBreathe went on tour in 2013 to promote The Reckoning I was excited to finally have the chance to see them live. I’m not much of a concert person but their music had touched me and I wanted to experience it in the flesh.
They played at Grand Canyon University in Glendale Arizona. My boyfriend at the time had bought me tickets for my 23rd birthday, and back then, they weren’t too expensive. It was general admission and while I was a fan, it was by no means a packed show. We found seats up in the stands instead of trying to slum it down with the crowd of intoxicated college kids. I’m not sure what I expected but it was all of that and more. Every song was better live and the small changes they made to the way it sounded versus how it was on the album, showcased their musical and vocal skills. I was especially enamored with Bo’s harmonica playing, which he did an almost 5 minute solo of during a great rendition of Girl Named Tennessee. Tears welled up in my eyes as my entire four years of college put to music danced across the stage; their music mirroring my emotions through that time in my life with every song.
And this, this is where I realized I love this band because even though they came out with a new album later that year, I kept discovering new songs on the first 3 I had been obsessed with. Their lyrics, always so strong, spoke to me differently depending on what I was going through and last spring when they released Live From The Woods I rediscovered my love for them all over again. It made me want to see them live again and the opportunity to see them at the famous Red Rock Amphitheater was more than I could handle. I procured two tickets, 1 for me and 1 for the guy I was seeing to see them play at the end of July. I was excited and spent a lot of time playing that album all the way through during my first full summer in Colorado. I sang it the whole down the green mountain slopes from Denver to Durango for 4th of July. I listened to it with my balcony door wide open while it down poured in 90 degree weather. For some reason it held me together just knowing I was going to see them live again soon.
But that never happened. My depression hit a breaking point and instead of going to the concert I was in the hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown. All I remember about that time, and the subsequent months was the darkness I felt all around me. I rarely put on music and when I did it felt softer, less all encompassing of my thoughts and feelings. I was anxious all the time and it felt like my life line was broken.
I was further depressed having missed the concert. It had meant something to me, symbolized this idea of finally having it all. It represented everything that was college and my early twenties and it was good, bone crushingly good, music. To see them live in place that makes amazing artist sound epic was all I wanted, and I had lost that too. “I don’t know when they’ll come back… I’m not even sure I’ll get to see them live at that venue.” I would say to everyone. It brought me to tears every time.
But listening to them still made me feel good, normal even. They were the only band on my phone that I could toss on an album an some how feel better. They still do. I could be angry, or mad, or sad, or happy and turn on NeedToBreathe and feel ten times better than before. Their songs changed meaning for me again as I began dealing with and accepting my depression. Their music made me stronger.
6 months later when I decided to move home I was feeling nothing but sadness and nostalgia when I listened to NeedToBreathe, and overall in life. I felt knocked down and kicked around and just simply, tired. Then NeedToBreathe released the single off their soon to be album Hard Love called Happiness and it was like I was back to the first time I ever heard them again. The song encompassed everything I felt, it was hopeful and inspiring and even in the title made me feel like the best was yet to come, happiness would come again. Weeks later they announced another summer tour and, you guessed it, they were playing at Red Rocks in September. I didn’t know where I was going to be or what I was going to be doing but I knew that I was going to this concert.
I struggled moving home and welcomed the releasing of a few new singles every month to hold me over until the album release in July. I wasn’t making enough money waitressing to pay for a ticket, hotel, and concert tickets to see them play but I still knew I was going, someway, somehow. The day the album dropped I was offered a dream position with a non profit in San Francisco and that was that.
I was going to the concert.
The day I bought my tickets to the concert and booked the rest of my short stay in Denver was the most full circle thing I have ever done. 8 years was being tossed around a lot because of the Presidential year and it also made me realize I had been a fan for 8 years as well. It isn’t lost on me that this time last year I barely wanted to live…. The weight of how much going to this concert means to me can’t actually be stated in words. But, like always, NeedToBreathe is there with a song that speaks for me when I can’t breathe the words myself.
” Hold on tight a little longer, what don’t kill you make you stronger, get back up ’cause it’s a hard love. You can’t change without a fallout, it’s gonna hurt but don’t you slow down, get back up ’cause it’s a hard love.”