For Needtobreathe's Bear Rinehart, knowing that a University of Alabama cornerback, Darius Slay, will be playing for the Detroit Lions this season is a good thing.
"They've got a good stadium (Ford Field) there," says Rinehart, 32, who was named after legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant (Rinehart's brother and bandmate is named Bryant). Needtobreathe, in fact, experienced Ford Field when it opened a 2011 show there for Taylor Swift -- who, ironically, will be back there this weekend.
"It was a huge opportunity and something totally different to learn how to connect with that many people," recalls Bryant, who co-founded the Christian modern rock group in 1998. "We'd been doing this for a long time, but never to that scale -- just playing clubs and theaters and places like that.
"So it was pretty intense, and it felt like we were thrown into it a little bit. The first couple weeks felt like we were starting all over. But we had a great time, and we're huge sports fans, so it was fun to get into (Dallas) Cowboy Stadium and (Pittsburgh's) Heinz Field and places like that. We got a kick out of that."
Needtobreathe is still riding high on the success of its last album, 2011's "The Reckoning," which topped the Christian and Rock album charts and reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200. It also earned the group three Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. Needtobreathe is working on its next album, which Rinehart says will be out later this year; it's a "more stripped-back" affair, he notes, impacted positively by the success of its predecessor.
"I feel like there's less pressure this time," Rinehart says. "With 'The Reckoning,' there was a feeling it was going to do well even before we put it out, so we put a lot of internal pressure on ourselves. At the end of the process, we all felt like that wasn't good for the band and we didn't want to do that again.
"It really feels like the band is in a good spot right now. More than any record we've done, we've been able to articulate what kind of record we wanted to make with this one. That's really helping this time."
Needtobreathe and Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors perform Friday, May 3, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27.50 in advance, $32 day of show. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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