NEEDTOBREATHE Details Inspiration Behind Each Song on ‘Into the Mystery’

Never a group to rest on its laurels, NEEDTOBREATHE followed up its 2020 album Out of Body with a surprise announcement that it would drop a 2021 followup, Into the Mystery.

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That project drops today. It is a tremendous blend of recognizable and refreshing that can effortlessly run front to back.

The GRAMMY® Award-nominated rock band capitalized on a rush of inspiration and rode the wave of creativity to complete this album. Without telling a soul, the band set up base in a historic house-turned-recording studio in Columbia, TN to begin working on new music. Over the course of three weeks, they resided under one roof, laughed during meals, explored their surroundings, and recorded together with co-producer and engineer Konrad Snyder and special guests. Out of this de facto creative hub and “extended summer camp, they handcrafted an album reflective of the moment, yet independent of all expectations— which had been set high by fans and critics alike.

The band chose to offer a track-by-track of the new album for fans to dig into while giving it a listen, exclusive to American Songwriter.

What I’m Here For
“What I’m Here For” is the first song on Into The Mystery, and it’s probably the song that sounds the most like the house we recorded the album in. We rented a house in Columbia, TN for three weeks and really locked ourselves in there, and made the record. We always kept coming back to that phrase, “Does it sound like the house?” I think it also makes a statement about the overall theme of the record, which is about being a little easier on yourself. All I’m looking for is some space to make mistakes, and I think we also have to give ourselves that space in order to live a life that is rewarding and fulfilling.

Into The Mystery
“Into The Mystery” is the title track off the record. The song is about the way I felt I was treated growing up. I always felt like there was a limit to the options I had from parents, coaches, teachers. It was like, “I love you, but as long as you don’t do these other things.” And I think now having kids of my own, the idea of loving them wherever they want to go is inspiring, but also incredibly challenging. So I think the song and the whole record, really explore that idea. And I love the 12-string in this song. The hook that Tyler plays on there is so awesome. 

“Sunshine” is one of my favorite songs on the record. I love how right before the first chorus it asks the question, “We’re going to be all right?”, and then answers, ”Right.” I love the idea of thinking about things that way. I feel like I’ve had this conversation with everyone I love when there’s grief or regret. A lot of times I’m like, “Man, it’s not as bad as you think it is.” And I think this song is just one of those, roll the windows down and try to enjoy the present and the things in life that you do have.

Carry Me
Jon Foreman and I wrote “Carry Me” together. We’ve been friends with the Switchfoot guys for a long time now. I even grew up thinking of Jon as kind of a hero. I was 15 or 16 years old when their first record The Legend of Chin came out, and ever since then we’ve kind of been following each other around. It’s just a really sweet thing to call a buddy and say, “Hey, you want to write this song together?” It came together within 20 minutes or so. He came down to the house and we got to have a great hang, and stay up late by the fire playing the song. That’s a memory I’ll never forget.

I Am Yours
“I Am Yours” is a big epic song. Our original drummer, Joe Stillwell came out to record with us. We had the song almost finished, and were like, “I feel like we should keep going. Let’s make this big rock outro that would be great live.” And Joe absolutely kills that. He’s the loudest drummer I’ve ever played with, and you can imagine what that’s like recording in a little living room of a house. It was absolutely insane.

“Chances” has probably my favorite opening lyric I’ve ever written, and I totally ripped it from a conversation I had with our guitar player, Tyler Burkum. I think the band really felt like the war was not completely over. There’s some relief, we’re still forging ahead, but we can’t totally relax. I woke up one morning, had a coffee, and the song kind of fell out of the sky. The guys were cool enough to let me record it, which was really sweet. I think, as a writer and as an artist, spontaneity is really a privilege. When you’re in a band, you’ve got to talk them all into it, so I’m really thankful this one made the record.

Sittin’ In The Back Seat
When I was a kid, we had an ’86 red Chevette, which is a little hatchback car. I remember sitting there as a kid, looking out the window at the stars, and riding down the road. I remember how free that felt, and how fun it was. I wanted to write that into a song, and capture what that felt like. We wrestled with a song a lot. There’s probably the more versions of this song than any other on the record, but I feel like we really got it into a place where it feels like a NEEDTOBREATHE song. 

Give Me A Chance
“Give Me A Chance” is the jingle jangle rock song on this record. We’re obviously a Southern rock band, and love all that stuff. I was inspired e by some early Faces stuff, so it was just really fun to play. It was a live take in the studio, and there’s tons of mistakes on there, but it’s really fun. We just kept on going, and had a great time with it. Joe Stillwell’s drums on  the whole song are killer, and I’m so thankful to have him back on some of the album.

Don’t Throw All the Good Things Away 
I think people will probably read into what that song’s about, but it really was a broader idea. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we’re doing and forget about relationships. Most of the time I look back on those decisions with regret, so this song was a really a reminder of that. Natalie Hemby sings on it. She’s one of my favorite co-writers, and also one of my favorite singers and souls. The first co-write I ever did in Nashville was with her, and she just made me feel so comfortable doing it. I was honored to have her on this song with me. 

“Innocence” is a song about my grandmother, Mom O’Neil. She lives in Alabama in a small town called Butler where there’s literally no cell service, and knows every single person. She’s the piano lady of the church, she teaches Sunday school, and she has an amazing family. All her kids became missionaries, or went into the ministry. Any time I’m in trouble, the first person I think of calling is Mom O’Neil. I wanted to write a song to her, that really encompasses those kinds of spirits, and people like that, that just make a huge difference in your life. 

I Wanna Remember
“I Wanna Remember” is a song that started with a title. I had that feeling one day, and was like, “What if we wrote a song like this?”, and everybody in the room jumped at it. It’s cool to put these little pictures in the lyrics that are relatable. I think the further I get away from some of those memories, whether it’s high school or your first kiss, the more I feel like they’re special. I’m not longing for those days in a melancholic sort of way. I’m just so thankful to have had those human experiences. It’s a really sweet thing to think about, and hopefully the song’s a soundtrack to make some more memories.

West Texas Wind
“West Texas Wind” is the last song on the record. When we got into the house and started tracking it felt like a closer. It’s based on this story of when we were first touring in a van, and we would drive across the country. I remember going through Amarillo where it’s so sparse and wide open. It would be windy on the interstates, and we would literally see tractor trailers blown over on the side of the road. Being from South Carolina, I’d never seen anything like that, and I always think of that image when I think of West Texas. The metaphor is kind of cool to work in there. Just imagine some really young dudes in a van being like, “What is happening?”.

The past 12 months represent one of the most prolific periods in the band’s career thus far. They recently unveiled Live from the Woods Vol. 2—a live album recorded during three sold out, socially distanced outdoor concerts at Pelham, TN’s famed The Caverns. The band previewed this album with a performance of “Alive” on CBS’s The Late Late Show with James Corden.

It all happened concurrently to Out of Body debuting in the top 5 across three Billboard charts, and received critical acclaim from Billboard, Spin, Southern Living, American Songwriter, Taste of Country, and more. 

To celebrate, NEEDTOBREATHE will be at Bridgestone Plaza on July 31, 2021 from 10:00am onward to celebrate the release of Into the Mystery. The full-day event will feature a signing with the band beginning at 1:00pm, a special acoustic performance at 6:00pm, plus local food trucks, drinks, games, and first access to new merch all day long. Admission is free, and the signing is available while supplies last.

This Fall, NEEDTOBREATHE will embark on their massive Into The Mystery Tour with support from Switchfoot and The New Respects. The 38-city trek will visit iconic venues such as Denver, CO’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre (fifth consecutive sold out appearance) and Los Angeles, CA’s Greek Theatre, and see the band perform their first-ever headline show at Nashville, TN’s Bridgestone Arena. 

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