“The different direction was definitely intentional,” Bear explains. “We went [there], honestly, because we wanted to let people in a little bit more. I think inspiration sometimes for us is, ‘How do we make this just cooler than our audience? How do we make them come to us?’ We get really caught up more in the flavor than just songwriting, so we tried to balance that out on this record. There’s some songs you can like on the first listen, which was very intentional.”

“Happiness” proved to be one of those instantly likable tracks. Yet, choosing the soulful, gospel-tinged single to introduce the band’s bold new sound was a risky move.

“It’s sort of a lynchpin, because it was the first song we put out, so we felt like, ‘Well, if [fans] are into this song, they’re going to love this record; and if they’re not into this song, we could be in for a long road,’” Bear says, laughing. “We’ve always felt like we made soul music. If you go back to ‘Washed by the Water’ and ‘Lay ‘Em Down,’ it felt like that. There was always that vibe, but how do we get more modern with that style? And that’s what, to me, ‘Happiness’ is.”

Newest member Josh Lovelace also had a hand in contributing to the new sonic direction. Although Lovelace has backed the band on keys and vocals for several years on live shows, this is the first studio album he’s had a hand in creating as an official member of NEEDTOBREATHE.

“[Josh] has really come into his own with that stuff, so we lean on him much more; whereas it used to be he kind of played the parts that I wrote,” Bear says. “Now, we really look to him to bring inspiration and new sounds.”

In addition to slight line-up changes, so much has changed for the band since they first started playing shows in college. All are now married; three out of four are fathers of young kids, and H A R D L O V E reflects the maturity of four men living out their faith and lessons learned as brothers, friends, husbands and fathers. “I think it’s maybe a nod to life,” Bear says of the title track, admitting, “All of us are going through a growing up time.”

Growth has also come as a direct result of the past few tumultuous years, which have, in turn, changed how they approach their artistry and run their business from top to bottom. Prioritizing the mental, physical and spiritual health of the band and putting relationships first has meant cutting down the number of shows they play each year, a challenge for the hardworking act long known for their due diligence on the road.


Leave a Reply