On July 15, Bear Rinehart, sat down with The Knockturnal in an exclusive interview to discuss and promote his upcoming album, the start of his solo chapter. Rinehart, the lead singer of NEEDTOBREATHE is beginning his solo career away from his chart-topping, award-winning band under the nom de plume, Wilder Woods.
His debut, self-titled, solo album is a glorious mix of classic soul, modern alt-pop, and R&B for an unexpected sound that stops you in your tracks. From sultry, smoky openings that ooze swagger and a carefree attitude, to sensual, haunting ballads reflecting pain and soul-searching, this album has it all.
Rinehart takes new risks and experiments with new sounds in his new album, pushing his artistic boundaries, giving him the chance to craft an independent identity. Rinehart sets the stage with an air of excitement and infinite possibilities with his album dropping today, August 9, and full headline tour beginning in September.
The Knockturnal: So, for your debut album you are going under the name Wilder Woods…
Wilder Woods: Yeah, so those are my two boys’ names, Wilder and Woods. So, I don’t want anyone calling me Wilder, I probably won’t turn around if they do. Initially, I was thinking of making the album about a letter to the boys and then it ended up pretty far away from that in a lot of ways. I think it is kind of cool to involve the family a little bit.
The Knockturnal: And speaking of your family, your wife is starring in one of your videos, “Electric Woman,” did you guys have as much fun as it looks in the video?
Wilder Woods: Yeah, we did! I think she was a little panicked about it before because it was the first video, she had been in. Every call about a video is, “we gotta get models” and I was like, “I got one, let’s do this!” It was really fun because in a band you can’t do that, so that part has been awesome. She did have a blast and obviously, we got to do the whole fitting and stylist and all that. It was really cool!
The Knockturnal: “Electric Woman” is about your wife, were you particularly nervous to write this song because it’s about someone who is so close to you or the exact opposite?
Wilder Woods: We’ve been married a long time, so I think she is kind of over it as far as that goes. She can be very sweet, but she tends to like the heavier songs of the record, in terms of like the dramatic element. So, I knew that she would like the song, but I also knew it wouldn’t end up being her favorite. I don’t think it was a lot of pressure, but she does like to dance to it, which is nice.
The Knockturnal: Speaking of liking the heavier songs, “Someday Soon” is the opposite to “Electric Woman.” It is such a melancholy and bluesy song yet alludes to light at the end of the tunnel, can you talk about the inspiration behind this song.
Wilder Woods: I wrote it with two other guys, all of us had kids, and we wanted to write something you could say to your sons or daughters, and by the end of the session it ended up turning into writing more about ourselves. And that’s the thing, sometimes you parent most of the time when you don’t know you are. As the song goes on, we are telling our own story and our own shame and things that have gotten in the way, and that it’s okay to make mistakes and all that. So, I think that is what that song is really about, just you have to keep coming back, I guess. It’s easier to tell my kids that than it is to tell myself that. One thing I think about songs is that emotions translate. It’s not necessarily the situation but the emotion itself and I think this is one of the songs that make you feel.
The Knockturnal: Some of your songs really allude to the 1970s, what music or bands do you listen to that kind of inspire your sound?
Wilder Woods: I mean the soul guys were definitely a part of that. I think specifically Isaac Hayes and even the one song, “Walk On By,” the way that song starts is, smoky, is what we call it. We had to have that swag that makes people sit down and see further into it. We also pulled from alternative modern things, which I think gave the sound, at least for me, something unique about it. We were listening to R&B, The Gorillaz, and all that, just little elements like that to just turn it on its head.
The Knockturnal: Your band NEEDTOBREATHE is quite different in its material compared to your first three releases, why did you decide to begin a solo career?
Wilder Woods: I have always wanted to do one, I think anybody in a band who’s honest would say they would like to do something different. Not because you don’t like what you’re doing, but there is something really fun about the first time. Exploring your sound and being unsure about it and I have always wanted to do a solo album. The timing made a lot of sense because we used to tour so much, we would do 100 shows a year. Now all of a sudden, we play bigger shows and we don’t have to play as many and for half the year I was at home and I would kind of lose my mind after a week of not working, so this window came at a good time to pursue it. It’s made for a kind insane year because we made the record, then I went on tour for 60 shows with NEEDTOBREATHE, and all that, so it’s a little bit crazy but I like it that way.
The Knockturnal: You are about to go on your North American tour on September 5th, what are you most looking forward to this tour?
Wilder Woods: I think we are going to freak people out with the band and I’m super excited about that. The band we put together is really good and also, as different as the record is, the band is. I think within five to ten minutes people are going to be like, “what is this?!” I’m excited for that moment!
The Knockturnal: Your first release was “Sure Ain’t” I believe, can you talk about that song and kind of what was the inspiration behind it.
Wilder Woods: I wrote it with two other guys and I took this idea of getting in this character of this guy who was flirtatious, but not annoying about it. it was kind of like being a little cheeky with the person. Can you imagine being if you’re in there and you start talking to somebody and they’re like “I’m giving you permission to do this, I’m just telling you if you wanted to move closer then it would be fine with me, I’m not making you…” just really polite flirting. I think that’s where it kind of came from, and there is a big contrast between the hook and the verses, which are really quietly sung, and it’s this really loud note at the top. I think that’s my personality really. In-person I’m really shy and quiet and then on stage I’m really loud, so a little bit of the Wilder and a little bit of the Woods.
The Knockturnal: The video, directed by Gus Black, is so beautifully done and kind of hypnotic to watch, what was that process like for that video?
Wilder Woods: What’s cool is that we worked with Gus before and we had this idea of what if we shot five or six different videos over three days and it all intertwined in some way. So some of the “Electric Woman” video is shot at the house that we did some of the scenes for “Sure Ain’t.” Then both the “Sure Ain’t” and “Supply and Demand” video which comes out soon, have scenes that intertwine like the performance scene is in both of those videos. The hardest part was keeping track of that and which video we were shooting at that moment. It was like, “what are you wearing that video, in this story, at this time?” but it was a very cool way to do it. The whole point was to make a world that Wilder Woods lives in and show people and get some context for this guy and who he is.
The Knockturnal: What is your process like to write your songs?
Wilder Woods: I write a lot! I think that is my biggest process. I really have to sit down and try. I think showing up is important for me. I just try to get my hands on a guitar or piano and just try to write a couple of hours almost every day, and then I’ll take those ideas and kind of flesh them out sometimes. Lyrically, I’m kind of like Springstein in that I just write five or six verses and just end up using two. I ask myself, “What’s the best way to say this? What translates the best?” It’s like writing an English paper in a way. I think that’s how I do it, and I try to embrace that child-like attitude. You never get great at something, but you get good at catching the ideas as they come and recognizing where they are coming from, so I think that’s me trying to get into that headspace all the time.
The Knockturnal: Was there a song on this album that you found particularly difficult to write or to finish, or one that just kind of took a little more digging to create?
Wilder Woods: “Light Shining In” is the first track on the record and I wrote the lyrics before I had any music. I wrote it is a string of conscious almost, and we cut that song three times I think, with different music. So, it was the hardest to get in terms of finding a place for it and we knew it didn’t sound right. I think it was two days before the studio session was over that we got it to work. The producer was like, “Do you think it’ll work right here?” and I was like, “I think so!” Two hours later we had the song that became the first track.
The Knockturnal: I know we are not supposed to play favorites, but is there a particular song on this album that is your favorite or is special to you?
Wilder Woods: I think “Sure Ain’t” is probably one of my favorites. It was the first song we got that set the sound. For me, that is the hardest thing to get, so I will always be proud of that. The other stuff came easier.
The Knockturnal: What are you looking forward to with the future of Wilder Woods?
Wilder Woods: More records! I think it’s going to be very fun. I already have the idea of what that next chapter will look like, so I think that’s really exciting. It’s limitless when it comes to collaboration so that’s exciting. I would love to have a live band be part of making the next record. All very exciting!