Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of NEEDTOBREATHE’s “The Outsiders”

A little over 10 years ago, a band from South Carolina decided they were going to make their own rules and follow their own path. The Outsiders was the announcement that NEEDTOBREATHE had finally made it to the big leagues.

Musically and thematically, The Outsiders was a declaration that the band had no intention of fitting in, being labeled, or taking the easy road. Their music had never sounded this fresh, authentic, or natural. This was the music that had been flowing in their blood from the beginning; it only took three albums to get it out.

Before The Outsiders

Their debut album, Daylight, was all climactic epics, with little subtlety or nuance. They sounded great, but too many songs sounded alike. Some of those problems were fixed with their sophomore release, The Heat. The band poured more of themselves into the record, drawing from their southern heritage for much of its sound. Still, they had not yet arrived.

Ready for the spotlight

The Outsiders was the moment we all realized the wait was over. The band knew exactly who they were and they were eager to let everyone hear. With all that said, fans of the previous albums didn’t need to worry; The Outsiders was filled with their signature sounds, hooks, and emotions. It was just a better and more mature vision.

As they did with The Heat, they incorporated a variety of instruments to fill every corner of sound with something to enjoy. Banjo, mandolin, harmonica, organ, and piano are all in heavy rotation throughout the album. From the gospel-infused “Lay ‘Em Down” to the beautiful bluegrass duet “Stones Under Rushing Waters” with Sarah Watkins of Nickel Creek fame, the band refused to be categorized or boxed in.

In the mood for a toe-tapping, rockabilly tune? “Girl Named Tennessee” fit the bill quite nicely. Looking for an 80s Peter Gabriel/U2 mash-up, with pounding drums and big vocals, “Through Smoke” was the song for you. Did you simply want to be inspired? “Something Beautiful” took care of that.

Nearly every song on the 14 song album worked and they more than made up for the weaker tracks with songs like “Prisoner”, the infectious number that had my entire family dancing around the house like idiots, and the cascading anthem, “Let Us Love”, whose last minute left turn was inspiring and a bit shocking. It was a daring choice and I applaud them for it.

Lyrically, their songs had never been more poetic or relevant. The album dealt with themes of faith amidst doubt, not conforming to the world’s expectations, and standing your ground in the face of opposition. The album had an openness that was lacking in many mainstream pop albums. It was mature work by a band who had become comfortable in their own skin.

Closing thoughts…

NEEDTOBREATHE made an album that was impossible to classify, yet completely accessible. The Outsiders positioned them for big-time success, and it did so by digging deeper into who they were as musicians, not by selling out. NEEDTOBREATHE had arrived and the view truly was something beautiful.

Phill Lytle

I love Jesus, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation, etc...

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