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Needtobreathe ends family feud

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From left, Seth Bolt, Joe Stillwell, Bear Rinehart and Bo Rinehart are Needtobreathe. (Courtesy Sully Sullivan)

It might sound like superficial sentiment when Needtobreathe frontman Bear Rinehart sings (with guest vocalist Gavin DeGraw) on the single “Brother”: “When you call and need me near…Brother I’m right here/ You’re the blood of my blood/ We can get through it all.”

But the song – co-written by Rinehart and his guitarist brother Bo – may be the deepest in the band’s five-album catalog: It chisels the epitaph on a years-long sibling rivalry that nearly consumed their friendship – and the group (which appears in The City this week, promoting the new CD “Live From the Woods at Fontanelle”).

Raised by a pastor father in Possum Kingdom, S.C., the Rineharts had started Needtobreathe with the best intentions.

Trophy-winning college football player Bear gave up going pro, then recruited aspiring actor Bo, who had been offered TV and film roles.

“I basically talked him out of that career, because back then he was young and impressionable,” says Bear, born William Stanley Rinehart III. “We’d met with a manager and started doing showcases, so I said, ‘You’ve got to choose now.’ That was my last chance or I’d lose him.”

With a 2006 debut disc “Daylight,” the Biblical-inspired brothers didn’t want to use their music to preach. But they believed that it could serve a higher purpose, beyond simply scaling the pop charts and earning royalties.

“We felt like we could be an encouragement to people, like there was something a little more important about what we were doing,” says Bear, who was accepted by both Christian and rock communities.

But five years ago, he and Bo’s priorities shifted. They stopped hanging out, writing together, and eventually required separate dressing rooms on tour.

Going home to their parents’ house for holidays was a nightmare, the singer adds. “We wouldn’t even make it to dinner before me and Bo would be in a room together, hashing it out,” he says. “And onstage, we would yell at each other in between songs. We actually got into a big fight a year and a half ago that put one of us in the hospital – I won’t say who – and you get incredibly angry when that happens, like, ‘I’m done! I don’t want to do this anymore!’”

Realizing they had gone too far, the Rineharts apologized to each other and vowed to never again put showbiz before family.

“Then everything changed, and the creativity between us came back,” says Bear, who had labored for an agonizing year to finish the 2014 album “Rivers in the Wasteland.”

“But we wrote the last two songs, ‘Brother’ and (the Grammy-nominated) ‘Multiplied,’ in a week. So when you have your priorities right? Everything else just falls into line.”

IF YOU GO
Needtobreathe

Where: Masonic, 1111 California St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. July 9
Tickets: $36
Contact: (415) 776-7457, www.livenation.com

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