He's best known in the Twin Cities for playing retro-twangy guitar in his brothers' band, the Cactus Blossoms. So it's ironic that Tyler Burkum went to the twang mecca of Nashville to land a gig with a rock band.

"I'm just down to play music — whatever kind, as long as it's good," said the Minneapolis-based guitar ace.

A veteran sideman, Burkum joined the lineup of Needtobreathe — the anthemic Top 40 rock quintet — to fill the big shoes left by Bo Rinehart, brother of bandleader Bear Rinehart.

Two albums later — one recorded in Minnesota — he's on tour with the "Something Beautiful" and "Brother" hitmakers and set to play his first hometown gig with them Saturday at the Armory in Minneapolis.

For Burkum, joining Needtobreathe was as much about who he's playing with as what they're playing.

"I always try to find music that speaks to me," the guitarist said. "But I think finding the right people to play with is as important as or maybe even more important than the kind of music you play."

Talking by phone last week from a tour stop in Reno, Nev., Burkum said Rinehart and his crew are exactly the right kind of people.

"It's so nice to not have drama on the bus, which I've experienced, and it's awful," he said. "We have a great time, and it makes touring so much easier. You can tour a lot harder when it's a healthy work environment like this."

Joined overnight

Burkum singled out the band's frontman for setting the right tone.

Reputedly raised with a preacher dad in an area of South Carolina known as Possum Kingdom — cue the dueling banjos — Bear Rinehart formed Needtobreathe with his brother in 2001. The group has racked up hit singles on both the Christian music and adult-alternative charts as well as multiple Dove Awards and one Grammy nomination.

"Bear works harder than anybody I know and is an intense guy, and I love that," Burkum said. "He's so passionate and always swinging for the fences, but he also never asks us to do anything he wouldn't do himself."

Burkum came to the band after playing on two of Bear's solo albums, recorded as Wilder Woods. The Minneapolis sideman also briefly served as Needtobreathe's auxiliary guitarist before that, when Bo Rinehart was still in the band. He was touring at the time with the group's opening act, Mat Kearney.

"Their other guitar player at the time was having a baby and had to head home, so they asked to fill in on a day's notice," Burkum recounted, laughing at the memory of being asked to learn 27 songs overnight sent to him via Dropbox.

"I went to bed instead. I knew there was no way I'd learn it all."

He played the gigs nonetheless, and must have made a good impression. Burkum was invited to the sessions for Needtobreathe's seventh album, "Out of Body," finished right before the start of the COVID pandemic. At the time, he did not know Bo Rinehart would be quitting the band, reportedly due to conflicts with his brother.

"They basically asked, 'You want to keep playing with us here?'" he remembered.

Burkum is careful to distinguish himself from the other Rinehart, though.

"One fan said to me, 'You'll never replace Bo!'" he recounted. "And I said, 'You know what? You're right.'"

"I can play a lot of styles of music, but I'm not very good at imitating other people. I had to come into this band and be myself. And they told me that's exactly what they wanted."

Made in Minnesota

Burkum's role in Needtobreathe has evolved over the two albums made since he joined, a prolific run he credited to the downtime the band was forced to take from touring due to COVID.

The latest of those records, "Caves," was largely recorded not far from home for Burkum at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minn., last winter. He said the band likes to record in places where the members can live and work in seclusion for a few weeks, so the famed Minnesota studio (with an adjoining house) came up as an option without his input.

"One of our producer friends suggested it, and I was like, 'Well, it's a really cool place, and the drum room is amazing, but it's Minnesota so it's going to be cold,'" he recalled.

"Sure enough, we get up there, and a couple of them didn't even bring coats."

Raised in Minneapolis also as a son of a preacher, Tyler, 43, is the eldest of the three Burkum brothers. He had moved to Nashville in the late '90s to join the contemporary Christian rock band Audio Adrenaline and was still there when his brothers, Page and Jack, started performing as the harmony-rich Americana duo the Cactus Blossoms.

Upon his return to Minnesota, Tyler would frequently sit in with their group at gigs and record with them alongside their full-time guitar wiz, Jake Hansen. He'd still be doing that if not for the welcome demands since joining Needtobreathe.

"I love playing with brothers so much; there's really nothing better," he said.

Noting that his own three sons are also all musical — the eldest, 21, has even moved to Nashville — Tyler said he's hoping they, too, will start their own band.

"That must've been such a cool thing for my dad to see his boys all play together," he said. "I'd probably retire so I could just watch them play."

Burkum noted his own dream gig: playing with hometown music heroes the Jayhawks someday. "They're probably my favorite band, have been for a long time," he said.

That might explain his knack for weaving between rock and country bands.


With: Judah the Lion.

When: 7:30 p.m. Sat.

Where: The Armory, 500 S. 6th St., Mpls.

Tickets: $37-$48, all ages, ticketmaster.com.