An interview with Candlebox lead singer Kevin Martin
by Tommy Rage
February 2019



1991. That was the year that it all started for me. As a young and novice disc jockey in Seattle, I was handed an 8 song cassette tape by a guitarist in a band that I hadn’t heard of. After listening to the tape and talking with the guitarist, I was eager to have the up-and-coming band on my local Seattle radio show. The band, Candlebox. My very first official on-air interview was with lead singer Kevin Martin, and it was less than stellar to say the least. Two years later, Candlebox released their first album which skyrocketed to the top of the music charts with hits “Far Behind”, “You” and “Change”. The band released two additional albums in the 90’s and saw success again in 2008 with ‘Into The Sun’. 

Departures of original band members and later reunions lead to various line-up changes. In 2015 founding guitarist Peter Klett (the cassette guy), left the band to pursue music production full time. With a new group of talented musicians: Mike Leslie (guitar), Brian Quinn (guitar), Island Styles (rhythm guitar), Adam Kury (bass), and Dave Krusen (drums), singer Kevin Martin released ‘Disappearing In Airports’ in 2016.

Catching up with Kevin Martin as he toured through Chicago in support of ‘Disappearing In Airports’, I asked him what it was like putting together the band’s sixth studio release. “It was a record that happened rather quickly. I wrote four of the songs in Michigan with my buddy Mike, over a 24-hour period. We had about 3 or 4 other ideas, so we popped into the studio with a collection of things that weren’t really finished. They came to us rather quickly in the studio. We put down the drum and bass in two days, guitar and solos in four, and vocals in six days; so, the record took about 18 to 20 total days.”
Disappearing In Airports’ maintains the overall Candlebox sound, beginning with a gentle and melodic song “Only Because Of You”. “Vexatious” and “Alive At Last” are odes to the ballads and simpler songs the Grungers used to write. Martin explains, “It’s always been my song-writing style. I think that lyrical and melodically, it’s what I’ve been doing since the debut album. Maybe that’s why it feels like it’s a familiar record. I know that the songs are a little more simple than how we used to write. Except for “I’ve Got a Gun” is a song that I wrote with Pete, before he left the band. I was happy to put it on the record, and send it to him and let him know how much I really like that track. I think ultimately, we always try to push the envelope as far as we can. My voice is my voice and it’s been that familiar sound for 27 years now, so maybe that’s what we have going for us.” Asked about the album when the band plays the songs live, Martin continues, “I love them live, I think they come over really well live. Anytime you make a record, you rely on the tricks of the trade, and the all the things you can hide behind. But the proof is in when you play it live, every single song that we do live from that record really comes to life when it’s played live.” 

Throughout ‘Disappearing In Airports’, Martin shares his thoughts on relationships as well as the glee of getting it on. “’I Want It Back’ is a song about mistakes that we all make in relationships. I’ve got friends who have been married for close to 17 to 20 years and sometimes we cut our nose to spite our face. We are human beings who make mistakes, but sometimes I don’t understand that. It’s because of their insecurities or selfishness, instead of looking at what they have with this great relationship. We forget who we are sometimes. We can hurt people we love the most. So many people in my life are going through that. The song “Supernova” is about the glories and splendor of sex. That’s what that is about [laughter]!”

From the band’s early beginnings, Martin wasn’t afraid to talk about difficult subjects, such as homelessness on songs “He Calls Home” or drug addiction on “Happy Pills”. The honesty and candor of Martin continues on ‘Disappearing In Airports’ with “The Bridge”, a song about depression. “God’s Gift” is a hard-rocking cynical take on fame. Asked if he was ever told not to speak his mind, Martin shares, “I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be so opinionated, and I generally get that from people who don’t want artist to talking about politics.  I’ve never been told not to say what I want to say. I’ve had the argument with people that withholding information and being vague in a song is something that is beneficial for an artist. But I’m definitely going to voice my opinion when I need to voice it. Music is a great outlet for that, and artist have been trying to get people to pay attention to what’s happening for a long long time. There is always been someone in that realm that has pushed it. Whether it’s Bob Dylan, the Clash or the Foo Fighters, or anyone like that. I think that those are band that stand the test of time. It’s the ones that try to candy-coat the bullshit and try to hide behind it, they are the ones that don’t really continue on.”

All eleven songs on ‘Disappearing in Airports’ stay true to the Candlebox feel. With a collection of talented musicians around him, Martin celebrated Candlebox’s longevity with an extensive 25th anniversary tour, and a stop back in Seattle to perform their multi-platinum album from front to back. The strength of Candleboxes catalog is founded on Martins strong vocals, which continue to shine and carry the band along even after 25 plus years. Martin remains humble about still having a great voice for concerts and albums, “It’s awesome. I’m lucky because I’ve always known how to sing. I started singing in choir when I was in the first grade and I did that all the way through my senior year in school.  So, I guess all those years of vocal training and instruction has kind of helped me take care of it and understand how it works. Ultimately, it’s an instrument that’s going to give in some day, and not be able to do what I want it to do. Right now, it’s giving me what I need from it, so I’ll continue to tour. When it decides it won’t do that anymore, I’ll pack it up and move out to the country.”

Wrapping up the last leg of their US tour, Martin is looking forward to heading back into the studio this year. “We are hoping to try to make a record in October. I’ve got six songs that I’m ready to record and about another ten ideas, so we are going to probably do a 10 song record and follow that up with a six song EP. We are not really on a schedule. We’re not the most prolific band [laugher]. We make record when we are ready to make records and when we want to make records. That a nice schedule to keep.”

As we chatted about old times and reminisced about our favorite Candlebox stories, Martin reflects on his first time playing Madison. “One of my favorite stories of Madison is the first time we came through, we played a club to just the bar staff [laughter]! I think there was a total of maybe 15 people at the venue. That’s my fondest memory of Madison; and then coming back and playing all the festivals and venues back there. It’s a lot colder there, so I’m trying to stay as far away as I can [laughter].”

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