Kevin Martin of Candlebox
Kevin Martin has said that the songs on his band’s new album “speak to you like an old friend you haven’t seen in years, but are so happy to be able to catch up with.”
There’s no doubt that Candlebox fans share the sentiment.
It’s been ten years since the band’s last album of new material. The Seattle-based outfit rose to prominence in the ‘90s with their multi-platinum self-titled debut, which featured the huge singles “Far Behind” and “You.” The band spent the rest of the decade putting out two follow-up albums, “Lucy” and “Happy Pills,” and touring the world with acts like Rush and Metallica, before ultimately deciding to part ways in 1999.
The July 22nd release of “Into The Sun” not only marks Candlebox’s return to the studio, but a return to their original lineup, with one exception — lead singer Martin is joined by songwriting partner/guitarist Peter Klett and drummer Scott Mercado, while Adam Kury takes over on bass for Bardi Martin.
Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Martin to find out what he’s been up to over the years, get a few hints as to what fans can expect from the shows this summer, and learn the surprising interpretation to some of the album’s best songs.
Interviewed by: Heather Kobrin | July 2008
So, I know this is a little unprofessional, but I’m going to have to start this interview off by telling you straight up that the new album just completely kicks ass. I’m loving it.
But before we talk about the record, I want to learn more about how the band got to this place. After Candlebox separated in 1999, I know that you performed with The Hiwatts and Peter with redlightmusic, but what else were you doing during that time period?
I was meeting my wife, producing bands and writing songs. I was really just focusing on music. It’s what I’ve always done. I don’t really know much about anything else, so that’s what I needed to stick with. I was pleasantly surprised that Warner Brothers was releasing a best-of cd of ours back in 2006, because I knew there was an opportunity for us to restart everything.
Can you tell us the story of how Candlebox got back together? Was it a decision you struggled with, or did you know it was the right choice early on?
I think the struggle was more about wondering what was going to be the attitude towards us for putting things back together. How were people going to feel about it, what was going to be the acceptance level… was it really even worth it? Were there people who still listened to what we were doing and really gave a shit? The process of putting things back together was very easy. I called Pete and said, “They’re doing a best-of record.” He said, “Are you coming home for Christmas to see your family?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Let’s get a cup of coffee.” We sat down, and he said, “Look, I’ve talked with Bardi and Scott about this record, and we talked about maybe going out and touring on it this summer. How would you feel about that?” I was like, “That’d be great, that’d be a lot of fun,” because we hadn’t played since 2000. And as a band with Scott, we hadn’t played since ‘97, so I knew it would be something really enjoyable. The apprehension was more about wondering if people still knew who Candlebox was.
You’ve described “Into The Sun” as your best work to date. Coming from a band who’s sold millions of albums, that’s pretty high praise — you must be really proud of how the record turned out.
I’m crazy about it. It’s funny. I never listened to our records. I never listened to the first album after it was done. I never listened to “Lucy” or “Happy Pills.” There have been moments when I’ve had to pull the songs off of iTunes to remember parts or to retype my lyrics, but they’re not records that I ever really sat down and said “God, this is a great record, I love it, and I’m gonna listen to it everyday.” This is the only record that Candlebox has ever done that I actually do that with. And I think it’s because it’s just such a strong album for us. It’s the best record we’ve ever made, hands down.
Candlebox – Into The Sun / Drops on July 22
What was it like writing again with Peter after a gap of so many years? Did you fall back into a natural groove quickly, or was it a challenge to learn how to work together again?
There were a few things we had to relearn. The writing process was a little different now that we have both grown up as musicians and have worked with other people. We’re not who we were when we were 19, 20 years old when we first started this band. We’re older now. We’re a different band. So we had to rethink the whole element of sitting down in a rehearsal studio and working together, because I live in Los Angeles and Pete and Scott still live in Seattle. So there were a few things we had to take into consideration, and figure out if it was really going to work. And I think what we found in the process of writing these songs over the past two years and making sure that we were headed in the right direction… was that we were in fact headed in the right direction. We knew exactly what we were doing and were doing it the right way.
You’ve released a few songs ahead of the album release date, including two very different tracks — “Stand” and “Surrendering.” Why did you decide to release more than one song in advance, and what can you tell us about the inspiration behind these two in particular?
We released “Stand” as a single, and on iTunes, we’re releasing five songs, two weeks apart, to lead up to the release of the record. We wanted to give people an idea of the different direction that we’ve taken on the record, and let them choose for themselves whether it’s something they may want to buy. “Stand” was inspired by the second elected term of George Bush, and how people didn’t figure out the first time around that he’s a complete and utter buffoon. But more so, it’s about society in general, and the fact that you’ve got to pull your head out of the sand and reclaim this country. This is the United States of America, and the first three words of the Bill of Rights are, “We the people.” And that means you and me and everybody else who is not an elected official. Elected officials work for us, and I think people somewhere along the line have chosen to believe that we work for them. And so that’s what the song is about… “Surrendering” is about giving in to the woman who you’re in love with, or the relationship that you have with someone, whomever it may be. It’s about allowing yourself the freedom to do that. (Laughs) I tell you, when you do it, it makes things a hell of a lot easier, because you’re no longer the one who’s right all the time. It’s something that I’ve had to learn. This is my second marriage, and I’ve just had my first child. He’s four months old and he’s amazing. And I’ve learned so much through this process, being with Natalie six years… how important she is to me, and how important my mother and my sister and my aunts are, and all the people in my life that I feel closest to. It’s surrendering to that, and allowing it.
What can you tell us about “Miss You?” That’s another one of my favorites from the record.
That’s awesome. “Miss You” is a song that was inspired by my father, who was a World War II vet. He passed away four years ago. Just the stories he used to tell me all the time… every June 6th he would call and tell me a new story about Omaha Beach. He was at D-Day, June 6th, 1944. He was basically Tom Hanks’ character in “Saving Private Ryan” — he was one of the first ones on the beach. It was a pretty cool part of my life to understand those stories from my dad. The nice thing about it is that I have those memories now, and I figured I would put it in a song. So yeah, that’s one of my favorites as well.
You’re going to be touring in support of the album all summer. What can we expect from the show?
(Laughs) A rockin’ good time! You know, we always put on a good show. We always have so much fun, and we really, really enjoy what we do. We’ll have new songs, a new attitude, new energy, new versions of stuff, a keyboard player… just more and more Candlebox.
Kevin Martin Live – Photo by Mary
You must have a lot of fans coming up to you and expressing how excited they are for the album after ten years of waiting for new material. It’ll be like Christmas in July!
That’s what we’re hoping. I mean, you never know, people may be like, “What? You’ve got a new record? What’s wrong with the old one?” (laughs)
What do you and the rest of the guys do for fun on the road, to keep yourselves from going crazy?
A lot of Xbox 360. You know, I do so much work on the road that I really don’t get much time off — I do a lot of press. We play music and sit around with guitars, which is something we didn’t used to do. I used to take a bike on the road with me because I would mountain bike all the time. I don’t enjoy that any more, I’m kind of over it. Now I just sit around and play guitar with the guys. We hang out and talk, and we drink some good whiskey.
Over the years, you’ve played with everyone from Metallica to Rush. Any particular favorite that you most enjoyed sharing the stage with?
The Flaming Lips. We took them on tour with us back in ‘94… that was awesome… that was brilliant. They were amazing every night, blew us away every night, were ten times the band we were. And also Aerosmith. I was a huge Aerosmith fan, and it was nice to tour with them in ‘98, that was killer. Rush, Metallica, all of them… you know, there’s so many great memories from all of the tours.
Your original bassist, Bardi Martin, has moved on to pursue a career in law. Do you think he has any regrets after making the change?
No. He’s met his wife Julie and he’s running marathons now… he may miss playing live with us, but I don’t think he has any regrets. You go to law school for a reason. He’s always been about the underdog, and I think that’s why he’s practicing human rights/environmental law.
How do you think the Seattle music scene has changed since your initial success in the ‘90s?
I couldn’t tell you… I don’t even know a band from Seattle right now. I know that the Presidents of the Unites States of America are back together, and Seaweed and a bunch of the others who were around when we were around are reforming. I think that Sub Pop (Records) is definitely one of the best things that’s still going on in Seattle. They’ve got a lot of local bands that are doing really well. I think the scene’s entirely different. It’s not how it was back in the ‘90s. It’s just a much different world up there.
If you were limited to only three albums to listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Wow. Zeppelin, “Physical Graffiti.” What else… that’s a tough question… Kings of Leon, “Because of the Times” — I could listen to that record every day. And probably U2, “Achtung Baby.”
What message would you like to leave with your fans?
Just listen to the music, you know? Don’t judge people for what they write. Just listen to the music. And enjoy it, because it’s an art form that not everyone can do.