Thirty years ago Candlebox released one of the biggest debut records of the 90’s. The band has released 7 records and played some of the biggest stages in the world. Now, thye are about to release their 8th and final record, The Long Goodbye, and hit the road one last time. Founding member Kevin Martin recently joined me to look back on his band’s long career.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Kevin Martin –
On using co-writers for the first time – The beauty of it is finding another way to say what I’ve been saying for 30 years. It’s an interesting concept when you start writing with a young audience or young producers or creatives because they look at things so much differently. I’ve been doing this for 30, well with the band, 32 years, but as a lyricist and a singer for a long, long time. I found that when I was trying to write for this record, I was stepping on the same statements that I’ve made before, and I didn’t want to do that. So I called my producer Don Miggs, and I said,” Can you arrange some writing with some of the young talent in Nashville?”, and he did. I went in with some really brilliant young creatives that just brought this kind of element of surprise to me lyrically and also solidified kind of what it was that I was trying to say in their way of saying it. So it made it really, really easy. It was very enjoyable. So songs that I would spend maybe two or three days working on lyrically came in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes to 30 minutes. It was at that point, it’s just about moving little things around so that you could find the right way to say it, which sounds more like me. So, I really enjoyed it and, and I kind of wish I’d been doing it like that my entire career because it’s just, it’s just so much more fun.
On why he’s ending the band now when he just found a new way of creating – It’s just been a long time coming. I think for me, really what it was about was putting the record out and the tour out and ending my career after 30 years of Candlebox being in people’s ears or being on their mind. I don’t think I’ve got it in me to do another 10 years. Emotionally and physically the way I sing and what I write about, there are songs that to this day still weigh on me very heavily that I’ve written and it takes a lot of it takes a lot of spirit to do this day in and day out for 30 years. I think that I had just realized that I had one record left in me, and that’s all I’m gonna give it. I’ve got lots of friends that still make music that I think shouldn’t be making music. There are a lot of artists out there that will go well past their prime and that’s just not something I wanted to do. I really enjoyed being at home with my family during COVID. My relationship with my wife and my son was something that I had never realized was so strained because I was always gone. Having that connection for 20 months made me realize I love them a lot more than I do the music that I make. So that was kind of the catalyst for me.
On if the old songs feel refreshed with the new lineup – They feel refreshed. It has a lot to do with the guys in the band. Island, Brian, BJ, and Adam, they bring such a different element to those songs. Those songs that are 30 years old, when we wrote “Far Behind” that was written in the fall of, of 91 and was recorded in the spring of 92. God, that’s a long time ago. So when you put new musicians in the, in that kind of arena of these songs, it may sound a certain way, but they’ve got different fingers and different amps and, and the energy is different. It really refreshes it for me. I don’t know how it does that for the audience. I guess it’s probably something I should have asked some of the people that come to see us play. But, for me, I’m just so grateful that I get to do it still, that people will let me come and play these shows and sing these songs that have affected their lives for 30 years. It’s special to me. So maybe it’s just as refreshed for them as well.
On if they felt a kinship to the Seattle bands or if they were different – Very different. (There was) five years of age difference as well. All of us were 14 years old when a lot of the Soundgarden, Screaming Trees records were coming out, Mudhoney as well. The Deep Six, that vinyl release, I was 15 when that came out and those guys would have been 20, 21. So that certainly was some of the some of the main difference was just our ages. Pete (Klett), Bardi (Martin), Scott (Mercado), and myself, we didn’t grow up in that community musically. Scott, his favorite drummer was Steve Gadd. If you asked any other drummer in Seattle if Steve Gadd was their favorite, maybe it would be Matt Cameron that would say that. Most drummers would say John Bonham or something like that. So we had kind of this different eclectic mix of musicianship in our band that kind of created that first record and the sound of that first record. I grew up on punk rock. Pete grew up on Iron Maiden and Heavy Metal and Black Sabbath and Bardi grew up on Jaco Pastorius, and kind of the creative bassline community.
So, I think we just had so much difference in our musicality than those other bands that we didn’t really fit into it. Candlebox is kind of the Journey of the Seattle music scene, whereas Nirvana was the Velvet Underground or something like that. We had that kind of arena rock sensibility that those other bands just didn’t, I don’t think they gravitated towards. I love Journey. I grew up listening to them. My brother Dennis was a big fan, and Steve Perry’s voice, to me, was probably one of the greatest rock roll voices of all time. I think that that’s all of what has helped to kind of create that Seattle sound for Candelbox. That’s why I think that when you listen to all those bands, Pearl Jam, Sweetwater, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, I mean, the list goes on and on, obviously. Every single one of them is so much different than the other that I always found that the name “Grunge” was just kind of a way of saying Seattle, where they could have just said the Seattle Sound, because that’s really what it was.
On if the massive early success was a double-edged sword for the band – None of us were prepared, were really prepared for the success of the record as a band, certainly, I know that I wasn’t. You go out on the road and in the spring of 1993 and by the fall of 1994, you’re playing your own arena shows, you’re headlining it. That happened with Pearl Jam, that happened with Nirvana, that happened with Soundgarden, that happened with Alice In Chains. It was such a fresh sound and style of music that people just instantly gravitated towards it. But with that came so much stress that you put on yourself, this next record’s got to be better than the first record. There were a lot of casualties from rapid success, Layne Staley with Alice In Chains, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. That rapid growth, if you don’t want it and you’re not looking for it, it scares the hell out of you. Some people could deal with it. Some people can’t, but it certainly affected Candlebox in a very negative way. We made a risky decision to produce the Lucy record the way we did and we took a complete right turn on the direction of songwriting and how we were producing music and it backfired in a sense to where we only sold a million copies. We didn’t sell seven million, but we were setting ourselves up for the change that we wanted to continue to do the evolution of the band. We never thought to ourselves to rewrite “Far Behind”. We never thought to ourselves to rewrite “Cover Me” or “You”. We knew that we wanted to progress as an artist and as a band, and that’s what we did.
On if the band has a final show planned – I think our final show is in Santiago, Chile, there is talk of us doing Australia at the end of the year, or maybe into the spring. But as far as I know, I think the last show is Santiago, Chile on October 14th, or something like that. Like I said, there’s Australia on the books. There’s Europe on the books. This may extend into the spring of next year, but certainly in the States, it’s going to be ending, I believe, on September 23rd in Houston, Texas. So that’s our last stateside gig.
On if the original lineup will reunite one last time – Pete is coming to play with us for the Florida dates because he lives in Tampa. So he’s going to do Jacksonville, Tampa, and Boca. But the original band, we’re doing something with the Seattle Symphony for Christmas of 2024 and that’ll be just Pete, Bardi, Scott, and myself at the Seattle Symphony. So that’s, that’ll be kind of the last Candlebox original band show. Fingers crossed it works. We don’t know.
On if this is the end of just Candlebox or of his musical career – I think I’m done with the business. I have a bunch of side projects that I’ve done over the years that I really enjoy. I’ve got one with actually my producer, Don Migga, who did this record with us. We have a thing called Future Trash, which we have a full record. We have a record done. It’s ready to come out. We could actually go play shows on it if we wanted. There’s a nice little bow that I’m going to put on this thing and wrap it up and just put it in the closet and maybe occasionally I’ll pull it out and take a look at the pictures. I’m just done with it. I’m done with this career in this life. It’s been a blast but I’d much rather be at home with my wife and my son than out here on a stinky tour bus in the middle of Arkansas right now where it’s 98 degrees out and 98% humidity.
On what he wants the legacy of Candlebox to be – The little band from Seattle that could. I think there was a lot, there was a lot of negativity around Candlebox from that community. We were never really welcomed by the Soundgardens or the Alice in Chains. Even though when I was best friends with Layne Staley and Chris Cornell there was never kind of that, “Hey, little bro, come here sort of thing”, which kind of sucked. To live with that for those first few years when we could have certainly used a big brother to kind of help us stay focused on what we were doing, that was difficult. But I think that our legacy is that we stood the test of time. We continue to put out good record after good record. In my opinion, we’ve released some brilliant albums. That we never really let that kind of thing stop us from being the creative force that we were. Certainly, outside influence can affect a lot of what a band continues to do. We just stayed the course. I think that that’s kind of why we still have the fans that we have. We’re still here 30 years later. We continue to put out records that made people think and push the boundaries of our creativity. I think the legacy will be that, Candlebox was a band that came out at a pretty difficult time, but survived that. The test time tells the tale.