Candlebox rocketed to the top of music charts 25 years ago after the release of their debut, self-titled album. Never in their wildest dreams did the band expect to make the platinum ranks. Lead vocalist, Kevin Martin, is still in awe—after all, he’s a skilled drummer, not a trained singer. July 2018 kicked off an anniversary celebration, with the original lineup back in action, playing two sold out shows in Seattle. Once again, the current lineup is back in action, spreading grunge, funk, and hard rock, before heading over to Europe—and recording a new album this summer.
Even with plans for a new record and summer studio time, the excitement for their newest album, Disappearing in Airports, still hasn’t… well, disappeared. The 2016 album proves to be an all-time favorite for Kevin, who listens to one track from the album each day—something he has never done with any other Candlebox album. During our talk, he explained how magical the record is for the band, gave me the scoop about making the jump from drummer to vocalist, and talked about touring overseas.
You guys have been touring on and off for a while and your debut album hit its 25th anniversary in July? How do you feel about that milestone?
Well, I don’t think any of us expected it to be 25 years. And when we started the band—I just listened to some stuff that somebody sent me from before we were Candlebox and I was just cringing. I was like, ‘Jesus, I didn’t even know how to sing because I was a drummer.’ So, if you had told me that this record would have been a success, I would have told you you’re crazy, but I think that it’s quite monumental, and I think that we were all incredibly excited about playing those shows in Seattle with the original band, the original lineup, for two nights. But, you know, I think ultimately, it comes down to, now that it’s kind of worn off and we’re in the long-haul period of playing this record, what’s most fun about it is playing it with the guys who I play with now. And, mixing in the other 25 years’ worth of records. That’s really what I’m enjoying more than anything. I haven’t listened to that debut record since the day it came out (laughs). I’m not the biggest fan of it. That’s just because, like I said, I really had no idea what I was doing. And I was a drummer before I started singing in the band, so I’m more of the reluctant lead singer.
Is there kind of a different kind of responsibility, going from drummer to lead singer?
I don’t know if it’s responsibility when it comes to performing…. You know, there are a lot of bands where the lead singer doesn’t even write the lyrics—Mötley Crüe for example. So, what’s really the responsibility? Writing the songs, being the image of the band? I think, ultimately, the responsibility in most bands (is relying on) the bass and drums being able to carry the rest of the musicians. They’re the foundation of the music. I prefer the responsibility of the drummer, not having to sing every night. That’s the job I picked. I mean, do I enjoy it? Yeah—100 percent. Would I rather be playing drums? Absolutely. But I’m an insecure being who likes to get attention from the audience (laughs), so I guess I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
Fair enough. You’ve been on and off the road and you guys had a good number of sold out shows.
It’s interesting to me. We sell out I’d say 60 to 70 percent of the shows we do and then the remainder, we’re 200 tickets from sell out. Or 50 tickets from sell out. It’s one of those kinds of things. I can’t explain it. I don’t know how it’s continued to be this way. The dates that we do and the breaks that we have—go out, play some shows, come home for a month, go back out and play four shows, come home for three weeks…. Everybody in the band likes that because we all have families, children, wives, significant others that we’d rather be around than be away from. And I just refuse to do 8-16 weeks on the road anymore. It’s too exhausting and I miss my family too much. So, you know, those breaks are great. It’s refreshing when you come home from playing four, five, six shows and you get to spend two, three weeks with your family. It definitely makes it worthwhile to go out and play those shows for those fans.
It’s good to recharge. You have dates for a U.K. tour, and you’re going out with Mark Daly. You haven’t toured with each other yet, right?
No. I’ve known Mark for years. We’ve always kicked around the idea that, if I ever toured around Europe, we would tour together, and if I ever needed somebody to open for me in the States when he was here, we would make it happen. But, it’s never been the case. So, when this came about, I gave him a call and asked, ‘Are you gonna be in Europe?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ So, I said, ‘Let’s do these shows together.’ I’m a fan, and I think he’s an incredibly talented human being and I’m really looking forward to playing with him.
You released Disappearing in Airports in 2016, and the audience reception was awesome. How do you think you can top it?
(Laughs.) That’s the million-dollar question I’ve been asking myself for three years now, getting ready to make this record. We’re not the most prolific band. There’s a lot of time between the albums. You know…. 2008 to 2012 to 2016. But I make records when I’m ready and I don’t like to force the art…. The art that is the band. We discuss it every single show: What do we have, where are we? I’ve been writing songs for the past three years, but really none of us have said, ‘Hey, I think it’s time to make a new record’ until last November. It was like, ‘Listen, I’ve got some music here and we should probably pop into the studio at some point next year.’ It’s collaborative and that’s important to me, being the singer and main songwriter. I like to include everybody else. It makes it worthwhile for me. It makes me feel like we are a band.
So, we’re gonna start a record in August and hopefully the songs that we have will push that envelope a little bit further. There’s a lot of stuff that’s very acoustic-driven. Very similar to Led Zeppelin III. I’m a little concerned that it might be a little Neil Young-ish, but there’s nothing wrong with Neil Young! Again, we haven’t even started the record yet. It’s always a thought process when you’re going in to make a record. How do you top the previous? Or how do you top the debut? God, I’d love to sell 4 million records again. But that’s not in the cards. It’s really about the fans and making the music they want to hear and having them grow with you.
Okay—you have a certain number of songs ready to record. How many of them make the cut for the album?
Ten. We used to try to write 14, 15, 16, but people’s attention span is far less than it was. It’s financial as well as creative. But, like what we did with Disappearing in Airports, we have three B-sides, which I was really happy about and they’re exclusive tracks that you give to the fans who have purchased some sort of thing on pledge, or the campaign that we’re running now. But ultimately, it’s just 10 tracks on the album. That’s how it was back in the seventies and early eighties.
Do you ever go into the studio questioning songs? Consider cutting them?
All the time (laughs). Even when you’re mixing the record.
Do you ever get over that?
No, no…. I still feel like there’s three songs that should’ve been on Lucy and aren’t, two songs that shouldn’t be on Happy Pills but are. And those are 20 years old.
Did you add them to the next record or anything?
No. We just leave them alone. They just float off into space (laughs).
That’s a little sad.
Well, they’re somewhere on tapes. Maybe one day I’ll go back and say, ‘Oh, we should put these out.’ But yeah…. I still am always questioning what we’ve done.
I saw somewhere that you mentioned you used to listen to one song from Disappearing in Airports each day. You never listened to any other album before?
No, no…. First time.
I had never enjoyed an album this much. Disappearing in Airports was such a magical record for us. I mean, there were three musicians who had never played together and we recorded together and wrote songs for this record. You know, Adam (Kury, bass) and Dave (Krusen, drums) and I have played together—Dave’s been playing with me since ’97 and Adam’s been playing with me since 2002. But Brian (Quinn, guitar) and Mike (Leslie, guitar) and I, and Dave and Adam had never worked together, had never recorded an album together. Something magical happened with that record, and you can hear it in every single song. I’m just really proud of it and I love every song on that record. This is the first time in my career that I have been that proud or happy with an album.
I saw on Instagram you guys are running a Candlebox 2019 Campaign. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Yeah, well going to Europe costs a small fortune, and we don’t have a label over there, so we’re counting on our fans to help us get over there. And in the process, I can handwrite lyrics for you, I can sing a song acoustically and dedicate it to somebody that you want to dedicate it to, you can have drinks with the band before the show—which is the ultimate VIP experience because you’re in the dressing room with us, hanging out for 45 minutes having a cocktail. You can watch the show from the side of the stage, and you get a signed poster and picture with the band afterwards. Those are special things that you just don’t get with the actual VIP experience. And we use every single penny of that to get to Europe and record the next record. So, it’s really our fans that are giving us life and keeping us out there on the road, which is really amazing.
Yeah—and the fans are so excited about this cool deal. What’s been the most requested song?
Oh, interesting. I’d say it’s a split between “Far Behind” and “Blossom,” from the debut album. That’s for lyrics, but when it comes to the video acoustic songs, it’s “Sometimes.” But there’s always someone who’s like, ‘I want “Crazy” from Disappearing in Airports.’ But I mean, our fans are great. They want weird shit and I’m totally happy to give it to them.
Catch Candlebox on April 19 at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ, April 26 at The Paramount in Huntington, NY, and April 27 at Irving Plaza in NYC. To learn more about Candlebox Campaign 2019, please visit: candleboxrocks.com/campaign