Interview: Kevin Martin from Candlebox opens up about performing live and inspiration
Photo courtesy of DMK Publicity

When first hitting the scene in 1990, Candlebox was considered to be one of the finest American rock bands of its generation. After a break, Candlebox emerged in April 2012 with a new lineup and sounding stronger than ever. More recently, the band released their latest CD, Disappearing in Airports, which debuted in the top 10 of the Top Rock Albums the week of its release. The Disappearing Live EP will be available on May 22 as a special commemorative bundle on Pavement Entertainment’s website and on all major digital platforms in June. AXS had the opportunity to speak with lead singer Kevin Martin on May 13, 2017.

AXS: Candlebox recorded Disappearing in Airports in a fairly short period of time; about a week. Did you have a good idea of what you wanted to create before you even hit the studio?

Kevin Martin (K.M.): Yea, really, that’s what it was. We did it in 12 days; guitar and bass in four and then vocals in six. We kind of went in with a few things written from top to bottom and we had some ideas that led to four tracks in the studio. There were few acoustic pieces we reworked as a full band. It really was a matter of us not wanting to be stuck with anything. It really was about going in and being creative and forcing ourselves into that creative space you always hope you can get to every time you make a record.

AXS: Seems like shorter was better for you. Do you think you will return to this formula next time?

K.M.: I think so from now on. I mean, it is so easy nowadays with Pro Tools, where you don’t have to track it four or five times. Any edits you need to make can be done right on the spot. The ease of making records is in a way is the downside of the music industry, but it is also an upside for the artist. Now you don’t have to spend six months in the studio knocking your head around trying to write a record. Frankly, people don’t listen to albums the way they used to anymore and I don’t know if it really matters to spend six months on an album.

AXS: We heard you prefer to write the lyrics after listening to the music for a bit. How does the music impact your writing?

K.M.: Oh, tremendously. I really let the music dictate the emotion. A lot of times, emotionally, you will be where you need to be to write that song and then lyrically it will just come together. Then, there are other days when the music isn’t triggering anything so you move on from it. That happened a few times on this album actually. I think when I initially started writing the lyrics for “Spotlight” in the studio, I was doing vocals and it just wasn’t coming together. So, I was like you know what, let’s come back to that one tomorrow. I was kind of feeling this other song at that moment and we moved on to “Want It Back.” Then the next day, I came back and was ready to do “Spotlight.” It really depends on the headspace and mood that you’re in. Then, the music dictates what you need to write about.

AXS: Do you have a favorite song to perform live off the new album? What track have you found fans respond to most in concert?

K.M.: I think “Crazy” is the one that is doing really, really, well. That and “The Bridge” are both my favorite songs off the record; though I think weekly my favorite changes. Last week it was the song “Waiting.” I don’t know if I have a favorite on this album. This record is three years old now for me and I still listen to it every day and that is a strange thing for me because I have never listened to a Candlebox record when it was done; ever.

AXS: Wow, why is that?

K.M.: I just never felt that we had captured what I had wanted to capture. I mean, there are great songs on every record. I love about two or three songs on everyone and I will listen to them every once in a while, but I have never listened to a full Candlebox album from top to bottom. I don’t know why.

AXS: What contributions did Brian Quinn, Mike Leslie, Dave Krusen and Adam Kury bring to the studio that took you by surprise?

K.M.: Great creativity, great creative energy. Real creative support but also real emotional support that is needed. You become so vulnerable when you are in the studio creating music and writing lyrics. It is a very emotional and vulnerable place to be and if you don’t have the trust and support of the people you are working with, it can make it very difficult. They just brought enormous support, not only for me, but also for one another, and a real excitement that I think comes across on the record.

AXS: In concert, does the band stick with the set list or do you like switch it up and play what you feel in the moment?

K.M.: We switch it up almost every single night. There are times in the show where we will call an audible and play something we haven’t played in a while. That kind of stuff is really based on the audience and how a show is going.

AXS: In March, a video of a young girl joining you and Brian Quinn on stage to play guitar on “Far Behind” for the encore surfaced; it was her first ever concert performance. Was that a spontaneous idea? How does it feel to have someone tell you that you were their inspiration for learning how to play? (Watch video here)

K.M.: It was definitely spontaneous. It was the last song of the set and generally, we don’t let anyone else on the stage with us. She was very vocal about it and to have a 12-year-old tell you that you inspired them to pick up an instrument is an amazing feeling. You always hope to inspire people when you write songs. When you reach someone that is that young and all they want to do is show you musically, it is overwhelming.

AXS: What age were you when you first got into music?

K.M.: It’s been as long as I can remember. Both my parents were musicians. My two brothers were musicians, my sister was a musician. They were all older than me. Music was in the house all the time. In sixth grade, I got into drums; music has always been the thing that saved my life. It made me feel normal. Music always felt like my calling.

AXS: Who inspired you to play drums?

K.M.: Neil Peart from Rush. I remember being about eight years old and listening to 2112 in my older brother’s room and being really inspired by that record. Lyrically it is the greatest album ever written, but musically there is some real magic on that record. “Tom Sawyer” was the song I had to learn how to play right away from Moving Pictures. Then I got into The Clash and the punk rock thing. But when we toured with Rush in ’94, I told Neil Peart that he was the whole reason I play music. Being on the road with them taught me a lot about respect, to respect the music and to respect one another.

Candlebox will be playing Rockfest 2017 in Kansas City, Kan. on Saturday, June 3, 201, alongside Godsmack, Sammy Hagar, Volbeat, Halestorm, Ratt, Collective Soul, Buckcherry, P.O.D., Zakk Sabbath, Tom Keifer, Blackberry Smoke and Crobot. AXS tickets are available here.