‘Love Stories & Other Musings’ with Kevin Martin of Candlebox
Candlebox first introduced themselves to the world with their self-titled debut back in 1992, spawning smash hits like ‘You’ and ‘Far Behind.’ Two more albums, ‘Lucy’ and ‘Happy Pills,’ followed before the band went on hiatus in 2000.
‘The Best of Candlebox,’ released in 2006 reunited the band and for the first time in many years inspired them to write and record new music together resulting in 2008’s ‘Into the Sun.’
Their latest disc, ‘Love Stories & Other Musings,’ released on April 3, shows a whole new side of Candlebox — largely attributed to the positive lyrics and pop elements we haven’t heard that much in the past from the band. Broadening their horizons by removing all limitations, Kevin Martin and his band found the writing process quite rewarding this time around.
For anyone steeped in nostalgia, included on the new album are several re-recordings of some of their earlier songs like ‘Cover Me’ and ‘Simple Lessons.’ We recently caught up with frontman, lyricist and songwriter Kevin Martin to talk about the evolution of the band over the past few decades, the joys of fatherhood, and all things ‘Love Stories & Other Musings.’
The last time I talked to you was right when your last disc ‘Into the Sun’ was coming out in 2008, and at that time, you called it the band’s best work to date. How do you feel this new music falls into place compared to that?
I think it’s a far more cohesive record. The thing I loved about ‘Into the Sun’ was the fact that the record was kind of all over the place and it didn’t really sound the same on songs, it didn’t have one direction lyrically, and it reminded me of our first record. What I love about ‘Love Stories & Other Musings’ is that it reminds me of all of the Candlebox records, it makes me think of them all.
I don’t know if I would say this is our best record to date about this album because I don’t think I think that way anymore. A lot has changed over the last 3-4 years of my life to where I don’t really concern myself with those types of things anymore. I think it was a bit bold of me to say at the time but I think this album is cohesive. It has a start and an end, it has a direction throughout the record that is very much Candlebox and it’s a new direction for us. The songs are a lot more on the pop side of things, there’s not that darkness in it, and I’m a much happier person now in my life.
I did notice that the lyrics are very positive.
I’ve had my moment of doubt, to quote Mick Jagger. I had 20 years of doubt in my life and I’m not really that person anymore. I think the birth of my son and watching him grow over the past few years has really been very magical and it’s allowed me to really think about my life and what I’ve gone through and how I got to where I am today and how I choose to live my life from this moment on and things I set up for my family and his future.
I hope he never decides to become a musician. Music is now secondary to me, although I love making it, I love this record, I loved making this record, I loved working with all the guys and writing the songs, that’s really a great joy but it pales in comparison to my relationship with my family.
You’ve mentioned that this disc has more of a pop element than your past discography, and you’ve also called the new release a new direction for the band. What do you attribute that new direction to?
We sat down and we discussed where we were going as a band. If we’re going to do this another 20 years, are we going to continue and try to I guess fight the good fight that is the Seattle sound and the classic rock and the elements of Iron Maiden and all those influences of bands we grew up with or are we going to expose ourselves to new music and new existences as a band? We’re capable of writing any kind of song we want, why would we choose to limit ourselves and pigeonhole ourselves to one style? There are so many other lovers of music out there that we could be exposing ourselves to and I think that’s what we consciously decided to do. Let’s find a new direction for this band that’s going to allow us to grow into the 2020s, which I wouldn’t have even conceived of when we started this band.
That’s what it was, what are the things that made us feel so great about the music that we grew up listening to. It wasn’t that they were heavy metal, it wasn’t that they were punk rock, it was the songs and enjoying those songs. I think for a long, long time we didn’t enjoy the music we were writing, we were just writing. I don’t know if that makes sense. I never really enjoyed making music as much as I have with this record. I think it was because when you cut those limitations from yourself and whatever’s binding you to think you have to create something, when you cut that and just allow yourself to go wherever it goes, it’s a hell of a lot more rewarding and a hell of a lot more fun.
Given how long the band has been together and the periods of time you’ve spent apart throughout your career, I think the fact that you can come together at this stage of your band and be in the same frame of mind like that is pretty impressive. How has the writing process been this time around? Is it easy to write together?
I did a lot of writing on my own with other songwriters for this record, and just experienced the process of sharing other people’s influences. The nice thing about Candlebox, regardless of who we go and write with, is we always come back. Like you said, there’s always something that ties us. The way that Pete and I work together and the understanding of melodic elements of our music and how I sing and where he puts his guitar parts — Pete’s guitar tone and his guitar playing style is so specific for him — that it would be next to impossible for him to not sound the way he does. He’s just such a perfectionist and he’s been able to keep that tone on every single record.
The same with my voice, as much as my voice has grown and matured as a singer, I still phrase things the same way, I still use the same words, so that’s why Candlebox works. When it comes to the writing process, we generally sit down and discuss the songs, each one of us with a guitar in our hands. That’s the nice thing about our relationship is we’re able to sit across from each other as musicians and collaborate openly, and we’ve done it for 20 years.
I was floored when listened to the album and heard you covering Damone’s ‘Out Here All Night,’ can you tell me what lead to that?
I love that song, I love that band and Mike is actually a very good friend of mine now. We started covering it back in 2006 when we started touring again. I had been a fan of Damone for quite awhile. Candlebox has always thrown cover songs into the middle of our live set and we like to have a lot of fun with our show rather than just playing the same songs over and over. So we started covering that song and it was one of those songs that people just started yelling out at our shows. Our manager thought we should track the song for the record, even if it ended up being a B side, to at least get it out there because we loved it, it has that great Boston rock element to it that Damone is so good at.
I don’t think we did it justice, we did a pretty decent version of it but their version is stellar. Noelle is a brilliant singer and Mike’s a great songwriter. We’ve had a couple of opportunities to play it live with the guys in Boston when we go there, they come up and jam it out with us so it’s a lot of fun.
You’ve said that the song ‘Sweet Summertime’ is a love song to your wife but at the same time it’s a tribute to the life that music has kind of given to you and that passion for being on the road. Can you tell me about that song and the inspiration?
It was definitely inspired by my wife. She’s from Australia and we have a four year old son and I’m constantly on the road and she’s done a great job raising him. The kid is just amazing and it honestly has nothing to do with me. The hard part about being on the road is that you love it. You want to go home every minute of the day but at the same time, that hour and a half that you’re on stage, there’s nowhere else you’d rather be. I think for me, the terminology ‘Sweet Summertime’ is a metaphor for that joy of that two hours I’m on stage. Everyone gears up for the summer, laying by the beach and going on vacation, it’s that moment that everybody’s jonzing for all year, I think it would be hard for any of us to find someone that says, “Oh I just hate summer, I can’t wait for winter to come around.” The terminology ‘Sweet Summertime’ is just a metaphor for that time onstage that is my lover, that’s my home away from home.
The greatest moments of my life have happened on that stage, next to having my wife and son in my life, those two are really all I’ve ever known and I love it. As much as I want to quit, as much as I may say, “Oh if I win the MegaMillions I’m never going on tour again,” that’s a total lie. I couldn’t do anything but make music and I’m very grateful that I’ve had this 20 year opportunity to do it. But yeah, that’s my favorite song on the record. It was written in my kitchen, and I was just thinking about gearing up and getting ready to go out on the road. I had just come home from a tour when I wrote it so I think it was a lot of that inside that song as well.
In addition to the new songs, you re-recorded a handful of your hits from past albums as well and included them on this release. Talk to me about why you felt it was important to re-record songs from earlier in your career and include them on this album?
We just wanted to re-record them and see what we could do — have some fun with them. I really didn’t want to do another 13 song album. If I had things my way I’d just keep releasing five song EPs and be done with it and release two a year. Our manager suggested possibly re-recording some songs and that’s how it started. We actually had a lot of fun re-recording them, trying to gather in that same energy and that same kind of emotion we were feeling when we recorded those songs back in the day.
It was fun to kind of re-listen to them, I haven’t listened to the first Candlebox record in probably ten years so when it came time to do these tracks I had to kind of regurgitate some of the stuff I’d spit up 20 years ago in the sense of how I sang it. I don’t even sing like that anymore so I really had to relearn the songs and that was a challenge and it was an interesting challenge. I think if I had my way I’d rerecord every single record that way, just really have some fun with them. Try to recapture them but with some new flair, a different energy to them, they sound a little more fun this time around.
For even more on Candlebox, check out the lyric video for their song ‘Believe in It’ and read what Kevin Martin told us about the tune and how it reminds him of the Jackson 5.