Kevin of Candlebox, and a few other notable projects, sat down and gave National Rock Review a few minutes to share a draft Guinness.

This interview took place a few days before the show at Joe’s Walnut Bar and Grill in Petersburg, Michigan on Feb 20, 2015. As you can tell from the photos, it was a great show. Not only was it an acoustic show, it had an organic feel in that it was planned to have been in a completely different city only days before. In just four days, they booked the new venue and to promoted the show in sleepy little Petersburg. It was a cozy space for the bands to play and the sound was better than anticipated.

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The atmosphere was casual, as if drinking with friends and playing an old six string. The opening bands, Breaking Grace and Last Call, were great local choices to warm up the crowd that kept growing to near full capacity. VIP’s were treated to up close and personal seating, right in front of the action. Kevin played his set with a friend from Michigan and, towards the later half of the set, even Bobby Amaru was on stage to sit in with him. WIf you plan to see him in one of the acoustic show stops, or have an opinion about the interview, we’d love to see your comments below.

NRR: Why come to Southwest/Southeast Michigan in the middle of February/March when it is supposed to be so cold that it is going to be holy, holy miserable?
Kevin Martin: I think Bobby was coming out here with somebody else – I can’t remember the guy’s name – and he pulled out and Bobby was like, “Listen, I’m going to be playing these shows, are you interested?” and I was like, “Sure!” I mean I love Michigan. I have a lot of friends here and I like playing music, so it’s not a problem for me to come play in the winter or the summer or whatever if I get to see my friends we get to play the songs for the people that like them. So, really, it does not bother me that it is so goddamn cold that you can’t see the tip of your nose. Anything to play music, you know? I don’t care what time of year it is.
NRR: Tell me about the show. You’ve been in quite a few projects lately. Do you play original stuff? Do you do some covers? How do you go about an acoustical set?
Kevin Martin: Well, it depends. Some venues I’ll make the set a little bit longer than others. Friday and Saturday I tend to play for about an hour and 15, hour and a half. Midweek, I’ll play about a 45 minute to an hour long set. I obviously play “Far Behind” and “You” and those songs, but I’ve revisited everything and kind of readdressed the versions of the songs that I play. I don’t play them as you would normally hear them on the record – obviously being that they are acoustic, mainly. I’ve changed tempos. I’ve changed picking patterns. I’ve not changed time signatures, but I do [change] the song a little bit more, and then I do a few covers and sometimes I’ll play a Gracious Few track, a Hiwatts track. Sometimes I’ll play just Candlebox. I really don’t know until the night that I sit down and figure out the set list. I have a blanket sheet that I use that kind of gives me all the songs that I want to play and then about an hour before the show I’ll go and slice things out and put things in and move stuff around, so I’m really not ever sure what I’m going to do exactly until I get there.
NRR: Just for the Kevin Martin fans or the Candlebox fans or The Hiwatts fans, is there any plan to release one of these sets as a live album in the near future?
Kevin Martin: I don’t know. I’ve had several people ask me that. I think there would be a possibility. It just would require the right kind of venue, because when I record stuff I’m pretty particular about where I want it to be done. I think at like one of the city wineries like one in Chicago or New York or something, just someplace that I know is acoustically matched to the instrument that I’m playing. Yeah, I think maybe (laughs). I don’t know.
NRR: I do have to ask, just because I am a Candlebox fan, is there any news on that front of possibly getting new material out anytime soon?
Kevin Martin: We were hoping to do something this year, but it looks like it is going to get pushed back to the spring of next year. Pete and Scott are busy with side projects, Apollo Under Fire, Lotus Crush, Rust on the Rails, etc., and I know that everybody kind of needs a break right now from one other musically, so the music is there we just haven’t picked a studio and a time to do it.
NRR: Cool! Are there any other plans to do anything with Le Projet or was that kind of a one and done?
Kevin Martin: We just released a video, actually, and we’ve got four more songs that are coming out over the next four months. We go back into the studio at the end of May to do another five songs and then we’ll release a full length record probably in the spring of next year as well. We’re going to do some touring in the fall as well.
NRR: Oh wow! Okay. That’s nice! You’ve been doing music for quite awhile. I know that you tried to start a band as early as 1990. Was that actually Candlebox or was there a band before Candlebox?
Kevin Martin: Yeah. The band was actually 1989, it was called Uncle Duke, and that melded into Candlebox when our guitar player, Rick, left to go back to being a studio engineer. We needed a guitar player and Kelly Gray, the producer of our first and second records, introduced us to Pete. Pete joined the band and we became Candlebox.
NRR: Well, with that setting up the groundwork, have you heard of Spinal Tap before?
Kevin Martin: Of course! Are you kidding me?
NRR: Well, someone you know didn’t.
Kevin Martin: WHAT?!!
NRR: Oh yes! The person was like, “What’s Spinal Tap?”
Kevin Martin: How is that even possible? I’m about to see them and I’m going to punch them right in the mouth (laughs).
NRR: It’s one of my personal favorite questions to ask the artist that I’m talking with. With the amount of time that you have seen a lot of weird things, a lot of interesting things, to put it nicely, is there one moment that sticks out in your head from any of your stops musically that you just chuckle about every time you think about it or it gets brought up in conversation that you would be willing to share?
Kevin Martin: Our Spinal Tap moment (laughs)? God! There are so many. I’d be like, “My whole career has been a Spinal Tap moment.” The only thing we’ve never had were the drummers that have exploded, and you can’t really dust for vomit. God! I would really have to say honestly everything has been so great. It would have to be something in the early days where we toured with Rush and we had a bus driver that, for some odd reason, we always got to the venues a little bit later than we were supposed to. You know, it’s nice to wake up in the town you’re in and get off the bus and have some coffee, and especially if you’re on tour with Rush because there’s catering and all that stuff, but we happened to always pull in around 3:00, and we’d always be like, “Why are we so late?”, and he’d [the driver] always tell our manager, “Well, I had to stop for fuel.” So one night our bass tech woke up and we were stopped, and he was like “What the fuck?” and he gets up and he walks to the front and there’s no bus driver and we’re on the side of the road. He can’t find him anywhere. He looks all over the bus and then he looks in our junk bunk and the bus driver is in the junk bunk sleeping. He would pull over every single night and climb in our junk bunk and sleep for like an hour or two or three and then wake up and finish the drive. He did this for like three weeks with us and we were like, “What the fuck?” I mean, we’ve had moments like that, I think, our whole career, or a guitar going missing. We had someone jump on stage in Pittsburgh and try to steal a guitar, and it was a brand new Les Paul, and when he jump up the stage he dropped it, the headstock broke, and of course it was irreplaceable. We’ve had all sorts of things like that. It’s just a comedy of errors, I think, the whole experience.
NRR: With being on tour for so long, I don’t know what your average is, 100/200 nights out of a year when you’re on tour, when you do have that rare night off in between shows, or you just have to decompress/unwind, is there anything in particular that helps get your mind off things, video games, do you use social media, do you talk with family? What helps you relax for a little bit?
Kevin Martin: Well, it’s generally make a phone call home and call Natalie and Jasper, my wife and my son, but in all honesty it’s usually find the coolest Irish pub in town and go have a few Guinness and let go of everything for a little while. It’s kind of what we tend to do. I’m not really a video game guy, and if I’m on tour and not writing songs I’m in a bar. That’s really kind of my home away from home. It’s not really a good thing but it is kind of what I do, so it’s my hobby, I suppose.
NRR: Getting back to the acoustical sets, how many are you planning to do this year? Is it just the four and you’re done?
Kevin Martin: No, no. I’ve got a ton! I think I’m doing like 30 or 40 of these this year.
NRR: Do you prefer the more Candlebox, the electric, the whole show, or do you like, I guess, the more intimate vibe that you would get from the acoustic shows, or is it just a nice change of pace and you like them both about the same?
Kevin Martin: Yeah. It’s about that. It’s just a nice change of pace. It’s something that we never did and were never really allowed to do for the longest time and now that we are it’s a real pleasure, man. It’s so nice just sitting down with an acoustic guitar and playing the songs how they were written.
NRR: Oh, so when you write a song it’s normally acoustic and then later it becomes, for lack of a better word, electrified?
Kevin Martin: Yeah, yeah. Generally, I would say probably 90% of all our songs are written on acoustic.
NRR: Didn’t know that before, that’s nice. Were you classically trained as a guitarist?
Kevin Martin: No (laughs). No. I’m a classically untrained guitar player. It was one of those instruments I kind of said, “Someday I’ll get around to it,” and then at the age of 25 or 26 I picked it up. I’ve always just been kind of a dabbler guitar player. Never been the guy that is really focused on anything. Now it’s become my home away from home and I do love playing electric guitar but I really prefer acoustic.
NRR: Since we talked about how long you’ve been doing music, with the way Twitter and some of the music sites like ReverbNation and SoundCloud and Bandcamp and FaceBook and all that have really exploded within the last few years, do you find it’s a positive with being a musician to be able to stay in contact with your fans easier or has it kind of added a little bit of a pain in the arse?
Kevin Martin: Well, it can become a bit of an issue sometimes but most of the time it’s pretty easy. You know, you answer an email here or there or you reply to somebody who posted on your page or whatever, and then other times it’s a real pain in the butt because people have certain expectations and you really just don’t know what they’re getting at sometimes. I mean, it’s a necessary evil but it’s still, I guess, the only way to do things nowadays. It’s not like it used to be where you had to watch MTV or something to see what a band was doing. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it.
NRR: With the way fans are, and I’ve kind of asked this because I’m curious to get the viewpoint of the artist, from your viewpoint, if you heard a story that one of your songs inspired somebody through a hard time to keep going, would that be a better feather in your cap than, say, if something one of your fans did inspired you to keep going. I guess, what is more, for lack of a better word, more outstanding or more special coming from you.
Kevin Martin: That’s a good question. I don’t know. There are people that inspire me every single day, fans that are fans of music, whatever it is. That’s inspiration to keep going in any way, shape, or form. I think for me, to know that a song that I’ve written or something that I’ve done in my life has affected somebody to help them to continue on in their path or their goals or whatever it is that they are trying to with their lives or successes or failures, and I can be a part of that, I’m stoked about it. That makes me happy. That means that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
NRR: Just out of curiosity, if things didn’t take off what do you think you’d be doing right now instead of something related to music?
Kevin Martin: (Laughs) I think I’d be selling hats like Nigel Tufnel. I don’t know, you know? I sold shoes. I think I was always destined to do music. Whether I had been successful with Candlebox or not, I think I would have always been in this position of doing music with this being my lifelong dream and the thing that I’ve always wanted. I would probably be doing it somewhere, somehow.

You can find the companion interview by National Rock Review with Bobby Amaru, here.

Kevin Martin
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About The Author

After getting the photo bug in the far, past days of black and white film, Erich continued to develop his eye for photography which lead to stops in the sporting, art, wedding, and eventually concert music worlds. Now, doing more writing for National Rock Review, he has entered into the journey of getting to know the artists and the industry, not just the faces on the other side of the lens.

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