Frontman Kevin Martin explains why he’s calling it quits
“I figured if I’m going to go out, I might as well go out with a bang: ‘Hey, here’s a record.’”
Candlebox frontman Kevin Martin is talking about The Long Goodbye, which was just released on August 24 via Round Hill Records. Martin he says it will be the beloved alternative rock band’s final album.
Yes, you read that right: final album. Martin says that after it is released, and the band have finished touring to support it this fall, he’s retiring from music. “I just can’t tour anymore, can’t make any more records – it’s just not what I want to do,” he says.
Martin knows this may seem like it’s coming out of nowhere, but he stresses that he’s given this matter a lot of thought during the past few years.
“I want people to understand that this wasn’t an easy decision,” he says, “but I’ve lost a little bit of that glimmer that you have as a musician when everything seems to be where you want it to be: Life seems to be moving forward and the band is great, the audiences are awesome, and the music’s great. But there’s something missing, and I’ve lost that emotion of being so connected to the songs.”
This feeling – or rather, loss of feeling – became apparent as the COVID pandemic allowed Martin to spend more time at home with his wife and son. Before long, he was “realizing that music was not my first love anymore. Not even a mistress, if you will,” he says. “I know that’s a weird thing to hear, and it’s an odd thing to say because since I was five years old, music has been everything to me. I used to lock myself up in my room for hours and hours and hours to listen to music. And that’s gone now. Losing that excitement is not something that I was expecting.”
But, as he accepted that this wasn’t a temporary condition, Martin knew it meant his time in the music business must end.
“I don’t want to be somebody that’s out there phoning it in,” he says. Fortunately, that hasn’t been a problem as Candlebox have undertaken this extensive final tour, because knowing it is their last one has invigorated Martin – though not enough to change his mind about his impending retirement: “It feels amazing, but there’s still that desire that I have to be home, and so I know that I’m doing the right thing [with retiring].”
He says his bandmates are on board with closing out Candlebox’s career, as well; he’d first told them his plan as they were on tour last year. They agreed to make one last album, and Martin says that making The Long Goodbye was an exceptionally enjoyable project for all of them.
“We didn’t have anything to worry about with this record,” he says. “We weren’t concerned about the press. We weren’t concerned about record labels. We just were concerned with making the record we wanted to make, how we wanted to make it, and to enjoy the process. It’s a very freeing feeling. When you can make a record this casually, this comfortably, and this freely, there’s just so much that is available to you as an artist with your heart and the things that you’re feeling.”
With a laugh, he adds, “I’m just kind of surprised I don’t have a song on there where I name all the people in my career that I’ve met on the way up that are complete assholes, but you know, maybe there’s one more record in me!”
It seems that there is only one thing that gives Martin serious pause as he contemplates his exit from the music business: how his fans are taking the news. He knows that many of Candlebox’s staunchest followers have remained loyal for more than 30 years now, and he doesn’t want to make it seem like he takes that lightly.
“People have connected with us over the emotions and the ups and downs that we go through as a band. The songs that we’ve created have given people time to sit back and think,” he says. He believes that fans have bonded with the band so tightly because of “the sincerity and the honesty to which Candlebox has always musically and lyrically spoken.”
As a result, Martin says, “That’s going to be the hardest thing, for me, to say goodbye to this audience of people that have been with me for 30 years. It’s those smiling faces every time I’ve stepped out on stage that have really kept me going for all these years.”
So it feels appropriate to say a proper thank you and goodbye to those supporters with this final tour, which Candlebox are sometimes headlining, and sometimes supporting 3 Doors Down. At every show, Martin knows it is a bittersweet experience for fans – because it is for him, too.
“There’s a lot of personal realization when I’m standing out there [onstage] thinking to myself, ‘This is the last time I’m going to sing ‘Far Behind’ in Cleveland, or Richmond, Virginia, or Tampa, Florida. That’s a very emotional moment for me. And it’s just going to get worse when I get closer to those last few shows.”
It’s a heartfelt finale to a career that Martin began when he was still a teenager, playing drums in local bands in Seattle. He initially thought he’d be content to remain behind the drumkit forever, but that abruptly changed when he was seventeen years old, when he went to see a concert by the influential Australian rock band Midnight Oil during their 1988 tour. Their charismatic, emotive singer, Peter Garrett, made an enormous impression on Martin.
“I never wanted to be a lead singer – it always was in the back of my mind, ‘That’s a tough job and I don’t really want to do that,’” Martin says, “but I was so overwhelmed with Peter Garrett’s performance and what those songs meant to him and the intensity to which he performed them. That’s a very powerful experience for a kid. I said, ‘If I’m going to do this, that’s how I want to do it.’”
His chance came a year later, when friends invited him to sing on some demo tracks they were making. That evolved into a band named Uncle Duke, which in turn became Candlebox in 1990, “and I’ve been stuck with this job ever since,” Martin quips.
VIDEO: Candlebox “Far Behind”
Candlebox quickly established themselves as one of the most popular bands in the Seattle music scene, which was then becoming the focus of worldwide attention as other bands from there such as Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden all became famous. Candlebox joined their elite ranks when they released their 1993 self-titled debut album, which quickly sold more than four million copies on the strength of the hit singles “You,” “Far Behind,” and “Cover Me.” Now, exactly 30 years after that album was released, Candlebox will bow out with eight studio albums and numerous world tours to their credit.
For the next chapter in his life, Martin says he’s planning to put out his own brands of bourbon and tequila next year. He’ll also continue working with Riptide Society, a nonprofit charitable organization helping at-risk youth via mentorship opportunities and events. (Martin was one of the Riptide Society’s co-founders, and remains on its Board of Directors.) And, of course, he’ll stay busy being a good husband and father.
As he says goodbye, Martin wants to deliver a farewell message to his fans: “I just want to say thank you so much for letting me do this for 30 years. I never expected it. It’s been the greatest gift that anybody could ever give to an artist, and I’m just so grateful. It’s been a crazy ride, and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s created a great family of friends and fans, and a collection of music that hopefully people can enjoy for the next thirty years.”