Kevin Martin knew there was a chance he might come off ungrateful detailing his many qualms with the music business on the 30th anniversary of‘s debut album and its monster single “Far Behind.”
But he did it anyway.
“The industry is completely f***ed,” the 54-year founder and sole original member of the American rock group explained, laying out a litany of indignities and double-standards ruining rock and irritating him as he makes his final trek across the U.S. for Candlebox’s Long Goodbye Tour.
“This tour bus is costing me $1,500 a f***ing day. It’s bullshit. I would’ve paid $400 for this 10 years ago,” he said during an interview with Billboard while parked at the Orange County fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Calif. “The air conditioning doesn’t work and they hadn’t cleaned the vents or changed the carpets ever. I’m living in a petri dish and it’s disgusting. But of course I’m really grateful for everything,” he jokingly trails off, laughing and smiling as he acknowledges the moment.
Martin then clarifies that he is genuinely grateful to his core fans who have long supported the band, his wife and adult son who he spends months away from each year, and the guys in his band who recorded Candlebox’s seventh and final album, also named The Long Goodbye, which Martin believes is some of the group’s best work.
“I want it to be the defining moment of the band’s career, whatever the f*** that means,” Martin says.
“I don’t know legacy means in this band’s whole realm because Candlebox has seen so many different incarnations and been pulled in so many different f***ing directions.”
Martin grew up in San Antonio and moved to Seattle in 1983 at the age of 14, eventually meeting Scott Mercado and then later guitarist Peter Klett and bassist Bardi Martin. Candlebox was signed by Guy Oseary to Madonna’s Maverick records in 1992 and released their self-titled debut album in 1993, eventually going quadruple platinum, selling more than 4 million albums thanks to heavy radio and MTV play for megahits “Cover Me,” “You” and “Far Behind.”
Despite their success, Seattle’s music scene didnt openly embrace the group with some labeling the band as derivative of the grunge rock scene, while others falsely claimed the band had moved to Seattle to ride the coattails of bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Martin says that it was Oseary who filled the role of mentor and champion of the band, which Candlebox needed early on.
“As an artist I was at top of my game in the nineties and Maverick was killing it for Candlebox,” Martin said. But drug and alcohol abuse by bandmates “very quickly snuffed out our career” and after recording two more albums – 1995’s Lucy and 1998’s Happy Pills, the band decided to break up. Thanks to ain Martin’s contract that required him to turn in a fourth album, Martin became trapped in a legal battle for his band and a larger fight between Warner and Maverick. Martin today owns the band and makes decent money collecting royalties but says it took him 13 years to repay Warner Music to recoup a $250,000 advance.
Today, most Candlebox revenue comes from the $2.5 million per year the band generates on tour, playing headline shows and opening for bands like Three Doors Down, who’s support of former President Donald Trump is a frequent punchline on Martin’s bus.
Between the cost of his bus, the wages he pays to his band members and crew, and the non-stop nickel-and-diming he says he faces on a daily basis, he estimates his take home will be between $125,000 to $175,000.
“That’s a pretty shitty return,” he says. “I can’t take it anymore, missing my wife and my son, for this?”
He adds that he finds rock radio to be “pretty vanilla” noting, “You want to know why rock radio sucks? Because every f***ing band on it sucks.” As for labels like Round Hill where Candlebox found a new home, Martin comments that “they’re fine but no one does actual A&R work these days.”
Martin says he doesn’t plan to stop writing music and says the songs on Candlebox’s final album The Long Goodbye, like the track “Cell Phone Jesus,” are a preview of what’s ahead.
“Organized religion to me is the most fucked up thing in the world,” he explains. “We’re more concerned about drag queens than we are about kids getting murdered in f***ing school with assault weapons. It’s terrible we allow kids to go through that because we’re so desensitized by it now. The advice to the artist is don’t say anything . Don’t take a stand. Well I don’t care. F *** you. It’s my last record. What are you going to do to me?”