October of 2010
The Cynthia Lynn Chronicles are interviews done in the writer’s perspective. While interviewing Kevin Martin I found myself drifting back to those first months when we met and have decided to share a glimpse. I hope you enjoy traveling back in time to 1993.
“Do you know where we are going?” I said from my spot in the passenger seat.
“It’s has to be this way, hang on”, he replied accelerating up the highway ramp.
Dallas, Texas. We were on a highway in search of a music equipment store around 4:00pm in the afternoon with traffic steadily streaming along.
A turn this way, a turn that way, a u-turn here and then a cross over there and bam; pulling into the parking lot of the establishment. Don’t know how we managed to pull this off, except to say that our driver pulled it out of his ass… once again. Hence, how we soon came to declare, “Kevin knows all. There is Kevin and then God.”
The four of us crawled from the Chevy Cavalier and headed inside the store. The guys made quick haste of their business and within a matter of time we were piling back into the car prepared to tangle with the freeway system again.
Zoom-zoom, our driver has a lead foot and off we go, somehow he managed to backtrack and reroute us to the hotel safely.
This would be any average musician tale across the country. The band is sitting around, realizes they need some things for the upcoming gig, grab a couple chicks with a car, drive to the store and then get back to the hotel.
The difference this wasn’t a local band, this was Candlebox on their first major record label tour. Kevin Martin, lead vocalist being the driver with the incredible sense of direction required for that task. The girls?, my sister whom owned the vehicle and myself on vacation and happening to tour about with Candlebox and their opening band Greta for a few weeks at a time.
No ordinary vacation. No ordinary group of people. No ordinary life. 1993 was the year and life had just gotten a whole lot more interesting.
That little escapade took place 17 years ago, strange how the mind records and recalls such trivial information. There are actually lots of trivial bits of information from during that month to recall as we criss-crossed the United States topping it off with an eventful journey across our northern border.
Forever Etched in My Memory of Life on the Road with KM circa 1993:
- You can sweep up rice from indoor/outdoor carpeting at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago should it become necessary in order for the bands to be paid.
- With the said lead singer inebriated enough you can convince him to take the screen out of his hotel window, climb down and walk along the edge above the rocks and splashing water to your room where the pizza is being delivered.
- If you constantly fight with your sister, who is your roommate, the road managers will separate you, thus you becoming the roommate of the OCD lead vocalist who will insist you make the bed and fold the used bathroom towels.
- If you and the before mentioned lead singer toss 2-liter bottles of Coke from your hotel window onto the roof of the adjoining building, they will explode. If you then toss the bass tech’s clothes and Doc Martens onto same said roof, they don’t explode, but it makes for interesting conversation with the bass tech.
- If you pull the sink stopper and turn on the water in the hotel bathroom, it will create a mini lake soaking into the carpet if it goes undetected all night.
- Despite what many might think, 4-Star hotel hallways make excellent spaces to play football on your knees. Parking lots in Texas at 2:00 am are even better, minus the having to play on your knees but having the tour manager pegging the Peugeot parked in the lot and pronouncing it Pee-got is priceless.
- If you have tired to the point of exhaustion, you can sleep during a concert on a sofa behind the stage where the band is playing.
- Various cold cuts and cheese slices left out in an open room for more than 5 minutes, still tastes like sh*t no matter how they garnish it or how much whiskey you have had earlier.
- You can never have too much bottled water, Coca-Cola, Whiskey, or Kleenex tissue on tour.
- If you absolutely have to crash in someone’s bunk on the bus, choose the OCD lead vocalists because you know he will have changed the linens and has a feather pillow.
- If you do everyone’s laundry at the same time, you do fewer loads, save money and it takes up less time in the hotel laundry room, leaving more time for drinking.
- When band mates are arguing even if you know the answer to what they are arguing about, keep the f*ck quiet because they really just want to hear themselves arguing.
- Wearing a bus key around your neck on your lanyard is very much like being back in grade school and having your mom put your house key on shoestring for you to wear.
- No good can come from the hotel representatives booking a southern Missouri Shriners convention, four college basketball teams and two rock bands. Trust me that theory has been tested. “Hello Springfield, Missouri.”
- Stuffing cookies into the lead vocalist’s mouth after having raced him through the theatre in Detroit, Michigan to get to the cookie stash.
- Flipping off and mocking the lead vocalist from out of the audiences view while he is performing on stage each night is evil fun. Even more so if you can get the tour manager and Nitro to join in.
- Regardless of the topic, if you ask Kevin a question he will give you an answer and will do so with such sincerity that you believe he actually knows the answer.
- Despite what you might think… Nutter Butter cookies do go with Whiskey.
- Being able to tease KM about the girl who stopped me on the way onto the bus after a show to ask me to tell “the guy in the white sweater on the CD cover that he is cute” is perfect payback for him teasing me “you’re old”.
- Having KM say he loves you for being his buddy and spending the evening with you because you don’t feel well and are miles from home. I am still grateful after seventeen years as I consider this act of kindness a gift not to be traded for anything in the world.
In the relatively short time we spent traveling together compared to the years gone by, as you no doubt can tell, we managed to cram a lot of mischievousness into our days and nights. Good clean fun, although the tour managers might not have seen it that way at times, like when the hotel bill for damages presented at check-out, still it wasn’t like cleaning up after Led Zeppelin on the road. Besides I am sure the guys were more of a handful when we weren’t around and much like Vegas; “what happens on tour stays on tour”.
Through the years I have seen Kevin Martin grow as a performer and musician as he has navigated a music career fueled by passion that survived the cut throat politics of “the music business”. As a person he has weathered divorce, the loss of a parent and the heartbreak that comes with a career in “the music business” filled with ups and downs.
Veteran record producer Michael Wagener once told me that “the music business was the flavor of the month club. When you’re “in” everybody loves you, when you’re not, you’re not.” I know Kevin has lived that statement and leant to believe it has manifested into his pairing up in the latest group, “The Gracious Few”. Gracious being a trait that he has developed in knowing that despite the downs, he is a lucky man to be to combine his work with his passion for music.
Much like our trip to the music store all those years ago, “a turn this way, a turn that way, a u-turn here and then a cross over there and bam” he has maneuvered his way through without a roadmap in hand, finding himself happily married with a beautiful young son, pulling dual duty as lead vocalist for a touring Candlebox and the début self-titled disc The Gracious Few with a fall tour underway.
I shot him a series of questions months ago while he was busy recording the début disc and now I give you, Ten Minutes with my buddy Kevin Martin, no longer the novice lead vocalist in the white sweater on the CD cover, but I have a sneaky suspicion that girl now an adult woman still thinks he is cute, even for an “old guy”.
Ten Minutes with…
Marital Status: Married to Natalie
Location: Los Angeles
Education: High School Diploma, 1 year Junior College
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Do you have a hobby?
Yes, Graphic Design.
Your favorite book is…
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Your epitaph shall read…
I will miss you all.
Your fitness regime is…
30 minutes a day, cardio, 5 days a week
Define your songwriting philosophy? Express yourself in everything you do musically. Take time to talk about your vision of the song so that everyone is on the same page and the music will open itself up to you.
Of all your performances to date, is there one that stands out in your mind? Opening for the band Rush at Madison Square Garden, 1994.
What is your biggest weakness in performing on stage? The audience.
What is your greatest strength in performing on stage? The audience.
What is the most bonehead thing you have ever done in your career? Let my band, not my heart, decide my future.
What makes you unique as a lead vocalist? My voice.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a new vocalist? Sing all the time.
What steps do you take to mentally prepare before a performance? Try to focus on the songs in the set with the rest of the band, making sure everyone is on the same page.
In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake a new artist makes? Trying to write “the” song and trying to write it based on someone else’s “the” song because they think radio is gonna play it.
What do you feel is your contribution to music history? The stories I tell in my lyrics.
What attracted you to being a musician? The Stage
Describe your favorite type of song to sing live? The Blues
Have you ever had music lessons, vocal training? Yes, music lessons from grade 2-11, vocal lessons from grade 9-12
Did you have a mentor in the music business? If so, what is the one most important piece of advice they gave you? No, I did not have a mentor and I sure could have used one damn it.
Do you mentor young musicians, vocalist, and performers? I do and I really enjoy it.
What is the most bonehead thing you have ever done? Starting a “Band”
What is your life’s greatest achievement? My son, Jasper.
What has music contributed to your personal growth? Love and honesty.
How do you reconcile the want to be a performer versus personal responsibilities to family? Paying the bills, it ain’t easy.
Is there a vocalist whom you admire? Otis Redding, greatest vocalist of all time.
What is it about performing that you enjoy most? I enjoy hearing my songs being sung back to me while performing.
What is about performing do you least enjoy? Not hearing my song being sung back to me. (Queue crickets)
What were your childhood dreams and have you achieved them? I always wanted to be a fireman so I would say no to that achievement. (He did take advantage of an opportunity in the summer of 2010 to spend time with the US Army firefighters in Iraq)
Who has been the greatest influence in your life and why? My father, he was the greatest man I’ve ever known. He taught me to trust my voice musically, not only in singing, but in playing instruments. Give it what it deserves, everything you have even when it feels like there is nothing left, there is.
List 5 Random Facts or Habits about yourself that would be classified as weird, strange, or different.
1. I don’t like my voice.
2. I don’t like reading.
3. I want to be a drummer.
4. l love to dance.
5. I desire the approval of my peers.
Check out Kevin Martin and The Gracious Few at: The Gracious Few Website
Please leave your questions for Kevin in the comments section. I will attempt to get him to reply. 🙂
Cynthia Lynn acknowledgments:
Many thanks and continued blessings to Kevin, Natalie, Jasper and the entire Martin/Reed Clan. To Dad and Mom Martin for taking a complete stranger in, because your son asked you too. You gave me love, support and helped me find my way home. In memoria of Dad Martin who encouraged everyone he met with his strength of conviction, stories of the old days back in Chicago and whom laughed at me every time I referred to his son the rock star as the putz. “Dad, I miss Sunday dinners, you should see how much the putz is like his old man and I don’t just mean the way he uses a dust buster.”
To Peter Klett, Bardi Martin, and Scott Mercado, “thanks for the memories”
And, thanks to Rob Cooper, your encouragement over the past couple months provided me with the drive to continue on this path.