Arts & Life

‘When The Dust Settles’: 4 years in the making, but just the beginning for Kevin Martin ’22

May 31, 2022, 2:32 p.m.

Ever since stepping foot on campus, Kevin Martin ’22 has wanted to release an EP.

His arrival at Stanford represented the dawn of a new era in his musical journey. Before college, Martin kept his songwriting hidden from his family, who pushed him to adopt more conventional interests. He always knew, however, that once he got to college, he would pursue music production wholeheartedly. 

Introduced to the guitar at the age of three and always found singing to himself, Martin has been surrounded by music his whole life. He switched to the double bass in elementary school and quickly became heavily invested in classical music, which lasted all throughout his primary education. Martin was a talented and skilled classical musician from the start, but deep down he knew that he wanted something more. 

When he got to Stanford, he made a full commitment to music, dropping many of his other interests and hobbies to focus on his true passion. Immediately, he joined an acapella group as well as the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, all while writing and producing more of his own music, doing “whatever he could to perform.” Martin even incorporated music into his academic life, designing his own major which combined both music and Management Science and Engineering (MS&E). “Trying to be a student with non-music goals was hard,” Martin said.

Martin’s life, like everyone else’s, was put on pause by the COVID-19 pandemic. He found a silver lining in his situation, however, by taking the period of social isolation as an opportunity to focus on music production. When he came back to campus for his senior year, he went through a breakup, and it ultimately served as a powerful catalyst for him to release his EP “When The Dust Settles.” 

While Martin doesn’t intend to “intentionally write about his problems,” he admits that his EP was inspired by his recent breakup with his boyfriend. “Every time we ended up having a big fight or something, I ended up writing a new song,” Martin said. You can feel his emotional passion and intimate connections in each and every song, both in his candid, unfiltered lyrics and mellifluous, slow-paced melodies. When asked about Martin’s latest EP, longtime friend Daphne Skiff ’23 described his songs as “extremely personal,” going so far as to say that listening to his music “even hurts [her]” because of how much she cares for him. 

“When The Dust Settles” isn’t just another breakup album, though. Jacob Eisenach ’22, a close friend of Martin’s, remarked that “he’s got very unique vocals — it’s hard to describe. At times in the album it’s soft and very background, and other times it’s this shining light of a sound. Lyrically, he has a rawness and honesty you don’t typically see.”

Martin combines indie, R&B and soul genres to create his signature sound. His inclusion of synthesized drums and sounds throughout the EP — one example of his “nerdier interests in production” — gives his music an otherworldly atmosphere, especially in songs like “What Did I Do To Deserve You?” and “Unexpected.” Other songs, such as “Heal The Shame,” rely more heavily on Martin’s powerful, gleaming vocals, sounding almost gospel-like in their melodies. As such, the tracks of “When the Dust Settles” are quite variable and diverse in terms of style.

Though he is influenced by other artists, Martin’s music is distinctively his own. “This first project was very much just like a journal of thoughts. I don’t really care if this sounds like anyone or anything — this was just how I was feeling and what sounds accompany that.”

Now just days away from graduation, Martin’s story at Stanford is coming to a close. His musical journey, however, is just getting started. Moving straight to Los Angeles after college, Martin plans to work at a media and entertainment technology consulting firm while continuing to pursue music on the side. When asked about what specific music-related plans he has for the future, Martin responded that he’s still trying to figure out the specifics, but that he knows he’s going to “keep the momentum going.”

Editor’s Note: This article is partly a review and contains some subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.

Eric Zhu '25 is a writer for the Arts & Left section. He is a freshman from New York City interested in Data Science and Symbolic Systems. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball and playing the one song he knows on the ukulele. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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