Stillwater singer/songwriter uses athletic work ethic to steal center stage

Growing up in Stillwater, sports always dominated the life of singer/songwriter John Martin.

Encouraged by his father, a national champion wrestler at Iowa State, Martin and his siblings were active in a variety of sports. From age 4 on, he was always on the field or court, suiting and lacing up for football, baseball and basketball.


"Athletics was a big part of my family's everyday life. I was either competing in a sporting event of my own or I was at an OSU sporting event with my family, cheering on the Cowboys," he said.

Martin didn't develop an interest in music until a teenager, when he started paying more attention to song lyrics.

"I remember the first time I heard the Counting Crows' record, 'August and Everything After.' Something about the lyrical content and vocal style of Adam Duritz struck a chord with me. From that point forward, I wanted to write songs," he said.

While sports remained Martin's top priority as a teen, he started devoting time to learning the guitar. After high school, the dream of playing Division I-A football as a scholarship athlete led him from Oklahoma to Baylor University. As a senior, he was awarded the Dr. Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Scholarship by the Big 12 Conference, but not long after, he suffered his seventh concussion and was forced to hang up his uniform, yielding time to practice his other passion: music.

While developing his skills as a songwriter, he earned a bachelor's in telecommunications and a master's in sports management.

Despite retiring from football, Martin maintained a good relationship with the Big 12 Conference office, and after pitching an idea for a commercial, he was hired to pen a theme song. The song, "Live Your Dreams," was written by Martin and recorded with his band, August Rose. It was used in several commercials during football and basketball season, and was featured in a Big 12 commercial that aired nationally during the BCS championship game last year and accompanied an EA Sports NCAA 2010 promo video entitled "Every Game Counts."

The success of "Live Your Dreams" helped him land a gig with his hometown team last April overseeing the production of a pre-game video. When it came time to score the work, rather than creating a generic sports-themed anthem, Martin decided to focus on the storied Frank Eaton, a deputy U.S. Marshal and the real-life inspiration for the Cowboys' mascot, Pistol Pete.

"After Eaton's father was murdered, a friend of his father, Moses Beaman, told Frank, 'My boy, may an old man's curse rest upon you, if you do not try to avenge your father.' So Eaton went out and hunted down all the people that were involved in the murder of his father and killed them," Martin said.

Inspired by the Eaton legend, the final song, "Cowboys Forever," tells the story of a group of cowboys that awake early in the morning and set out to avenge the blood of their father. After the song was written, Martin traveled to Sunset Sound in Hollywood, Calif., and recorded the track with producer Aaron Johnson and engineer Warren Huart, both of Grammy-nominated piano-rock band The Fray.

Once the song was mixed and mastered, Martin's focus shifted to the video. He and director Taylor Bolding spent hours with OSU players over the summer during their training sessions in an attempt to get a behind-the-scenes perspective of the Cowboys' preseason preparation.

The video premiered last month and is broadcast before every OSU home game. Martin said "Cowboys Forever" has been played more than 50,000 times on his Web site.

And while sports is no longer the sole focus of his life, he said his experiences on the field have helped shape his approach to music.

When not working on sports commissions, Martin is writing songs of a more personal nature that deal with themes like life, memories, hope, regret, relationships and dreams. He described his sound as pop-rock, although he said some of his recent work has a folk quality. He will stay in the Stillwater area for the near future while he continues work on three other video projects with "Cowboys" collaborator Bolding.

"After spending years away from Oklahoma, I have learned how fortunate I was to grow up in the Midwest. People are genuine and life is lived at a pace that suits me," he said. "There are many aspects of the state that make it unique, but for me, it doesn't get much better than the color of the Oklahoma sky when the sun begins to set. No matter how many times I leave, Stillwater and Oklahoma are my home and always will be my home." "Eric Webb

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