Folk rocker's music travels well - 04/13/05
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News from Royal Oak, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Madison Heights, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Hazel Park, Clawson

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Ankur Dholakia / The Detroit News

Martin's first album was released in 1995. His new album will include six songs he has written, including one for his father, who has died.

Folk rocker's music travels well

Royal Oak resident who performs at a Clawson bar prepares to record second album.

Ankur Dholakia / The Detroit News

Mark Martin, whose stage name is "Gringo Dujour," was a computer-aided designer for Ford Motor Co. before he decided to focus on music full-time.

About Mark Martin

Stage name: Gringo Dujour

Age: 47

What: Acoustic guitar player, singer and songwriter

Family: Doreen, his wife

Education: Kimball High School; classes at Oakland

Community College

Most influential artists: Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan

Upcoming shows

Mark Martin will perform at the Renshaw Bar & Grill, 210 E. 14 Mile, Clawson. (248) 616-3016:

9 p.m. April 16

9 p.m. May 7

9 p.m. June 4

Information about Mark Martin and his CD, "Gringo Dujour," is available at:

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ROYAL OAK -- "Gringo Dujour" isn't the name listed on musician Mark Martin's passport. But it could be.

A native and resident of Royal Oak, Martin has entertained audiences with his voice and acoustic guitar at bars in Australia, Turkey, Italy, Brazil and Mexico. But he's also known as a singer and songwriter at local venues like the Renshaw Bar & Grill in Clawson. He describes his repertoire as folk/rock, and his voice like Chris Isaak's or Rick Nelson's.

Martin, 47, chose his tongue-in-cheek alias in 1995 after vacationing in Mexico, where foreigners are sometimes called "gringos." He added a French "last name" that means "of the day" and started playing in pubs around the world -- a musician at night, a computer-aided designer during the day.

"I was a contract CAD designer for 25 years for Ford Motor Co.," Martin said recently at coffee shop in downtown Royal Oak. "I worked in the Detroit area for 20 years. The last five, I spent traveling. It was a learning experience. You can always find an Irish pub no matter where you are in the world. It's open mic night if you're an American with a guitar singing a hit song."

A singer and songwriter, Martin is beginning work on a new studio album with the title, "I Can't Remember to Forget You." No date has been set for its release, but it will contain original songs, he said. In the meantime, Martin said he tries out a few of his original songs between cover tunes he plays at the Renshaw on 14 Mile.

"Mark plays an eclectic mix," said Renshaw owner Mike Lang.

"He covers mostly classic rock tunes. It's just Mark and a guitar and an amplifier. He's really good with the customers and takes audience requests. He has a following, and when he plays, we have a big increase in customers."

Martin first picked up a guitar when he was 13. He was the oldest of four children born to Chuck and Ellen Martin, growing up on Amelia in a house across the street from where he lives today with his wife, Doreen.

"My parents bought my younger brother a guitar for Christmas and he didn't play it," Martin said. "The neighbor across the street took lessons at Meyer's Music City, next to where the Oxford Inn is today. So they were teaching me basic guitar chords and strumming. Once you learn those chords, everything is open."

So he practiced his guitar in his basement bedroom. After six weeks of lessons, it was time for a recital. "I had a high voice then," he said, because it hadn't yet changed. "The teacher said to sing, so I played the guitar and sang. Everyone in the front row just stared. I thought they were staring at me because my voice might be cracking." He learned later that the audience stared because they didn't know he could sing.

Martin credits his songwriting ability to poetry assignments as a student at Guardian Angels Elementary School in Clawson and Mark Twain Elementary School in Royal Oak. "In grade school when I was writing poetry, it seems that whenever I wrote anything, it would get an 'A.'" But he didn't start putting words to music until 1994.

That's when he worked with another computer-aided designer moonlighting as a musician: bass-player Craig Confer, who owned a basement studio in Ferndale. That's where Martin cut his first album, titled "Gringo Dujour." The CD, with eight original songs, came out in 1995.

Martin started playing gigs for family events and backyard graduation parties in Metro Detroit while continuing his full-time CAD work. But that changed two years ago, when he decided to play music full-time.

He had an epiphany, he said, after his dad died at age 65. "A man works his whole life, retires, and then dies." After that, the idea of waiting until he retired to perform music full-time didn't appeal to him.

"I was making so much money in the CAD field, and that was holding me back. But now I know the money doesn't mean anything personal."

The death of his father spurred Martin to write a new song titled "Charlie Brown."

"It's hard to write a song when you're happy. You need some tragedy. That's why I hadn't been in the studio lately. I'd been too happy."

Martin has now written six songs and has lined up a Warren studio to cut his album.

"As far as being rich and famous, I don't care," he said. "If this was my last day on Earth, I'd rather play guitar."

Cindy Hampel is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.

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