Chasing his dream

Port High grad Patrick (McCutcheon) Martin followed his heart from Saukville to L.A. where he is now a budding pop music star touring the country and overseas
Ozaukee Press staff

Sitting in his childhood bedroom in his parents’ Saukville home after performing at Milwaukee’s Summerfest, it hit him.

Patrick Martin, a Port Washington High School graduate with two college degrees, realized he wasn’t going to achieve his dream of becoming a star singer in the Midwest.

“I felt the low ceiling of Milwaukee — for the kind of music I wanted to make and the places I wanted to go, I needed to go somewhere where I had the best opportunity and surround myself with the people in the industry,” he said during a phone interview last week.

That meant moving to Los Angeles.

Martin’s parents, Scott and Sara McCutcheon, supported his plans. He got a job at the Apple Store in the Bayshore Town Center to save some money and help pay off his debt from majoring in psychology and sociology at Marquette University.

“I just got two degrees from an expensive private university and I’m not going to use them and I’m going to move to one of the most expensive cities in the country,” he said.

A year later, Martin moved to Los Angeles. He had never been west of Missouri. His mother insisted he already have a job before moving, and the Apple Store transferred him.

“That was the deciding factor,” Martin said.

He changed his name from McCutcheon to Martin because Martin, his middle name, is easier to pronounce.

He quickly got a manager but, like Martin, didn’t have the industry know-how or connections. Through an Apple education program, Martin took a songwriting class at the University of California-Los Angeles and through a classmate connected with Charlie Stent, whose father Spike is one of the biggest mixing engineers in the music business.

Spike has worked with artists such as Madonna, Ed Sheeran, U2, Coldplay and Beyonce. He does some of his work at EastWest Studios, which has produced the most Grammy-winning records in the world. Frank Sinatra and the Rolling Stones recorded there.

Charlie became Martin’s manager and Spike served as a mentor to Martin and is now his executive producer.

Martin left his job at Apple about a year ago and signed a publishing deal — essentially a mini-record deal — working with other songwriters.

“If someone told me two years ago I’d be having meetings with the head of Apple Music or Spotify...” he said. “We’re talking to the biggest people in the industry, and they like my music.”

Martin, who describes his music as alternative pop, just finished a tour with Grace  VanderWaal, the singer and ukulele player who won “America’s Got Talent” in 2016.

“She’s incredible. I had such a good time, and I’m very grateful for her bringing me along. Her fans are incredible and really connected with my music,” he said.

Martin’s first performance on the West Coast was in January at Alley Studios in L.A. for about 100 people, including his mother and sister.

“It was really beautiful. I really wanted to prove to myself and those supporting me that I was the real deal,” he said.

He has performed nearly 50 times across the country and United Kingdom. His mother and other family members have attended several of his shows. In Chicago, he got the crowd to wish his grandfather a happy 92nd birthday after he surprised Martin by coming to his show.

Regardless of who’s in attendance or the location or size of the venue, Martin faces a an all-too-familiar challenge. He has anxiety and a panic disorder.

Martin used to sing in the Port Washington High School choir but struggled. He was horrified to go on stage and sometimes left with a panic attack.

He has learned to deal with it head on.

“It’s one of those things where I had to just walk into the fire and realize I wasn’t going to get burned,” he said.

“I have so much fun up there. I just lose myself in the music. That’s what pushes away the fear.”

The inspiration for Martin’s songs often comes from young love and heartbreak, namely his first two relationships. In college, he asked a girl out through a verse in a song he sang to her, and she loved it.

“Music,” he said, “has been my love language. I wasn’t able to express the things these songwriters would be able to put into words.”

Both women — he still talks to one — know they are inspiration for his songs, he said.

Beyond love, Martin writes about the current state of the world in what he calls “a pretty historic time period. The Kurds have kind of been left for themselves and people have had to run from their homes. It’s hard to watch all this unfold and not feel the need to say something or be inspired by it.”

Martin usually writes by himself — he likes the cozy environment of libraries and the smell of the books — and, like others in creative fields, have found inspiration does not strike on schedule.

“When I sit down to write and I’m trying to write something good, it’s usually garbage,” he said.

On a trip home in July, he pounded away at a song for hours on end, then set the project aside and went through some older songs. He found something called “sad piano chords” and began singing.

“You put in a lot of difficult hours until the magic comes in 20 minutes; you don’t get to that 20 minutes unless you do the hours of nonsense,” he said.

Among his many influences are Bob Seger, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar and John Mayer.

A typical day in Martin’s life has him writing soon after he wakes up. He is in many sessions with other songwriters and producers. Now he is working 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the studio finishing his extended play slated for release in late November.

On days he writes, he usually doesn’t have anywhere to be at any given time.

“In my experience, there’s not a whole lot of structure. Every day is kind of different,” he said.

Martin lives with the Stents, who took him in after noticing he was lonely in L.A.

Adjusting to the L.A. lifestyle has had its ups and downs.

“There’s a lot of fakeness, a lot of materialism. It’s a bubble of everyone trying to prove that they’re worthy, trying to one-up the next person,” Martin said.
“But the sun certainly was not hard to adjust to.”

Martin wants to buy a home in Wisconsin for those times he wants to be “back with my people.”

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for where I grew up and how my parents raised me. I learned how to be the person I am because of where I’m from,” he said.

Martin is on the verge of taking a big step in his career. One of his songs, “Stranger Nights,”  is in a commercial for “The Voice” TV show, and he leaves soon for a 10-stop U.K. tour.

“I’m just the poster child. There are so many people involved and helping me get there. I’m grateful for people who have latched onto the music and are supporting me,” he said.

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