Few people can say country music star Vince Gill named their band.
The Martins can say that, even though they’ve recently changed directions with a new name that has just as much meaning.
Paul Martin grew up in Winchester with musical parents who ran a recording studio. While he was lead singer and guitarist for the country-pop group Exile from 1988 to 1994, he moved to Nashville during that time to capitalize on his career goals. He married Jamie Allen, the daughter of Duane Allen, longtime member of Country Music Hall of Fame group The Oak Ridge Boys. It’s no surprise their four children, March, Kell, Texas and Tallant, sprouted aptitudes for music at early ages.
Martin went to work for musician Marty Stuart in 2008 and did six seasons of The Marty Stuart Show. He then decided he needed to start singing with his family.
The family did a CD release event in 2014 at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum. Martin said they watched the recorded performance, and he told Jamie they needed to get serious about performing together.
“I said to Jamie, ‘I’m getting this feeling in my heart that we should probably to do this with our family.’ We would miss the opportunity of a lifetime and we will look back in 10 years and regret it,” he said.
Martin said when Tallant was born in 2007, they took her to the Grand Ole Opry to visit with friends. Vince Gill asked what number it was for them, and when Martin responded No. 4, he said, “You’re the Martin Family Circus.”
“That seemed to kind of fit: Our life with four kids,” Martin said.
So that’s the name they chose for their group we they began singing together.
“I had no idea that my kids would have all this love for music like Jamie and I do,” he said.
March, now 20, is very creative, and Kell, 17, is very focused. Texas, 13, plays drums and Tallant, 11, plays guitar, keyboards and percussion. He said they’re all very different, but still have so many similarities.
“Everyone sings. It’s truly a band situation,” he said. “Every person gets their moment to shine.”
The Martins homeschool their children, which has not only allowed them to tailor curriculums to their individual ways of learning, but they’ve been able to pursue incredible opportunities with their music—opportunities Martin calls “the ultimate field trips.”
“There are so many things they get to experience, and if they’re just sitting in a classroom, they’re not going get to do those things,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work but a great experience and opportunity to spend all this time with my kids before they’re grown. We are together 24/7. I think because I lost my parents so young— I was 26 when mom died, and 36 when dad died—it made me really appreciate just how precious … that time is. You get one shot.”
As they got some momentum as the Martin Family Circus, Martin said the name led people to believe they were actually a traveling circus.
“The name is very confusing to folks. When we would call to book an event, people would ask us if we would need room for animals,” he said. “Back in early 2018, we decided it was time to change the name. In a sense, it’s like we started over. We started to rethink and rebrand, and we changed our name to Rockland Road.
“I think when people hear ‘family,’ novelty comes to mind. Our kids are serious about it. They’re all writing and playing instruments. The kind of material we are doing is not a novelty at all. We’re recording new materials, and we just wrapped up an EP.”
In the early 1970s, Jamie’s parents bought a tile factory in Nashville on Rockland Road and ran a recording studio there. It’s where Jamie first recorded her music.
“When looking for new names, we thought it just seemed logical and it has a story, too,” Martin said.
While steering the group in a more focused direction, the Martins are also instilling life lessons in their children.
“We tell them that if people leave the show and they have got a smile on their face, you’ve done your job,” he said. “We’ve told them, ‘Whatever you do in life, you’ve got to work hard. Nothing’s going to be handed to you. It’s like 5 percent talent, and 95 percent work ethic. Do the best you can and be the best you can with your gifts’.”
Martin said out of the many cool places the group has performed, their favorite is a tie between playing at the Easter Egg Roll at the White House last year and at the Grand Ole Opry in 2015 when The Oak Ridge Boys were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“We got to sing in front of all our heroes. It was just a special, special night for us,” he said. “We performed Elvira. Her dad—it was the best part—he had no idea. He was beside himself. I just got to thinking, ‘Oh my, I’m doing the Opry with my family’.”
They also sang the national anthem at the NBA playoffs last year during the Pacers vs. Cavaliers game.
“On that particular night, there was so much energy and electricity in the arena in Indianapolis. I told the kids it was probably what it felt like to be The Beatles, (hearing) the applause and cheering. It’s very humbling, and it’s nice to hear. (I told them to) soak it in.”
The group recently played a show in Winchester, and Martin said they have a few nostalgic things they like to do when they come to town. They drink Ale 8s, they grab dinner at Sir Pizza and Martin meets up with an old friend at Giovanni’s.
“Our kids were born in Nashville. This is home. But when I go back to Winchester, that’s home, too,” he said.
Moving forward as Rockland Road with six strong voices and a country-inspired sound, they’re looking to finish new songs and get them on the radio and onto playlists, like Spotify.
“We want to create some more excitement for what we’re doing, book shows, play and work. That’s the long-term goal,” Martin said. “We’re working really hard, but also having a lot of fun doing it. If I had a dollar for everyone that said, ‘Man, you’re living the dream.’ You know what, I agree with you. I’m so thankful. I never saw this coming.”