Although he was championed as “Westview’s rockstar teacher” on a campus newscast, Martin Coughlin was a high school dropout.
“I got picked up by the Scottish Premier [soccer] League to play for Glasgow Celtic. I didn’t get super rich, but it was pretty good money for a 17-year-old kid.”
Coughlin, 38, doesn’t regret quitting school. “It was kind of like a kid from Brooklyn getting drafted by the Yankees.”
"Howlin' at the Moon"
...off of Martin Coughlin's The Gaffer
But an injury and limited prospects encouraged him to rejoin his immediate family, which had already moved to San Diego. “My dad came here in the ’80s to work as an engineer for NASSCO.... I always wanted to go to college and I was still young enough to go back to school.”
While he was getting a social science degree at Cal State San Marcos, he and his younger brothers Paul and Gerald and another British expatriate launched Square Go, an all-original band known for its Beatles-like harmonies and leather pants. The quartet started playing in Poway coffeehouses in the late ’90s. They then parlayed a strong showing at the Belly Up’s Neighborhood Watch local-music showcase into opening up for Belly Up shows for Roger Cline, the Gin Blossoms, and Dave Wakeling.
Their Belly Up buzz attracted them to MP3.com, the San Diego–based company that in the ’90s tried to build a mega-label around the brand new mp3 technology.
“It was cool at the time,” Coughlin says. “Everything was brand new. I had a feeling that this was a major change in the music scene. That instead of getting signed to a label that music fans could get instant access.”
The technology did change the world, but while MP3.com helped Square Go hook up with national tours, the company went bankrupt. After that, “We ended up funding our own tours.... We became a band of brothers who were constantly fighting.”
Square Go broke up.
“A year went by and then two years,” says the singer/songwriter/guitarist. “So many other things came up, like careers and families. There was no way logistically to get back together as a band.”
But Coughlin, who now teaches history at Westview High School in Rancho Peñasquitos, started getting back into music four years ago. He released two solo albums and tried to reignite a Poway music scene that gave Square Go its first break two decades ago.
Under his direction, Poway’s Company Pub on Poway Road employs a free-admission, Thursday-through-Saturday live-music format focusing on original artists who are “guaranteed a performance fee.”
On November 19, the Company Pub hosts the female trio Cool Breeze. On November 20, the Martin Coughlin Band headlines with Westview High School student pianist Marian Mulock opening.