Sometimes a person’s purpose in life is revealed when they least expect it.
At 47, Mark Houghton is pursuing a career in country music at West Orange.
A resident of Ocoee for over 20 years, Houghton is no stranger to providing service to the community. He has been helping Orlando residents since 2000 through his business, Orlando DJ and Lighting.
Now, Houghton is bringing a new service to his community through soul-shaking music.
“Music has always been something that I’ve put on the back burner, but being here in this special community and singing these country songs makes me feel like it’s my home,” he said.
Houghton didn’t sing a single day in his life until he was 26.
Houghton said he and a few friends made fun of brave souls singing country music at a karaoke bar. Six months later, he took the stage.
“I started playing karaoke bars every now and then, and people would be like, ‘Dude, you are really good,'” Houghton said. “I never took it seriously, (because) I’ve always had my own business.”
Now, he said, his life has taken a different direction.
On May 8, 2021, Houghton presented his first solo show at Front Row Sports Bar and Grill in Ocoee.
Six months later, Houghton is playing country music in Orlando venues professionally about three times a week.
“I never saw it coming, but maybe that’s what makes it so special,” he said.
The feelings and emotions that run through Houghton’s head as he plays can be overwhelming at times. He said being on stage was surreal.
“People keep telling me I’m fine, but I still can’t believe all these people come just to see me,” he said. “I try to talk to as many people as possible during my performances and get to know their faces and their names and let them know how much I appreciate them.”
Due to a constant stream of offers, Houghton now enjoys the luxury of choosing where he performs.
“I MONITOR MY HEART CLOSE”
As a native of New York, Houghton never heard much country music. As a DJ, Houghton said he has to play all types of music, but nothing compares to the sound of country.
“Country music is a great way to express yourself, and the songs always have so much depth and meaning,” he said. “When I sing country music, I really feel it in my heart. “
With his new success, Houghton knows he has to stay humble and true to his craft.
“I never want to be complacent in my music,” he said. “I see people go through emotions, and they don’t seem happy or enjoy what they’re doing.”
Houghton sings from the heart, and it’s easy to notice. His happiness and positive energy radiate from the stage. It covers the old country, the new country and everything in between. Some of his favorites include Alabama, Johnny Cash, and Jake Owen.
“I like to sing the songs that I can feel and the songs that I can relate to, and there are a lot of those in the country genre,” Houghton said.
One of the special songs he sings is “I Wish Grandpas Never Died” by Riley Green. Houghton dedicates the song to his grandfather Frank every time he sings it.
“This is the guy who gave me my first beer, who played wrestling with me,” he said. “It’s songs like this that keep me going in my life.”
Although Houghton primarily performs covers, he plans to eventually branch out and write his own music.
“THIS AMERICAN COUNTRY LOVE SONG”
Houghton wasn’t always a solo act. He started out as a duo called Renegade Fusion, but said it was difficult to keep a drummer with COVID-19 and other stressors. He is currently trying to set up a group of two or three musicians to replace him.
“It’s a whole different feeling when you have these people with you and help you create these songs,” Houghton said.
Regardless of the lineup, however, Houghton finds reward in his work as a performer.
“When I look around and see that everyone is enjoying what I’m doing, I know I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said. “The applause, smiles, laughter and energy make you want more.”
Houghton hopes his trip inspires others to try their luck and pursue their passions.
“I had nothing in May, and I just decided to go out and do it,” Houghton said. “I’ve never done most of these things before, and I do a lot of firsts. It can be scary, but it can also be amazing.
Houghton is currently working on learning guitar and ukulele, as well as writing some of his own music in his spare time. He said he hopes to release his own song in a year or two. Several songwriters have also asked him to perform their songs.
To give back, Houghton is currently hosting a charity event at the same location where his music career began.
The Toys for Tots and Can Drive toy will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, December 8, at the Front Row Sports Bar and Grill. Houghton will perform with other local artists and a special raffle will take place, all for a good cause.
“This life and dream I’m living would never have been possible without my family, girlfriend and the rest of the community,” Houghton said. “I can’t wait to see what happens next. “
STAYING IN TOUCH
E-mail: [email protected]
- 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, December 4 at Lake Harris Hideaway, 11912 Lane Park Road, Tavares
- 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, December 11 at Front Row Sports Bar and Grill, 146 N. Clarke Road, Ocoee
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