Martin Castillo is an American-born alternative corrido singer, songwriter, drummer, and producer, whose solo recordings have been hits on the Regional Mexican charts. He is widely known by fans as "the King of Corrido" and "El Toron." Castillo was born in 1980 in Los Angeles. His parents claim his first words were sung, not spoken, and he began playing pots and pans arranged like a drum kit when he was five. Castillo showed such an intense love for singing and rhythm that, when he was in the fifth grade, his parents enrolled him in a local music school, where he began formal studies of voice, drums, and trumpet. Due to a recommendation from a school alumnus, Castillo landed his first gig playing snare in Banda Azpericueta, where he remained until he was 16.
At 17 he co-founded and played drums in Sueño Norteño. His membership was short-lived, however, and at 19 he formed Los Dos Grandes de la Sierra, a band that eventually became an institution in Los Angeles. He attended high school during the day and pursued music by night. By the age of 19 he was making his living as a musician and supporting not only himself, but his family. Castillo was not merely relegated to the drum chair, however; he shared lead vocal duties with Regulo Cota. Los Dos Grandes de la Sierra first worked the Mexican circuit. Word of their incendiary live shows spread throughout the country and eventually reached their home turf in the U.S. As the band's reputation spread so did Castillo's, due to his original singing style and passionate delivery.
After recording ten albums with the band, Castillo decided on a solo career. Recording videos of his songs and posting them to YouTube, and working social media, he began getting followers and gigs and issuing records independently. His songs, which were sprightly hardcore narcocorridos, made him popular among fans of the alternative corrido movement, though his own musical sophistication was not typical of the genre as it walked the tightrope between tradition and innovation. His first offering, Empecherado y Adiamantado, appeared in 2010, followed by Autorizados and Seguimos de Frente, both in 2011. In 2012, Autorizados, Vol. 2, featuring the singles "El Campo 1" and the live "Al Lado del Peligro," amounted to his last independent recording.
His Sony debut, Poder y Respeto, was released in July of 2012 to massive critical acclaim and airplay, sending his ticket sales through the roof. His follow-up for the label, Mundo de Ilusiones, was issued in February of 2014. Castillo wasted no time between recordings. Given the demand by his vast underground following, he played shows nonstop, and on off days from touring he was in the studio. His next album, Entre la Lumbre, was released in August of the following year. It featured the singles "El Guerrito" and "Mi Filosofia." Controversially, his video for the former was actually a short film where the music was interspersed with suspenseful and violent footage of a drug deal gone wrong. A non-album single and video, "Con Dinero Baila el Perro," was issued on the same day as the album. This narcocorrido, subtitled "El Chapo," offered an account of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the 2015 prison escape of convicted drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. In early spring 2016, the pre-release single "La Historia de Mi Vida" placed on various digital charts. A studio album of the same title was issued in April. ~ Thom Jurek