Local country rock band Murphy’s Ford talk about the journey to the top and affording success.
It’s 2012, and high school buddies and fellow musicians Brandon Matthews and Ryan Tomlinson, who’ve just started writing country songs together, are out fishing at a favorite spot just off Murphy Ford Road. For the artists, creating music has come naturally, but neither the inspiration to name their band nor the fish are currently biting. “We gotta come up with a band name,” Ryan says as they head for a pond closer to Murphy’s Ford.
As they traverse the low-water crossing, Ryan looks up at the street sign: Murphy Ford Road. That was the name. This spot had been the epicenter of fishing, swimming, and having a good time for both of them.
Seven years later, the band — composed of Brandon, lead singer; Ryan, guitarist; Adam Hunt, banjoist; Quinten Rice, bassist; and Craig Wingate, drummer — has released singles, including “Anyone But Me” and “My Bar First,” opened the Ozark Amphitheatre, and been a two-time finalist at Nash Next country music contest in Nashville.
Tough times eclipsed by passion, talent, and a lot of love have catapulted Murphy’s Ford into the Mid-Missouri country spotlight.
Labor of Love
You could say Murphy’s Ford comes from humble beginnings. The band’s origin story largely takes place on Brandon’s back porch in Holts Summit many nights after work, with Ryan strumming acoustic guitars and the group enjoying beers.
The band members pulled sounds from previous bands they’d been in and their musical influences of all things Midwestern to create the edgy, country pop rock ’n’ roll sound they showcase today, Ryan says.
But pursuing the band can be tough at times. The members are working men, often singing the working-man blues, with 40-, 50-, 60-hour work weeks at their respective day jobs and families to take care of.
“It was truly a labor of love,” Craig says.
“There was confidence in the product that was there,” Quinten says. “It’s easy to sell yourself when you know that the music is there.”
Recording music, publicizing it, and then getting it out there were unanimously the toughest hurdles standing in Murphy’s Ford’s way. The band remembers handing out CDs of its EP to anyone who would take a copy.
But Murphy’s Ford’s members had a proverbial map to success — including marketing the band, choosing gigs, live performing, and social media posting — that was edited through various musical endeavors they’d each independently embarked upon before coming together.
Murphy’s Ford started to gain traction in 2016. The band submitted songs to local homegrown country station “Clear 99,” researched gigs and venues, performed longer sets, and took opening slots for headlining artists.
“This isn’t our first rodeo, so the majority of us are seasoned here,” Craig says. “This combo of the five of us together has really been the best recipe yet.”
A Success Story
If you ask the band members, they will tell you they haven’t yet made it, but the band’s track record will tell you differently.
“We had a lot of biased listeners at first, just friends and family for the first time, and then it spread like wildfire when we put out [“Anyone But Me”],” Adam says.
First, Murphy’s Ford heard its songs on local radio stations. Then they conquered the local music scene and played nearly every venue in Jefferson City and even Columbia’s The Blue Note and Rose Music Hall, where their success was measured by countless fans wearing Murphy’s Ford gear to their shows, energetically singing along and buying CDs.
And then came something of a catalyst: Murphy’s Ford traveled to the heart of downtown Nashville to compete in a national arena at Nash Next, where in 2016, they placed among the top 10 finalists out of more than 700 bands. The group performed in front of celebrity judges, including Kix Brooks and Rascal Flatts’s Jay DeMarcus.
After Nash Next, Murphy’s Ford was thrown into the spotlight, and their listenership grew overnight as their songs played on national radio.
“We killed it with the radio stuff here, locally,” Brandon says. “We’re like a local favorite because of Nash Next.”
Murphy’s Ford has since opened for country legend Trace Adkins and the reputable Eli Young Band, LoCash, and Old Dominion. “We get some awesome shows, and when we show up, we show out,” Adam says. “Because we know how to.”
There’s no plan to slow down. The band is currently getting together to write more music for the next EP (Extended Play), which they say will sound like refined, matured, feel-good country rock.
“We’re trying to write songs for our people and for ourselves,” Ryan says. “We’re kind of in a bubble here, and we like being in it. We love Jefferson City.”