The Hippo


Apr 18, 2019








Nicole Knox Murphy & the 603 Band 

When: Friday, Jan. 26, 9 p.m.
Where: Bonfire Country Bar, 950 Elm St., Manchester

Representing the 603
Nicole Knox Murphy and new band plan debut show

By Michael Witthaus

 With a guitar, microphone and sound machine, Nicole Knox Murphy is a ubiquitous presence on the local music scene, playing shows most every weekend. She’s also accomplished beyond the border of her home state, recording in Nashville after being recognized by the New Hampshire Country Music Association multiple times. The NHCMA recently honored her as Songwriter of the Year, and her album Music in My Heart was named 2017’s best.

Now, after years of performing alone, she’s launching Nicole Knox Murphy & the 603 Band. The quartet promises a mix of traditional and modern country rock covers in the Skynyrd and Seger vein, and plenty of Murphy’s slice-of-life originals. It  includes former Shana Stack Band drummer Rick Leavitt, Michael Degan on guitar and bass player Richard Quintal.
Quintal, whom everyone calls Quinn, spurred Murphy to try playing with others, though she jokes that she’s solo so there’s no one else to blame. A graphic artist who created many of her gig posters, he remarked once that artists have it tough, and she should have a band.
“I was worried, as bands are hard and complicated,” Murphy said during a Skype interview in the kitchen of her Candia home, with Quintal and Leavitt at her side. “I’ve been alone for such a long time, and I didn’t know how to be responsible for other people.”
One benefit of the new ensemble is that songs with male perspective that were a bit awkward for Murphy will now be sung by Degan. 
“I don’t embarrass myself, but they’re guy songs, and should be sung by a guy,” she said, praising Degan as “very talented — he writes his own songs and has a lot of material that we’ll do.”  
Thus, the planned set list will include “Brown Eyed Girl,” Waylon Jennings’ “Good Hearted Woman” and “Steamroller Blues” — the latter a bit cleaner than James Taylor’s original. They’ve written one original song as a band, and expect more to come, but will stick to Murphy’s originals for their debut show on Jan. 26 at Bonfire Country Bar in Manchester.
Murphy writes from her own experience. The autobiographical “Full Circle” and home state travelogue “My 603” are both gems. “PBR My Friends” is a heartfelt ballad inspired by a woman who succumbed to cancer at age 39. 
“She and her husband had a code. ... If he was going to yell at the kids, she said, ‘PBR — patience, breathe, relax’  before you do anything. They also said, ‘It is what it is’ — so I made a song for the family.”
A lot of her originals come from a familiar place for country music fans: barroom nights. 
“I have been in so many bars and seen so many things; I’m up there and people watching the whole time,” Murphy said. “You see so much, people cheating, doing this and that, so I get a lot of stuff just watching people and relationships.”
Murphy is a latecomer to performing. She grew up on music, her parents were in a band and her house had a dobro, pedal steel guitar and other instruments. When Murphy was 14, she wrote and performed a song in the 1983 Miss Vermont pageant that won her a music scholarship. 
Then marriage happened, and her focus shifted to raising a family. Eleven years ago, she stopped into a Candia music store for some guitar strings, and ended up in the weekly country jam session in their back room. Soon after, she was in a band, and then another. 
“That gave me the confidence I was needing,” she said. “then things weren’t going well, so I decided to go off on my own.
Her favorite performing spots include Main Street Grill in Pittsfield — “There’s barely enough room to stand, but I love it” — and she appears monthly at Auburn Pitts. 
“They gave me my first start as a solo artist and with the band I was in, so they’ve always been kind to me,” she said. “I also love the Hampton Beach Sea Shell Stage, though [for the] last couple of years it’s been so cold there.”
The show at Bonfire will push Murphy slightly out of her comfort zone. 
“The hours are 9 to 1, and I usually start earlier,” she said. “It will be an experience, but I’m excited, and ready to take that next step. 

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