Area native wins country music prize
By SANDI SWITZER
Correspondent | March 25,2013
Celine Murphy Photo
Nicole Murphy was awarded second place as Female Entertainer of the Year New Country 2013 after competing against musicians from across the nation and Canada.
CLARENDON — A Clarendon native recently showcased her musical talents at a national country music competition in Tennessee and returned home to her New England roots with one of the top prizes.
Nicole Murphy was awarded second place as Female Entertainer of the Year New Country 2013 after competing against talented musicians from across the nation and Canada in the heart of country music.
“Very excited. I was just happy to place at all. The talent was phenomenal. To be the second best Female Entertainer in the country is mind-blowing,” she said.
Murphy, who now lives in New Hampshire, noted she did not have any expectations entering the competition. “I just wanted to do my best and represent the state of New Hampshire well and make my family and parents proud,” she said.
It has been a long and winding road from Clarendon to New Hampshire and eventually Tennessee, but Murphy has always turned to music when times were tough.
Murphy, 46, lives in New Hampshire with her husband, Bryon, and their three children. But she grew up in Clarendon, the daughter of Art and Colette Knox.
As a youngster, Murphy was a gymnast until back pain led to the discovery she was missing four vertebrae in her spine. Following a complex surgery and grueling recovery, Murphy realized her gymnastics days were over and turned to music for solace.
After learning to sing and play the guitar with the help of her family, Murphy joined her father’s band, Country Ramblers, playing in clubs and at events many weekends throughout her teenage years. While band members changed through the years, Country Ramblers featured her father as lead singer and guitar player, her brother Joe sang and played the guitar, and her mother was manager and booking agent.
“I learned a lot back then playing in my father’s band. He taught me to play and sing from the heart and people would listen. Music gives me purpose and I could sing forever if there was someone listening,” she explained.
After high school graduation, Murphy went on to win the talent portion of the Miss Vermont pageant. She would even meet her future husband while performing at a wedding.
Murphy eventually wed and relocated to New Hampshire and music took a backseat as she devoted time to her family. However, a recurrence of the back issues that plagued her childhood required another surgery.
During recovery, Murphy turned to music once again. She began playing the guitar and even took some formal lessons. She eventually joined a band and found steady work at area clubs.
However, a desire to perform more of her original songs led to a decision to go out on her own and perform solo. Last fall, Murphy competed and won the New Hampshire Female Vocalist of the Year and Female Entertainer of the Year, New Country.
Those awards qualified her for nationals in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., this past week at the North American Country Music Associations International competition. But vying for the coveted awards was not the only item on Murphy’s agenda.
“While I was in Tennessee this past week, I fulfilled one of my dreams,” Murphy said. She recorded two of her original songs — ‘‘You Make Leaving Look Easy’’ and ‘‘Full Circle’’ — at Jerry Webb’s recording studio.
“It was a great learning experience and a big check off my bucket list,” she said.