What lies ahead after tragedy is the stuff that builds character: introspection, growth, and change. While living in the shadow of darkness, the few who put the soulful work in can find some light.
Americana quartet Morgan’s Road came together from a senseless act of violence that claimed a former bandmate and good friend. Six years later, the four-piece shines on with a pastoral collection of story-telling folk tunes. In advance of its sophomore album, Morgan’s Road issues the singles “Olde Cumberland” and “Better Than.”
The band has been christened in honor of the group’s fallen comrade Chris Deaver’s daughter, Morgan. “There is so much meaning in the name for us. The name came to me in the middle of the night some time after Deaver’s passing as I thought about Morgan’s journey ahead without having her father in her life. It salutes the legacy of the great man who taught me how to be in a band and how to treat others, and it salutes Morgan and her path,” says frontman, Ben Woodruff. “The message the band name sends is that tragedy may pull you down, or set you back, but the only way forward is through carrying on,” says lead guitarist Skot Bradley.
Morgan’s Road exhibits an expansive musical range, traversing modern rock, funk, indie, Southern rock soul, Americana, folk, and blues. The band features frontman/ primary songwriter/acoustic guitarist Ben Woodruff, drummer/vocalist Tyler Perry, lead guitarist Skot Bradley, and alternating bassists Matt Chmielecki and Brook Sutton.
Onstage, Morgan’s Road uplifts audiences with positive energy, accomplished musicianship, and sincerity. The four-piece group has built a robust profile through tirelessly gigging regionally and nationally. The group has played to crowds that range from hundreds to 25,000 at clubs, venerated venues and festivals. With Morgan’s Road, or in other musical configurations, the musicians have the shared stage with such icons as Hootie & the Blowfish, Sister Hazel, Kellie Pickler, Colt Ford, Lee Brice, The Marshall Tucker Band, Devon Allman, Atlas Road Crew, and the Blue Dogs.
Morgan’s Road came onto the scene five years ago. At the time, the band was the Kingstreet Band, and reeling from the death of its bassist Chris Deaver. Deaver was a father and a husband murdered while working at a pawnshop in Florence, South Carolina. Hundreds in the Florence community mourned his tragic passing. His energy and larger than life personality also shaped Kingstreet Band’s core musicians, Ben Woodruff and Tyler Perry.
“Everyone who knew Chris Deaver loved him,” shares Tyler Perry. “We got started because of him. Before I met Deaver, I was scared to play in public. He pushed me out of my comfort zone, and helped me start my career in music alongside Ben.”
This fresh collection of Morgan’s Road songs exudes a mature and graceful rootsy vibe, evoking the alt-country gold mined by Ryan Adams. It’s a move away from the balmy party vibe of the band’s previous album due to maturity and life changes, most notably Woodruff’s move to Nashville where he brought guitarist Skot Bradley into the fold (Currently, members of Morgan’s Road reside in South Carolina and Nashville).
The new material is directly inspired by classic Nashville’s esteemed heritage of emotionally authentic storytelling, concise songwriting, and heartfelt hooks. As of this writing, the album is taking shape from fevered writing sessions.
The upcoming singles will be “Olde Cumberland” and “Better Than” written by Woodruff. On “Olde Cumberland,” the narrator is out searching in vain for traces of a beloved ghost—that richly distinctive Nashville sound that once defined Music City. The song’s metaphorical approach conjures a search for the Nashville of yore—before Music City went bubblegum—while also hinting at a search for a lost love. “Better Than” ties into Morgan’s Road’s brave journey. It’s about putting the world on your shoulders to remain authentic and finding truth & redemption in the least expected of places.
Pondering the path leading to Morgan’s Road, Tyler Perry says: “The most meaningful thing for us has been overcoming adversity to offer something positive and healing. Deaver was the person who got me into playing and I know he would be happy we are spreading joy.”
How Music has Impacted Ben Woodruff of Morgan's Road Life
Describe the music of Morgan’s Road in three words.
True, Inspired, Fun
Where did each of you grow up? What music reminds you all of your childhoods?
I was born in Darlington SC. I was always a child of Rock and Country. Anything from my Dad's Gordon Lightfoot albums to my brother's Aerosmith albums takes me back to my childhood. From Garth Brooks to REM to Pearl Jam. We were lucky to have a lot of great music to listen to growing up.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I was very much influenced by Matchbox 20 and Hootie and the Blowfish being a kid of the 90s. If someone says they didn't like Hootie in the 90s then you are speaking with a liar, my friend.
We read Morgan’s Road formed about five years ago after the tragic loss of your bassist, Chris Deaver. Tell us about Chris and the impact he has had on you guys.
Chris has personally, for me, been a huge inspiration in my musical career. He was in the first band I was ever in. Ever since that, every band I was in, Chris was in. In that time, he showed me being a good musician isn't what being a good band is all about. It's about being good people and good band mates.
Tyler [Tyler Perry; drummer, vocalist] has said that, “The most meaningful thing for us has been overcoming adversity to offer something positive and healing.” How did forming the band help you all personally cope and heal in the wake of such a profound loss?
For me, creating Morgan’s Road was a way to keep Chris close to us. Every single show we play, we play for Chris.
Skot [Skot Bradley; lead guitarist] has said, “The message the band name sends is that tragedy may pull you down, or set you back, but the only way forward is through carrying on.” How has music continued to carry each of you through the hard times in your lives?
For me, writing is a big reason how I get through the hard times in my life. I'll sit down and put pen to paper and a lot of emotions are being released this way when maybe I couldn't release them through speaking to someone. Writing in a way is my psychiatrist.
Do you all think the band name Morgan’s Road not only symbolizes the road ahead for Morgan after the loss of her father but can also be identified with by many others who have suffered the loss of a family member or friend?
Absolutely. There are a lot of “Morgan's” out there. People who are subdued to tragedy and find it hard to find their way. It's not easy sometimes but they must find their road as well. It does get easier to walk.
We read that y’all have shared the stage with some big names such as Hootie & the Blowfish, Sister Hazel, The Marshall Tucker Band, and Devon Allman. What has been your biggest musical memory to date...a time you felt most alive while playing or listening to music?
For me, its the shows where you step on stage in a town you've never been before. No one knows who you are and at the end of the show everyone is having fun enjoying your original music. I don't think it gets any better than that.
Ben, tell us about the band’s new upcoming singles “Olde Cumberland” and “Better Than.” We understand you personally penned these songs...what was the inspiration behind them?
"Olde Cumberland" I literally wrote 2 weeks after I moved to Nashville. I was taken by the natural beauty of this city and surrounding areas. I was also taken by the music that has started to ruin what country music stood for. It's bubblegum pop in the form of country music. I hesitate when I call it “music,” by the way. I thought, 'What if Waylon Jennings awoke and walked through Nashville hearing some of this music, what do I think he'd say or feel?' There's great music being played in this town, though. The song “Better Than” represents the struggle to do things when they aren't easy to do. To overcome adversity. It's a balance of good and evil but putting the willpower in to ensure good prevails.
What song represents y’all’s attitudes towards life? Your music mantra if you will…
For me, "Better Than" exemplifies how I try to treat life.