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Singer/songwriter Stefan Murphy made his name as frontman with Dublin, Ireland, pop-punk group the Subtonics, a group that made headlines more often than it made the charts, eventually disbanding in 2005. However, Murphy had jumped ship (an appropriate metaphor, as it goes) a year earlier to pursue a solo career under the moniker the Mighty Stef. Stef's music is far removed from that of his former band's, sharing the stripped-down, D.I.Y. ethos but little in the way of loud guitars or sugary-sweet melodies. The Mighty Stef takes inspiration from artists ranging from Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley to Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones, while styles including garage rock, gospel, sea shanties, and traditional Irish music — the Pogues' Shane MacGowan is a particularly notable influence — are more subtly represented.
Murphy began performing as a solo artist during the summer of 2002 while the Subtonics were on an enforced hiatus from performing live in order to write material for what was hoped to become the group's debut album. As the Subtonics produced a steady flow of reggae-infused power pop, Murphy found an outlet for his earthier compositions: proud, lyric-centered confessionals of the life of sin he'd led and wishful tales of the sins he'd like to commit. He began opening for fellow Dubliners Republic of Loose and the Things at gigs around the capital and in the north of Ireland, and it was one such trip to Belfast with the Things in early 2003 that graced Murphy with his future stage name. Until then, he'd been performing under his given name; however, a mixup in communications led a confused promoter to christen him the Mighty Stef — and the name stuck. As Stef's reputation grew and the Subtonics lost momentum, recording a body of work but failing to release any of it, the singer broke from the group and became a full-time solo artist.
Stef issued his first single in late 2005, entitled "Prayer for the Broken Hearted," and made his first appearance at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas. He traveled to Montreal, Canada, in early 2006 to record his debut album, the low-budget and lo-fi The Sins of Sainte Catherine — the Gallic history of the city possibly informing the Francophone choice of spelling. Released in September of 2006 in Ireland and November in the U.K., the album was followed by two successful tours of the U.S., one to coincide with the the South by Southwest Festival and the second as the support act to Flogging Molly.