Singer/songwriter Mike Murray has honed a lasting — and luminous — musical career right here in the Flathead Valley.
A Kalispell native, Murray plays six nights a week, is working on his fifth album and just launched Volume 1 of his Live Archives collection last month, with Volume 2 set to be released the first Friday in August.
He took a brief break to talk with the Daily Inter Lake about his lifetime love affair with music and his home state of Montana.
After graduating from Flathead High School in 2003, Murray spent eight years doing volunteer work in Australia working with youth in music programs. He also produced music shows to promote a medical ship supplying dental and other health care in Papua New Guinea.
As much as he loved Australia — he met his future wife while there — he knew he’d eventually return to Montana.
“I can’t stay away from Montana. It’s in my blood.” Murray said.
The couple returned to the Flathead Valley and in 2011 Murray started his professional music career here.
“Music has always been a huge part of what I did,” Murray said. At one point he and his wife decided to move to Nashville, as many musicians do.
“I quickly realized that I was a small fish in a big pond with no support system so I came back home,” he said. “Eight years later and I’m playing here more than I ever thought possible. I’m so grateful to be doing it in this place I love.”
About 90% of the gigs Murray plays is with fellow musician and bass player Chris Krager.
“We’ve played together six years and it’s been a great fit. I’m so thankful for that collaboration.”
Murray’s kept busy in the music business — and successful. He’s garnered first place at the Northwest Artist Syndicate’s Singer/Songwriter showdown, toured from coast to coast and Europe, and performed at the prestigious Red Ants Pants, Crown of the Continent and Live from the Divide festivals.
And he writes all the music for his albums.
“Writing is the crux of what’s driven me as a musician,” he said. “Over the years I’ve developed a deep love for writing.”
Murray says all the live music happening in the valley these days speaks highly of the growing opportunities for local musicians and touring groups.
“It’s phenomenal and an incredible gift.”
Yet for him and his fellow singer/songwriters the paradox remains to be able to connect to a listening audience in such a diverse music scene.
“Sometimes it’s the biggest challenge. I’ve been in situations where it’s not always the case. I look at it those times as an opportunity for personal growth. And I never take it for granted.”
While Murray also performs solo, he does put together a band from time to time. He’ll be performing with a band at the Under the Big Sky Festival this month at Big Mountain Ranch.
Joining him on vocals and guitar will be Nick Spear; on drums, Marco Forconi; and his wife, Jessica Murray, who has sung on all his albums.
“She’s a fantastic vocalist,” Murray said. Their multi-talented 4-year-old daughter Audrey already seems primed to join in the family’s musical tradition someday, too.
The band’s set at Under the Big Sky will be all original music, most from Murray’s 2018 album “Difficult Days,” which was nominated for consideration by the Grammy Awards for Best Rock album that year. The band will perform a couple of new songs from his forthcoming album, as well as Murray’s signature song and what just may be Montana’s contemporary anthem, “Bury Me in Montana.”
Murray was excited when the Under the Big Sky Festival promoters reached out to him and extended the opportunity for him to perform.
“It’s going to be great. The team they’ve assembled to put on this concert is made up of world-class professionals.”
As far as sharing the stage with the plethora of musicians who are scheduled, Murray said, “When I first saw the line-up, I felt it was well curated for our valley. That stood out right away. It appeals to a wide age demographic. There’s everything from classic country to outlaw country, rock and indie rock. It all works together.”
He and his band will take the stage at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 14.
Until then, you can catch the Mike Murray Duo at Kalispell’s ThursdayFest July 11 and, most nights, at gigs around the valley. Check out his website calendar at mikemurraytunes.com.