Mike Murray said he finds “rejuvenation through solitude.” That didn’t make for easy going as the Montana-born singer-songwriter’s career began to take off. Now, he’s playing over 200 gigs per year.
“It’s sort of like an introvert’s worst nightmare,” Murray laughed.
Murray, a 35-year-old Kalispell native, managed to bust through the barrier facing many small-town musicians with big dreams. With lyrics that channel his day-to-day experiences living in Montana and being human, Murray’s popularity has soared with local audiences.
Murray said his personal barrier was overcoming his shyness, which made it difficult to approach strangers about potential gigs.
Thankfully, he said, that’s a problem of the past. These days, the venues often come to him.
Missoula music junkies have the chance to hear Murray’s original music when the Mike Murray Duo plays at the Top Hat on Thursday, Feb. 13.
His music flirts with a smattering of unique styles, from his folksy 2011 debut album “International” to the alternative rock of his most recent release, 2018’s “Difficult Days.”
With four albums out in the wild and a fifth due to drop sometime this spring, Murray’s rise to stardom came with lessons, both about himself and what it means to be part of the human experience.
“I’ve learned to be grateful for anyone who enjoys my music,” Murray said. “Not being focused on trying to ‘make it,’ but being more sensitive to recognize the areas where I’m already making it.”
“Making it” wasn’t always a sure thing for Murray. At the start of the last decade, he still naively hoped that fame and fortune would be waiting for him down the line, he said.
Turns out, fame was partially in the cards — especially in the Montana music scene. While he’s done some touring across the West and even played gigs in Europe, the majority of his shows are in and around the Flathead Valley. “Difficult Days” debuted in 2018 to consecutive sold-out crowds at Colombia Falls’ LaSalle Grange Theatre.
It also landed a spot on the 2019 Grammy nomination consideration list for “Best Rock Album.”
Despite his recent success, Murray remains rooted in a love for Montana. After graduating from high school, he spent eight years traveling abroad. When he returned, the beauty of his home state struck him with a new appreciation that continues to grow.
“It was around that time that I wrote ‘Bury me in Montana,’” Murray said, referencing the second track on his 2015 album, “Tumbleweed.” “I’m increasingly aware how lucky I am to live here.”
In fact, the musician who completes the Mike Murray Duo joked that Murray writes just three kinds of songs:
“Songs about Montana, love songs and love songs about Montana,” Christopher Krager said.
The 50-year-old bassist said he’s made a career out of being a sideman, accompanying many singers prior to meeting Murray in 2013. One of them was Rob Quist, the Montana Democratic nominee for the House seat in 2017’s special election.
Krager said that while Quist, whose identity as a musician was central to his 2017 campaign, was great to work with, Murray’s character is what keeps him coming back.
“Not only is he a great songwriter, but he really is a great human being,” Krager said.
The question of what it means to be human drives Murray, who said the ultimate goal of his music is to remind listeners that they’re all part of something bigger.
“There’s a feeling that you’re not alone when you hear music that identifies with what you’re going through,” he said. “I hope that they’ll see that we’re all more similar than we are different.”
Mike Murray Duo will play at the Top Hat on Feb. 13. at 8 p.m. Learn more about Murray and his music at www.mikemurraytunes.com.