From Around the World to the Local Stage

By Beacon Staff

If you’ve ever wondered if the saying is true, and there really is no place like home, ask Mike Murray. He’s been pretty much everywhere else.

Murray, a 26-year-old singer and songwriter, grew up in Kalispell, then, after graduating from high school in 2003, spent the next seven years traveling the world while working with international aid organizations.

He’s been back in Kalispell for about a year, but the travel was life altering, Murray said last week. His experiences fueled the songwriting for his album, aptly titled “International,” a project that has Murray poised to foray into new territory: the world of professional music.

And, as with his international travels, Murray wanted to start the journey from his home.

“I wanted to take my music into more of a professional context,” Murray said. “I felt it was time to take that step in my career and become more focused in that regard.”

Moving back to home meant having connections in the local music scene, he said, and one of those happened to be with a family friend and well-established musician, Christian Johnson.

On March 23, Johnson and Murray will team up for a concert at the Boiler Room in Kalispell. Most of the night will be spent showcasing Murray’s original tunes, Johnson said, with a high-energy set of live music.

The evening begins at 7 p.m., with local fiddler Jesse Maw as the opening act. All told, the music should run for 90 minutes, Johnson said, and is in a family-friendly environment.

The collaboration between the two musicians began after Murray happened upon one of Johnson’s shows at the Blue Canyon in Kalispell. Johnson invited the younger singer to play some songs, and was pleasantly surprised with the result.

“(Murray) just dropped everybody’s jaw,” Johnson said. “He did original material; he plays terrific guitar. It’s some really, really awesome stuff.”

Johnson, who is also a custom guitar maker, audio engineer and music educator, said he feels pulled to mentor musicians who aspire to play live music in the Flathead Valley because it’s a culture he’s dedicated to preserving.

As technology advances, Johnson feels the connections made at live events are being lost.

“The couch and the remote have taken over,” Johnson said. “I do everything I can as often as I can to promote to have a place where people can come to play.”

As far as Murray, Johnson believes he’s mentoring a top talent in the valley, and is confident Murray can make it far in the ever-fraught music business.

“He’s just an awesome talent and I’m hoping to expose him to more people around here,” Johnson said.

Part of the mentoring experience means teaching the younger musician about who is still hiring and how to foster a mutually beneficial relationship between the venue owner and the performer, Johnson said.

Murray said he recognizes the opportunity he’s got with Johnson, and has been acting like a “sponge” around him. Johnson is a hardworking musician who has made it in a tough industry, Murray said.

“I look up to Christian in a huge way,” he said.

And now that Murray is home and on a new path, he’s been working to develop a new batch of songs; whether those go on a new album is still up in the air. His international travel, which began as a six-month stint in Australia but ended up taking him to South Africa, Europe, South East Asia, and the South Pacific Islands, also brought music connections overseas.

Murray said he already has plans to tour in a couple European festivals this summer, and he plans to continue playing in the valley and regionally.

Johnson said he’s looking forward to showing off Murray’s skills to the valley at the show on the 23rd.

“He’s something else,” Johnson said.

Mike Murray and Christian Johnson will perform at the Boiler Room on March 23, at 7 p.m. The venue is located at 525 Eighth St. E. in Kalispell. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door, and can be purchased at the Boiler Room. For more information, call 406-260-4122. For more information on Mike Murray, visit www.mikemurraytunes.com.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.