TORONTO - For more than a decade, Dylan Murray has filled Toronto venues with persistently sunny soft rock — so perhaps the ever-upbeat songwriter was more ready than most when his unlikely break materialized.
That moment came roughly three years ago, when Murray (now 32) was performing at Revival in Toronto for an audience that included multiple Grammy winner Nelly Furtado.
She was impressed with what she saw. She eventually recorded Murray's song "Be OK" for the deluxe version of her recently released "The Spirit Indestructible." Earlier this week, she also made Murray's album, "Inspiration," the first full-length issued by her Nelstar label.
A pretty fortuitous turn of events for Murray, to be sure, and yet he insists he retained hope things would work out even in his leaner years.
"I've been doing this for so long," he said in a telephone interview Friday. "I just figured one day something would happen."
On Tuesday, Murray will launch a Canadian tour alongside his multi-platinum mentor in Furtado's hometown of Victoria, with the cross-country trek of soft-seat venues set to wrap Jan. 30 in Montreal. Murray has already joined Furtado for some marquee shows, including an MTV event in Malta with an audience reportedly numbering over 50,000 fans.
This has all certainly been a change of pace from the, ahem, cozier venues Murray was used to.
But it's not that he was necessarily struggling during those formative years. Murray's adolescent appreciation for reggae was only deepened when he travelled to Jamaica with a non-profit, community-building organization as an 18-year-old. There, he fell in love with the people and spirituality of the Caribbean island.
That spirit became imbued in his jaunty music as he travelled back and forth to Jamaica over the years that followed. And he certainly didn't lack for material — Murray culled the dozen tracks that comprise "Inspiration" from more than 100 tunes he'd penned.
Meanwhile, as he crafted the album, Furtado was never far away.
"She was a huge help," Murray said. "She pretty much let me do my thing ... but she was right there. I'm sure I asked many questions — maybe too many. (But) she was right there if I needed anything, for sure."
Along with Furtado's backing, Murray now has a professional management outfit and major-label distribution. It's a pretty big adjustment for someone used to going it alone.
At various points, he's been his own promoter, his own manager. He acknowledges that there were times when his self-belief would flag a little.
"You're always plugging away but there were definitely times where you're like, oh my God — there are definitely a few dead ends that I felt like I was at," he said.
"Then finally, you meet somebody. It had been years, you know?"
He worked "odd jobs" over the years but stayed focused on music even as it might have started to seem unlikely that he would ever break through.
Now, Murray says he has ambitions about using whatever gains he makes from "Inspiration" to give back.
"I never had a backup plan before ... it was always about music," he said. "Now that things are starting to go well, I'm starting to think about other stuff ... along the lines of helping out.
"Maybe I'll be able to help out after I take care of myself."
© Copyright 2013