If you are lucky, your preordained path in life will reveal itself to you in the way of guideposts or what seems to be coincidental patterns that randomly pop into daily life when you least expect it. The first time it happens one might chalk it up to a freak occurrence. The second time, maybe it’s just serendipitous. But after the third or fourth time, you begin to realize that your path has been clearly marked and now it’s up to you to step courageously onto it. In Mike Mueller’s case, there seems to have been just such a noticeable pattern, one that led him from the dairy farms of Wisconsin to the music plantation of Nashville, Tennessee where he is currently harvesting his plot of a most coveted crop.
He was a 12-year-old dairy farmhand with a sweet tooth for pop rock music when he was first exposed to country music. Mueller remembers precisely the first song that overtook him, “Write This Down” by George Strait. It was right then that he discovered how a song can truly tell a story, and how the guitars and fiddles and melodies can reach you at a deeper level, and thus began Mueller’s country music education. He was 17 years old when he started playing open mics in his little hometown of Sheboygan, a young kid singing his heart out on stage to a crowd that seemed to multiply with each performance. That was the “freak occurrence” part of his life. He was 18 years old when he started posting weekly covers on YouTube, one of those being “Cruise’” by the then brand new and somewhat unknown band
Florida Georgia Line. The post quickly garnered attention and a couple of days later FGL’s singer/guitarist, Brian Kelley, contacted Mueller with compliments on the video and an invitation to see them perform at Summerfest in Milwaukee. At the show during a man-to-man talk backstage, Brian encouraged young Mike to pursue a career in music. That was the “serendipitous” part of his life. So, in 2014, at the ripe age of 20, Mueller moved to Nashville. One night, about a year later, while hanging out at one of the popular parking lot concert parties, Mueller did what he always does, started singing his heart out in the crowd. His easy flowing timber caught the attention of producer Grady Saxman who invited him over to his recording studio, and that friendship took a firm hold. One month later, at the urging of his boss, he entered and won a Music City sing-off contest at Tootsie’s during CMA week. The prize was $10,000 and a chance to record a song with GRAMMY nominated producer Dave Brainard. At this point in his life his path had been clearly marked, and Mueller stepped courageously onto it.
The one-song deal with Dave Brainard turned into Mueller’s debut self-titled EP that was released in 2016. Grady Saxman was brought in to co-produce and the result was an impressive first effort showcasing a budding young talent with a flare for lyrical persuasion. Now, a year later and armed with a solid artillery of songs to choose from, Mueller stepped back into the studio to record his forthcoming EP “Nights We’re Livin' For.” Mueller’s captivation for Saxman’s skills behind the board gave no pause as to who would produce the new release. “Grady had everything I was looking for in a sound as a producer. He is making modern country, but there is something special about the way he presents everything.” For Mueller, it is always first and foremost about the lyrics, and his ability to create natural conversation rhythmically within the clever matrix of verse has definitely matured as much as his music has. The first single “Call Me Sober” makes a heady introduction. It’s an honest to God “call-you-out” anthem that draws a line in the sand, and like a favorite pair of jeans, perfectly fits Mueller’s straightforward constitution. Never afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve and lay all his cards out on the table, “Better Together” is the unassuming, smooth talking Romeo, and the title-track is what he is offering. The pride of this collection is “Hometown Crowd,” Mueller’s ode to the folks who helped fortify his soul and shape his dreams. On the whole “Nights We’re Livin' For” represents both the flavorful contemporary country sounds that dominate the mainstream airwaves mixed with the lyrical savvy that has for generations dominated the human spirit. The EP released on May 18th and is a sneak preview of the full length album that is sure to follow.