Nebraska may be a relatively small state in the US, but when it comes to producing world-class musicians, it packs a big punch. From indie darlings to soulful crooners, and from rap icons to rock legends, Nebraska has been home to a diverse range of talented musicians over the years.
Here’s a list of 20 big names that make Nebraska’s music scene so special:
- 1. Elliott Smith
- 2. Todd Fink
- 3. Preston Love
- 4. 311
- 5. Ann Ronell
- 6. Ruth Etting
- 7. Mannheim Steamroller
- 8. Tilly and the Wall
- 9. Zager and Evans
- 10. For Against
- 11. Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal
- 12. The Good Life
- 13. Conor Oberst
- 14. Matthew Sweet
- 15. Cursive
- 16. Matty Lewis
- 17. Commander Venus
- 18. Danielle Ate the Sandwich
- 19. Pigeon John
- 20. The Faint
1. Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith was an American singer-songwriter famous for his melancholic and introspective music. He achieved critical acclaim for his unique style, which blended elements of folk, indie rock, and lo-fi.
Some of his most famous songs include “Miss Misery,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, “Needle in the Hay,” and “Waltz #2 (XO).”
2. Todd Fink
Todd Fink is an American singer and musician hailing from Omaha, Nebraska. He is the frontman of the indie-rock band The Faint, which formed in 1995.
The band’s distinctive sound combines elements of punk, new wave, and dance punk music, and has earned them a loyal following. They are best known for their songs “Agenda Suicide,” “The Geeks Were Right,” and “Desperate Guys.”
3. Preston Love
Preston Love was an American saxophonist and bandleader from Omaha, Nebraska. He is famed for being Ray Charles and Count Basie’s sideman.
He collaborated with other iconic artists, such as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and Janis Joplin. He also recorded his own music, and his album “Omaha Bar-B-Q” is considered a classic of the genre.
311 is a rock band whose style blends elements of reggae, rock, and rap, creating a unique sound that has earned them a devoted following.
Some of their most famous songs include “Down,” “Amber,” and “All Mixed Up.” 311 has released thirteen studio albums and has sold over eight million records worldwide.
5. Ann Ronell
Ann Ronell was an American composer and lyricist born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1906. She is famed for writing the classic song “Willow Weep for Me,” which has been covered by many famous musicians, including Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.
6. Ruth Etting
Ruth Etting was a singer born in David City, Nebraska. She rose to fame as a popular jazz and big band singer.
Some of her most famous songs include “Ten Cents a Dance,” “Love Me or Leave Me,” “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” and “Button Up Your Overcoat.” Etting also appeared in several films and was a major star on Broadway.
7. Mannheim Steamroller
Mannheim Steamroller is a neoclassical new-age music group founded in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1974. The group’s music blends classical music with elements of rock, jazz, and new-age.
They are best known for their Christmas music, including the album “A Fresh Aire Christmas.” Mannheim Steamroller has sold over 28 million albums in the United States alone and has won two Grammy Awards.
8. Tilly and the Wall
Tilly and the Wall is an indie pop band from Omaha, Nebraska, formed in 2001. The band’s unique sound features a tap dancer as a percussionist, creating a distinctive rhythm.
Some of their most famous songs include “Beat Control,” “Falling Without Knowing,” and “Pot Kettle Black.” Tilly and the Wall has released four studio albums and has toured extensively.
9. Zager and Evans
Zager and Evans were an American folk rock duo formed in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1968. They are best known for their hit song “In the Year 2525,” which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969.
The song was a dystopian vision of the future, and its success made Zager and Evans the one-hit wonders. They continued to make music and perform until their retirement in the 1980s.
10. For Against
For Against is a post-punk band from Lincoln, Nebraska, formed in 1984. The band’s music is characterized by its melancholic sound, jangly guitars, and introspective lyrics. Some of their most famous songs include “Echelons,” “Sabres,” and “Loud and Clear.”
For Against has released ten studio albums and has been credited with helping to create the post-punk genre. They continue to perform and record music to this day.
11. Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal
Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal is a soul and funk band from Lincoln, Nebraska, formed in 2012. The band’s music blends elements of soul, R&B, and funk, creating a high-energy sound that has earned them a devoted following.
Some of their most famous songs include “Love Song,” “Parts of a Man,” and “Do It Now.” Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal has released five studio albums and has toured extensively.
12. The Good Life
The Good Life is an indie rock band from Omaha, Nebraska, formed in 2000. The band’s music is characterized by its introspective lyrics and melancholic sound.
Some of their most famous songs include “Album of the Year,” “Lovers Need Lawyers,” and “Heartbroke.” The Good Life has released six studio albums and has been praised for its thoughtful songwriting.
13. Conor Oberst
Conor Oberst is an American singer-songwriter born in Omaha, Nebraska. He is best known as the frontman of the indie rock band Bright Eyes, which he formed in 1995. Oberst’s music is characterized by its confessional lyrics and acoustic sound.
Some of his most famous songs include “Lover I Don’t Have to Love,” “First Day of My Life,” and “Lua.” Oberst has released numerous solo albums and has been praised for his songwriting.
14. Matthew Sweet
Matthew Sweet is an American singer-songwriter and musician born in Lincoln, Nebraska. He rose to fame in the 1990s with his power pop and alternative rock sound.
Some of his most famous songs include “Girlfriend,” “Sick of Myself,” and “Evangeline.” Sweet has released 14 studio albums and has collaborated with many famous musicians, including The Bangles, Big Star, and The Thorns.
Cursive is an indie rock band whose music is characterized by its abrasive sound and intricate songwriting. Some of their most famous songs include “Art Is Hard,” “The Recluse,” and “From the Hips.”
Cursive has released nine albums and has been credited with helping to define the emo and post-hardcore genres.
16. Matty Lewis
Matty Lewis is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who is best known as the former lead vocalist of the pop-punk band Zebrahead. Lewis joined the band in 2005 and released several albums with them, including “Broadcast to the World” and “Panty Raid.”
17. Commander Venus
Commander Venus was an indie rock band from Lincoln, Nebraska. The band was notable for featuring Conor Oberst and Tim Kasher, who would go on to form Bright Eyes and Cursive, respectively.
Commander Venus released two studio albums, “Do You Feel at Home?” and “The Uneventful Vacation,” and was known for its experimental and emo sound.
18. Danielle Ate the Sandwich
Danielle Ate the Sandwich is a singer-songwriter and ukulele player who got her start performing in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her music is characterized by its clever lyrics and intimate sound.
Some of her most famous songs include “Faith in a Man,” “El Paso,” and “Still By Your Side.” Danielle Ate the Sandwich has released several studio albums and has gained a following through her YouTube channel and live performances.
19. Pigeon John
Pigeon John is a rapper who is known for his humorous and thought-provoking lyrics, as well as his energetic live performances. Some of his most famous songs include “The Bomb,” “Weight of the World,” and “Gotta Good Feelin’.”
Pigeon John has released several studio albums and has collaborated with many famous musicians, including Blackalicious and DJ Maj.
20. The Faint
The Faint is an indie rock band from Omaha, Nebraska. The band’s music is characterized by its danceable beats, electronic sound, and dark lyrics.
Some of their most famous songs include “Agenda Suicide,” “Desperate Guys,” and “The Geeks Were Right.” The Faint has released eight studio albums and has been credited with helping to popularize the dance-punk genre.
Nebraska has produced some of the most iconic musicians in history. Singers, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists have paved their way to fame with their songs, achievements and musical excellence. If you’re looking for a state that can inspire and entertain everyone, Nebraska has got it all.
Elliott Smith Featured Image (Top-Left) by: Alexis from Bronx, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
311 Featured Image (Top-Right) by: Eli Watson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Matthew Sweet Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: Charlie Ilewellin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons