Although Nebraska is not the largest state in the US, it has produced numerous world-renowned musicians. Whether it’s indie artists or soulful crooners, rap icons or rock legends, this state has been home to a diverse range of talented musicians.
Nebraska’s music scene boasts of some incredible artists who have significantly impacted the industry. Below is a compilation of 20 prominent names that have contributed to the state’s vibrant music culture:
Famous Musicians From Nebraska
1. Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith, a renowned American singer-songwriter, was known for his profoundly contemplative and sad music. His signature style was a seamless fusion of folk, indie rock, and lo-fi, which garnered him widespread critical acclaim.
He has several well-known songs in his repertoire, including the Academy Award-nominated “Miss Misery,” “Needle in the Hay,” and “Waltz #2 (XO).”
2. Todd Fink
Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Todd Fink is a talented American singer and musician. He is best known as the frontman of the indie-rock band The Faint, founded in 1995.
With a unique blend of punk, new wave, and dance-punk music, the band has created a sound that has captivated a dedicated fan base. Their hit tracks, including “Agenda Suicide,” “The Geeks Were Right,” and “Desperate Guys,” have become synonymous with their signature style.
3. Preston Love
Preston Love, hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, was a gifted saxophonist and bandleader who made a name for himself as the trusted sideman of legendary musicians like Ray Charles and Count Basie. His incredible musical talent and contributions to the jazz world continue to be celebrated today.
Throughout his career, he had the opportunity to work alongside some of the most legendary musicians in the industry. Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and Janis Joplin were just a few of the notable artists he collaborated with. He also pursued his music career, and his album “Omaha Bar-B-Q” is still regarded as a timeless masterpiece within the genre.
311 is a band that has amassed a dedicated fanbase due to its ability to seamlessly blend different genres into its music, such as reggae, rock, and rap. Their unique style has helped them stand out in the music industry.
311 has made a name for itself in the music industry with popular hits like “Down,” “Amber,” and “All Mixed Up.” Their success can be seen through the release of thirteen studio albums and the sale of over eight million records worldwide.
5 Ann Ronell
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1906, Ann Ronell was a renowned American composer and lyricist. She is best known for creating the timeless song “Willow Weep for Me,” which has been covered by several legendary musicians such as Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.
6 Ruth Etting
Born in David City, Nebraska, Ruth Etting made a name for herself as a prominent jazz and big band singer. Her unique voice and captivating performances quickly caught the attention of music enthusiasts, propelling her to fame.
Mentioned in the limelight are a few of her most recognizable songs, including “Ten Cents a Dance,” “Love Me or Leave Me,” “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” and “Button Up Your Overcoat.” Etting’s fame didn’t stop there; she also graced the silver screen with her presence and was a prominent figure on Broadway.
7. Mannheim Steamroller
Founded in 1974 in Omaha, Nebraska, Mannheim Steamroller is a music group combining neoclassical music with rock, jazz, and new-age elements. Their unique sound has captivated audiences for decades and solidified their place as a prominent figure in the music industry.
Mannheim Steamroller has garnered immense recognition for its exceptional Christmas music, which includes its trendy album, “A Fresh Aire Christmas.” The band has established a massive fan base and sold over 28 million albums in the United States. Their incredible talent has been acknowledged with two Grammy Awards, signifying their remarkable contribution to the music industry.
8 Tilly and the Wall
Tilly and the Wall is the heading for this section, and it highlights an exciting topic. Let’s dive in and discover what makes this band so unique. Formed in 2001, Tilly and the Wall is an indie pop band hailing from Omaha, Nebraska. Their unique sound sets this band apart, which incorporates a tap dancer as a percussionist, resulting in a distinctive rhythm that is hard to miss.
Tilly and the Wall have gained fame through their popular tracks such as “Beat Control,” “Falling Without Knowing,” and “Pot Kettle Black.” They have successfully launched four studio albums and have gone on numerous tours to engage with their fans.
9 Zager and Evans
In 1968, a folk-rock duo named Zager and Evans was formed in Lincoln, Nebraska. Their success skyrocketed with the release of their hit song “In the Year 2525,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969. This single brought them immense popularity and recognition.
Zager and Evans were known for their one-hit wonder, a dystopian-themed song that envisioned the future. Despite their success, the duo continued to create music and perform until their retirement in the 1980s.
10 For Against
Hailing from Lincoln, Nebraska, For Against is a renowned post-punk band that came into existence in 1984. Their music is known for its sad tunes, jangly guitars and introspective lyrics, which have touched the hearts of many. The band has created a niche for themselves with popular tracks like “Echelons,” “Sabres” and “Loud and Clear.”
The post-punk genre owes much to For Against, who has created a lasting impact with their ten studio albums. Their contribution to the music industry has been immense, and they remain active in recording and performing music even today.
11 Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal
Formed in 2012, Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal is a soul and funk band hailing from Lincoln, Nebraska. The band’s signature sound is a fusion of soul, R&B, and funk, which has garnered them a dedicated fanbase. With their high-energy music, Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal continue to captivate audiences.
Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal boasts a repertoire of well-known tracks, including hits like “Love Song,” “Parts of a Man,” and “Do It Now.” The band has also successfully put out five studio albums and has performed on numerous tours, solidifying their place in the music industry.
12 The Good Life
Formed in 2000, The Good Life is an indie rock band from Omaha, Nebraska. Their music is known for its introspective lyrics and melancholic sound, which sets them apart from other bands.
The Good Life has gained a lot of popularity through their songs like “Album of the Year,” “Lovers Need Lawyers,” and “Heartbroke.” Known for their introspective and insightful songwriting, the band has released six studio albums and received critical acclaim.
13 Conor Oberst
Conor Oberst is an American singer-songwriter hailing from Omaha, Nebraska. He is best known for his work as the frontman of the band Bright Eyes, which was formed in 1995. Oberst’s music has been described as introspective, emotional, and confessional, with lyrics that touch on love, loss, and mortality themes.
Throughout his career, Oberst has released numerous solo albums and collaborations with other artists, such as Phoebe Bridgers and the supergroup Monsters of Folk. His solo work often explores more country and folk-influenced sounds and showcases his ability to create vivid storytelling through his lyrics.
Despite his success, Oberst has faced criticism for his vocal style, which some have described as “whiny” or “nasal.” However, his unique voice has also been praised for its raw emotion and sincerity.
Oberst has also been involved in various social and political causes throughout his career, including supporting LGBTQ+ rights and advocating for environmental conservation. He has also been open about his struggles with mental health and addiction and has used his platform to raise awareness and reduce stigma around these issues.
In addition to his music, Oberst is an accomplished writer and poet, having published several collections of his work. His creativity and dedication to his craft have made him a beloved figure in the indie music scene and a source of inspiration for many aspiring artists.
Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Conor Oberst is a renowned American singer-songwriter. He claimed fame as the lead vocalist of the indie rock group Bright Eyes, which he founded in 1995. Oberst’s music is widely recognized for its raw and introspective lyrics and an acoustic sound that captivates his listeners.
Conor Oberst, a renowned singer-songwriter, has produced some of the most beloved tracks in the industry. Among his most well-known songs are “Lover I Don’t Have to Love,” “First Day of My Life,” and “Lua.” In addition to his solo work, Oberst has released several albums and garnered recognition for his exceptional songwriting skills.
14 Matthew Sweet
Matthew Sweet, a musician and singer-songwriter from Lincoln, Nebraska, gained widespread recognition in the 1990s for his unique blend of power pop and alternative rock.
Matthew Sweet is a celebrated musician known for his unique songs, including “Girlfriend,” “Sick of Myself,” and “Evangeline.” His discography comprises an impressive 14 studio albums, and he has had the privilege of collaborating with many famous musicians, such as The Bangles, Big Star, and The Thorns.
Cursive, an indie rock band, is known for its distinct sound and intricate songwriting. Their most famous songs, such as “Art Is Hard,” “The Recluse,” and “From the Hips”, showcase their unique style.
Cursive, a renowned band, has contributed significantly to developing the emo and post-hardcore genres. They have released nine albums and left a distinct mark on the music industry.
16 Matty Lewis
Matty Lewis is a talented guitarist and singer-songwriter who gained recognition as the lead vocalist of the pop-punk group Zebrahead. With his exceptional vocal skills and musical prowess, he made a name for himself in the band. Lewis became a part of Zebrahead in 2005 and was instrumental in the success of albums like “Broadcast to the World” and “Panty Raid.”
17 Commander Venus
Hailing from Lincoln, Nebraska, Commander Venus was a prominent indie rock band that left a lasting impression. What made the band stand out was the musical talents of Conor Oberst and Tim Kasher, who later went on to create the successful bands Bright Eyes and Cursive, respectively.
With two studio albums under their belt, Commander Venus was recognized for their unique blend of experimental and emo music. Their releases, “Do You Feel at Home?” and “The Uneventful Vacation”, showcased their distinct sound and cemented their place in the music industry.
18 Danielle Ate the Sandwich
Danielle Ate the Sandwich is an accomplished singer-songwriter and ukulele player with roots in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her intimate sound and clever lyrics define her unique brand of music.
Danielle Ate the Sandwich is renowned for her hit singles like “Faith in a Man,” “El Paso,” and “Still By Your Side.” She has amassed a significant fan base with numerous studio albums through her captivating live performances and engaging YouTube channel.
19 Pigeon John
Pigeon John is a rapper renowned for his witty and insightful lyrics and electrifying stage presence. He has made a name for himself with hit singles like “The Bomb,” “Weight of the World,” and “Gotta Good Feelin’.”
Throughout his career, Pigeon John has established himself as a prominent artist in the music industry. He has worked on multiple studio albums and has collaborated with renowned musicians such as Blackalicious and DJ Maj. His innovative approach to music has allowed him to create a unique sound that has gained him a loyal fan base. Pigeon John’s contributions to the music world have been widely recognized, and his work continues to inspire and influence aspiring artists around the globe.
20 The Faint
The Faint is an American indie rock band formed in Omaha, Nebraska 1995. The band comprises Todd Fink, Jacob Thiele, Dapose, Joel Petersen, and Clark Baechle. Over the years, the band has released seven studio albums, including “Blank-Wave Arcade,” “Wet from Birth,” and “Fascination.”
Known for their energetic live performances, The Faint combines post-punk, new wave, and dance-punk to create their unique sound. Their music is often described as dark, moody, and intense, with heavy use of synthesizers and electronic beats. The band has been compared to influential acts such as Joy Division, Depeche Mode, and New Order.
Despite several lineup changes, The Faint has remained a popular and influential band in the indie rock scene. They continue to tour and release new music, with their most recent album, “Egowerk,” released in 2019. Fans of the band praise their catchy melodies, intense live shows, and willingness to experiment with different musical styles.