16 Of The Most Famous Musicians From Alaska You Should Know

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Alaska is known for its majestic mountains, cold weather, and odd daylight hours, but did you know there are quite a few famous musicians from Alaska?

Even though there aren’t that many bands and artists from Alaska, the select ones who made their breakthrough in the music industry are well-worth checking out. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the most notable musicians from this great, snow-covered state.

Related: Read our other post on other famous American musical artists here.

1. John Gourley (Portugal. The Man)

Born in Willow, Alaska, John Gourley is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter best known as the frontman of the band Portugal. The Man.

His Alaskan lifestyle kept him off the grid for quite some time until he and four other musicians formed a punk band Anatomy of a Ghost and started touring around the country.

After that band broke up, Gourley found his home in music as the frontman of the aforementioned Portugal. The Band.

They had a huge hit with the song “Feel It Still” as well as “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue” and “People Say,” are ranked among the top 50 rock songs in the US. 

2. Artis the Spoonman

Artis the Spoonman, dubbed “Seattle’s best-kept secret” by Steven Tyler, is a uniquely talented musician best known for his work with spoons.

He was born in Kodiak, Alaska in 1948. A natural entertainer, Artis began as a street performing in Seattle in the 1970s and 80s.

He went on to play in a number of major cities like San Francisco, Sidney, Longdon, Dublin, Singapore, and more.

After being discovered, he shared the stage with his first major artist, Frank Zappa. 

From there, Artis has gone on to make guest appearances with various musicians, including the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra, Soundgarden, Phish, and Jim Page, and has appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, Broadway, and many festivals. 

3. Lincoln Brewster

Christian singer, guitarist and worship leader Lincoln Brewster is a musician port town Fairbanks in Alaska who has been surrounded by music from the day he was born.

His mom was in a band, and at a very young age, he would attend rehearsals and “play” broken drumsticks. As a teenager, Brewster learned the electric guitar forming his first band Lincoln and the Missing Links which featured his mom on bass!

After his parents had a messy divorce, and he and his mom moved to California which is where he recorded a demo and caught the eye of producer Randy Jackson. 

He toured with Steve Perry for a while before defining his faith and shifting gears. He’s currently a senior pastor, but he still leads the worship team and writes Christian music. 

4. John Luther Adams

John Luther Adams is an award-winning American composer best known for his work in various genres and forms of media, including children’s theater, television, film, and more.

Though born in Mississippi, he moved to Alaska to pursue a career in environmental protection after graduating from the California Institute of the Arts.

He spent almost 40 years in the great land, which played a major role in opening his eyes to a musical world intertwined with nature.

This influence can be felt to this day, as even his most recent work combines sounds from nature.

5. Hilary Weeks

Although born in Colorado, Christian country and pop musician Hilary Weeks was raised in the state of Alaska.

After graduating from the arts program at Brigham Young University, Weeks went on to record her first studio album just three years later. 

She then went on to record 7 more with some even hitting the top ten in Billboard’s Christian album charts.

Nowadays, she lives in Utah and releases new music for her Live All In app.

6. Kate Earl

Singer-songwriter Kate Earl currently runs her music career out of London, but her roots lie in Anchorage, Alaska.

This pop artist started her musical journey at four when she learned to play the piano. She also sang in her church choir and played the guitar. 

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Earl was picked up by The Record Collection Label.

She’s released four studio albums to date, all of which focus on upbeat, pop, and electro swing. 

7. Jason Everman (Nirvana)

Jason Everman has perhaps one of the most intriguing career stories to come out of Alaska.

He was born in Kodiak, Alaska and in the late 80s, Everyman joined the popular band Nirvana as a guitarist.

However, the band didn’t keep him around for very long. He later joined Soundgarden on bass, went on tour, and immediately left the band. 

Everman had a significant career change when he joined the Army Special Operations Forces. He now plays in Silence & Light, a band of military veterans committed to helping the military community. 

8. Jewel

Although Jewel Kilcher was born in Payson, Utah, the singer-songwriter and her family moved to Anchorage shortly after. 

The artist came from humble beginnings and had a rough family history, but things leveled out, and she began performing music with her father in local taverns and hotels. 

At 15, Jewel left Alaska to study operatic voice at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.

She spent some time living in her car, traveling the country, and taking small gigs until she was discovered by Inga Vainshtein. 

She went on to sell over 30 million albums, released 12 studio albums, won numerous awards with four Grammy nominations.

9. Kelly Moneymaker

American singer and songwriter Kelly Moneymaker was born in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1970.

This talented artist had a versatile career. After moving to Seattle as a teenager she co-founded the group BoyToy. She then loved to California which led to her working with some famous artists including Diana Ross, Enya, Meat Loaf, former Beatle Ringo Starr, and many more.

Much of Moneymaker’s work has been featured on popular television shows like CSI, Parenthood, and Gossip Girl.

Today, she resides in Fairbanks and has an all-star band called In The Black. 

10. Khleo Thomas

Khleo Thomas is an Alaskan native who has dipped his toes in almost every aspect of the entertainment industry. 

Thomas got his start as a child actor, where he filmed TV commercials. His family ended up moving to California, where he landed his breakout role as Zero in the movie Holes. He was also featured on one of the movie’s original songs, “Dig It.” 

Thomas moved away from acting to pursue rapping and now has released two EPs, and he still acts in supporting TV roles today. 

11. Janet Gardner (Vixen)

Best known as the longest-running lead vocalist of the female rock band Vixen, Janet Garnder is an American rock singer born in Juneau, Alaska in 1962.

Vixen brought massive female energy to a then male-dominated genre and they went on to perform alongside bands like Kiss, Bon Jovi, and The Scorpions. 

Coming off of the success of Vixen, Gardner has led a successful solo career. She often teams up with artist and producer Justin James and has released her most recent album in 2020. 

12. Vivica Genaux

Vivica Genaux is a famous mezzo-soprano opera singer who was born in Fairbanks, Alaska. Her stunning vocals have earned her an international career that hasn’t slowed down in over 20 years. 

Genaux made her professional debut in 1994 as Isabella in the Florentine Opera production of L’italiana in Algeri.

She specialized in additional portrayals of Rossini heroines and went on to perform at many of the major US operas. 

Her career later took her around the world, and her fame remains today. 

13. Anna Graceman

Alaskan-born Anna Graceman has been performing since the young age of two due to her mother’s encouragement.

In 2011, Graceman performed on the hit TV series America’s Got Talent. She moved on to perform at the Palazzo Theater and acquired a massive online following.

Her YouTube career has opened many doors for her, and one of her songs was chosen as a winner on the competition show Songland by artist Bebe Rexha. 

14. Halie Loren

With a career that began at just the age of 13, Halie Loren was somewhat of a child prodigy.

Born and raised in Sitka, Alaska, Loren won a songwriting contest that earned her national notoriety. 

The singer took some time to perform in the city of Nashville before she recorded her first album at the age of 20.

Since then, she has toured the world and consistently hits high on the Japanese and Canadian jazz charts. 

15. Marcus Shelby

Known for his bass playing, composing, and musical teaching rather than his voice, Marcus Shelby is yet another musician who was born in Anchorage, Alaska.

Shelby got his start when he earned the Charles Mingus Scholarship at Cal Arts.

He studied composition and shaped his career around the past, present, and future of African American music education and social movements. 

16. Nathan West (WestLeigh)

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Nathan West is known for his music and acting. He has done almost everything in his career in tandem with his wife, Chyler Leigh. 

Not only does he make music with her under the name WestLeigh, but he also worked on the hit TV series “7th Heaven” with her. 

West has worked on other projects, including Disney’s Miracle. He excels in vocals and guitar playing and enjoys playing hockey for real. 

Summing Up Our List Of The Greatest Musicians From Alaska

Whether you hail from the great state of Alaska yourself or simply find interest in it, you can now appreciate some of the great musicians that come from the area.

These 17 artists come from a wide range of genres that might pique your curiosity, so be sure to check them out!

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.