Known as Big Sky Country, Montana is synonymous with the American West. Its mountains, plains, and abundant wildlife make it attractive to outdoor enthusiasts.
But Montana has also birthed a number of famous musicians and singers. Our list of famous musicians from Montana explores ten of these artists.
1. Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam)
Born in Havre, bassist and songwriter Jeff Ament is most famous for his role in the band Pearl Jam. He spent his childhood in a small town called Big Sandy before attending the University of Montana in Missoula and eventually moving to Seattle.
In 1990, he formed Pearl Jam along with his bandmates. Their debut album Ten came out in 1991 and included several hit songs like “Jeremy,” “Alive,” “Even Flow,” and “Black.”
Over their 30 years of time together, Pearl Jam has sold over 100 million albums worldwide and they continue to tour and release new music to this day.
Ament has also had a solo career and been a member of the band Temple of the Dog. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and his alternative rock style of music has inspired many and helped to define the grunge movement of the 1990s.
2. Nicolette Larson
Vocalist and guitar player Nicolette Larson was born in Helena. She did back-up vocals for a number of prominent artists beginning in the 1970s.
She sang on Emmylou Harris’s 1977 album Luxury Liner and was also featured alongside Linda Ronstadt on the 1977 album American Stars n Bars by Neil Young.
Her first album Nicolette was released in 1978 and she is best known for that year’s hit single “Lotta Love.”
Larson later switched from pop to country music and released her first country album Say When in 1985. Her most famous country song was a duet with singer Steve Wariner entitled “That’s How You Know When Love’s Right.”
3. David Lynch
Born in Missoula, David Lynch is a musician, filmmaker, actor, and artist. He co-produced and wrote the lyrics for Julee Cruise’s albums Floating into the Night and The Voice of Love which were released in 1989 and 1993.
He has also composed music for the films Wild at Heart and Mulholland Drive, both of which were winners at the Cannes Film Festival.
His 2001 album BlueBob was later followed by 2011’s Crazy Clown Time. In 2013, he released The Big Dream which included a cover of Bob Dylan’s 1964 song “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.”
4. Colin Meloy (The Decemberists)
Colin Meloy is a singer, songwriter, and guitar player for the band The Decemberists. Meloy was born in Helena and later attended the University of Montana in Missoula.
In 2000, Meloy formed The Decemberists, an indie, folksy, rock band. Their debut EP entitled 5 Songs came out in 2001. The following year they released their first full-length record, Castaways and Cutouts.
Their popular songs include “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” “Sons and Daughters,” and “Annan Water.” Many of The Decemberists’ music is based on historical events and folk tales.
In addition to his music career, Meloy is also a children’s author who wrote the best-selling Wildwood Chronicles.
5. Aimee Allen (The Interrupters)
Next, we have singer and songwriter Aimee Allen who is best known for her role as the lead vocalist of the band The Interrupters.
She was born in Missoula and later moved to California to pursue a singing career.
The Interrupters was formed in 2011 and released their eponymous first album in 2014. A punk band, their second album, Say It Out Loud, came out two years later, followed by Fight the Good Fight in 2018.
Famous songs by The Interrupters include “She’s Kerosene” and “Gave You Everything.”
Allen released her first single called “Revolution,” followed by her solo album A Little Happiness in 2009.
6. Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse)
Isaac Brock is the lead singer for the band Modest Mouse and also plays guitar and banjo. He was born in Helena and his band is currently based out of Portland, Oregon.
Modest Mouse was formed in 1992 and is an indie, folk-rock group. They released their first album in 1996 called This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About.
Top songs by Modest Mouse include “Dashboard,” “Ocean Breathes Salty,” and “The World at Large.” Their hit track “Float On” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
Brock is also a member of the band Ugly Casanova. They released one album in 2002 entitled Sharpen Your Teeth.
7. Martha Raye
Nicknamed the Big Mouth, Martha Raye was a singer and actress from Butte, Montana. She started performing at the age of three alongside her parents.
In the 1930s she worked as a vocalist in orchestras and performed in many television shows and movies. Her films included the musical Pin Up Girl and the romantic comedy Never Say Die with Bob Hope.
Raye was also featured in plays such as Annie and Hello Dolly. In 1968 she was awarded an Oscar for her humanitarian work as well as also receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993.
8. Stephanie Quayle
Stephanie Quayle was born in Bozeman and is a vocalist, guitar player, and pianist. Her debut EP Ain’t No Housewife was released in 2009, followed by Stand Back in 2013.
Quayle’s first studio album came out in 2017 entitled Love the Way You See Me. It featured the songs “Drinking with Dolly,” “Winnebago,” and “Selfish.”
In 2018, Quayle sang for the first time at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, where she has since performed multiple times. Her 2019 EP included the songs “Whatcha Drinkin ‘Bout” and “If I Was a Cowboy.”
9. Autumn Hurlbert
Autumn Hurlbert is a singer, dancer, and actress. She was born in Great Falls but later moved to Arizona and Colorado.
Hurlbert is best known for competing in the reality series Legally Blonde: The Musical – The Search for Elle Woods. She placed runner-up in this competition and later performed in the Legally Blonde cast on Broadway.
She has also performed in shows including Beauty and the Beast, Evita, Les Miserables, and Little Women.
10. Jonny Fritz
And lastly, born in Missoula but raised in Vermont, Jonny Fritz is a singer and guitar player who was formerly known by the stage name Jonny Corndawg.
His alternative country music started with his debut album in 2008 called I’m Not Ready To Be a Daddy. It was released under the name Jonny Corndawg and he followed this in 2011 with the album Down on the Bikini Line.
After changing his name to Jonny Fritz, he released Dad Country in 2013 and Sweet Creep in 2016.
Popular songs by Jonny Fritz include “Goodbye Summer,” “Ain’t It Your Birthday,” “Are You Thirsty,” and “Trash Day.”
Summing Up Our List Of Montana Musicians
Our list of some of the greatest artists from the state of Montana has music for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you prefer Broadway musicals, country music, or 1990s grunge, Montana-born artists have something to offer you.
Let us know who we’ve missed off and we’ll be sure to add them in!