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 if you’re looking for something a bit more musically inclined, there’s plenty to explore in Montana too.
Montana has birthed a number of well-known figures in the music industry. Whether you’re a fan of country-western or rock, Montana is home to a wide variety of artists and bands. Our list of famous musicians from Montana explores 12 of these artists. Let’s start!
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 three decades of time together, Pearl Jam has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, and they continue to release new music to this day.
Ament also has a solo career and has 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 backup vocals for a number of prominent artists beginning in the 1970s. She sang on Emmylou Harris 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,” composed by Neil Young. The song topped the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart.
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, Montana, David Lynch is a musician, filmmaker, actor, and artist. Due to his father’s work as a government research scientist, Lynch’s family moved a lot during his childhood, including North Carolina and Idaho.
As a musician, Lynch 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, respectively. 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)
The frontman of indie folk band The Decemberists, Colin Meloy was born in Helena and later attended the University of Montana in Missoula. In his youth, he was part of Happy Cactus and Tarkio, both of which are also indie folk bands.
In 2000, Meloy moved to Portland, Oregon, and formed The Decemberists. Their debut EP, entitled 5 Songs, came out in 2001. The following year, they released their first full-length record, Castaways And Cutouts. Their songs are notable for their thematic content, which often includes historical events and literature references.
In addition to his music career, Meloy is also a children’s author who wrote the best-selling fantasy book series Wildwood Chronicles. He has sold other children’s books since then, including The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid and The Stars Did Wander Darkling.
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 Montana 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 ska-punk band, their second album, Say It Out Loud, came out two years later, followed by Fight The Good Fight in 2018. Some of their famous songs include “She’s Kerosene” and “Gave You Everything.”
Aside from her work with The Interrupters, Allen is also known for her collaborative work with various artists. She has written songs for punk band Unwritten Law, lent her vocals for Jamaican singers Lee “Scratch Perry” and Jimmy Cliff, and opened for rock band Sugar Ray’s tour in 2009.
6. Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse)
Another indie rock artist, Isaac Brock is the lead singer for the band Modest Mouse. He was born in Helena, Montana, and later moved to Washington, DC, in his teens.
It was during his move between Washington and Seattle that he met his future bandmates. In 1992, Modest Mouse was formed, but it wasn’t until four years later that their first album was released, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About.
As a prolific musician, healso plays guitar and banjo. Brock is also a member of the band Ugly Casanova as his side project. They released one album so far, Sharpen Your Teeth, which was released in 2002.
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, who were vaudeville performers.
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. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993 for her service as a performer.
8. Stephanie Quayle
Country-pop singer Stephanie Quayle was born in Bozeman, Montana. Exposed to music from a young age, Quayle is a natural musician and started playing the piano at four years old and the guitar at 15.
Her career began in 2013 with the release of her single “Stand Back.” Her third single, “Drinking With Dolly,” was released in 2016, which led to her debut TV performance on Fox & Friends the same year. The following year, her debut studio album Love The Way You See Me was released and ranked the Billboard Heat charts.
Quayle holds the honor of being the only independent singer to perform for ex-US presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush at the hurricane relief concert in 2017.
9. Autumn Hurlbert
Hailing from Great Falls, Montana, Autumn Hurlbert is a singer 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, Sound Of Music Live! and Little Women, among many of the musicals and Broadway shows she appeared in.
For her incredible performances, she received the Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Actor from the New York International Fringe Festival. In 2010, Hurlbert also starred in the film Sudden Death!
10. Jonny Fritz
Born in Missoula, Montana, Jonny Fritz is a singer and guitar player who was formerly known by the stage name Jonny Corndawg. “Corndawg” is a nickname he’s had since his teenage years.
His career as an alternative country music artist started with his debut album in 2008, 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. Some of his most popular songs include “Goodbye Summer,” “Ain’t It Your Birthday,” “Are You Thirsty,” and “Trashday.”
11. Brandon Jovanovich
Operatic tenor Brandon Jovanovich was born in Billings, Montana. Initially not dreaming to be a singer, Jovanovich’s scholarship for a music program at Northern Arizona University required all students to have a vocal performance. He later switched to a theater program, which became the foundation for his career.
After college, he moved to New York to pursue a career in modelling, operetta, opera, and musical theater. He landed his first major role in 1999, with the opera The Two Widows. He starred in another opera the following year, Carmen.
He has since acted in numerous operas that brought him to the attention of a wider audience. Some of his contemporary performances include Anna Karenina, The Picture Of Dorian Gray, and Flight.
12. Tim Montana
Lastly, we have country rock singer Tim Montana who, coincidentally, has Montana literally in his name. He was born and raised in Kalispell and Butte, Montana, respectively, and has been musically inclined since childhood.
His move to Los Angeles opened a wealth of opportunities for him, meeting music producer Johnny Hiland, which eventually led to Montana’s debut album in 2007, Iron Horse.
Montana is known for his collaborative work with rock musician Billy Gibbons. Some of their songs include “Rust and Red,” “Fifty Fifty,” and “This Beard Came Here to Party.” Some of Montana’s most popular singles include “Hillbilly Rich” and “Butte, America.”
Summing Up Our List Of Montana Musicians
And that’s about it! We hope that our list of some of the greatest artists from the state of Montana has given you a bit of musical inspiration.
Whether you’re looking for some classic country music or something more modern, Montana has it all! So if you ever find yourself in Big Sky Country, make sure to check out the local music scene.
Do you know other musicians who was born and raised in Montana? Let us know and we’d be glad to add them in!