The top 10 bands and musical artists from Alaska feature an incredible talent pool from The Last Frontier State. While there aren’t very many bands and artists from America’s only state sitting north of its Canadian neighbor, they are definitely worth learning about. Perhaps you may have heard of Jewel and Portugal. The Man. These two recording artists demonstrated there’s more to Alaska than cold winters, rugged terrain, and dog sleds. There is also Jason Everman of Nirvana fame who also once upon a time performed with Soundgarden. Also, covering the top ten bands and musical artists from Alaska wouldn’t be complete without Artis the Spoonman.
When it comes to creativity as a musician, the Spoonman capitalized on this niche as proof one doesn’t always need to jam with a guitar to become famous. Among some of the top-rated Alaskan performers who made an impact in the music industry, there was also contemporary classical musician John Luther Adams. In order to properly recognize the man’s musical genius, limiting this to just one song won’t do. There was also a collection of highly talented musical artists from Alaska who made a big impact in the contemporary Christian music genre such as Hilary Weeks and Lincoln Brewster as these two shared a love for music just as passionately as they do with their religious beliefs. What makes music from Alaska so great is its diversity.
Top 10 Bands and Musical Artists from Alaska
#10 – Halie Loren
Halie Loren was born in Sitka, Alaska, on October 23, 1984. While growing up, Loren’s musical influences came from the Great American Songbook, Patsy Cline, and Etta James. As a teenager, she found a musical connection to Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan, and Jonie Mitchell that would inspire her to write songs as young as thirteen years old. When she turned eighteen, she participated in and won a Billboard World Song Contest. As soon as she finished high school, Halie Loren moved to Nashville, Tennessee as a songwriter before attending college in Oregon to study visual arts. In 2006, Halie Loren recorded and released her debut album, Full Circle. This was followed by 2008’s They Oughta Write a Song. This recording featured Halie Loren’s “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” performance and was shared as a music video on YouTube. This eventually went viral, especially after the release of 2015’s Butterfly Blue topped the jazz album chart in Japan. The highlight song of this recording was “Peace,” a song originally composed by Horace Silver that would breathe new life as Loren wrote and performed lyrics for it.
Additional highlights of Halie Loren’s musical career include winning a Pacific Songwriting competition in 2005 for “What We’re Fighting For.” In 2009, They Oughta Write a Song was recognized as Best Vocal Jazz Album by the Just Plain Folks Awards. Two years later, she won a 2011 Vox Pop Independent Music Award for Jazz Song of the Year with “Thirsty,” a song that was featured in her fifth studio album, Heart First. The album itself earned Loren a Best Vocal Jazz Album award from Japan’s Jazz Critique magazine. Altogether, Halie Loren has recorded and released nine studio albums so far. Among discerning fans of the jazz music scene, the artistic talent of Halie Loren already has the singer-songwriter categorized as one of the best today’s music scene has to offer.
#9 – Janet Gardner
Fans of the all-girl glam metal group Vixen may recognize Janet Gardner as its lead singer and rhythm guitarist who rocked the stage when it was a quintet in 1983. Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Gardner was the daughter of a civil engineer who worked for the United States Forest Service in Alaska, as well as Michigan and Utah, before settling in Bozeman, Montana. She was two years old when her family moved from Alaska to Montana and it would be from the Treasure State she learned the art of playing music from her mother. She was a pianist who also played the church organ. While growing up, Janet Gardner learned how to play the guitar as well as the piano. She, along with her four brothers, also sang in the church choir.
By the time Gardner joined Vixen’s lineup, the group originally from Saint Paul, Minnesota, was already an established all-girl glam metal act as of 1980. However, this band wouldn’t reach the peak of its career as a recording artist until 1987. Before Vixen made the big breakthrough with “Edge of a Broken Heart,” the ladies first appeared in the 1984 movie Hardbodies as a band named Diaper Rash. After this, Gardner and her bandmates moved to Los Angeles, California, hoping to advance their career as a rock band.
When Gardner first joined Vixen it was strictly for the role of lead singer before additional lineup changes had her pick up the rhythm guitar as well. The classic Vixen team that released its first album in 1988 had Janet Gardner, Jan Kuehnemund, Roxy Petrucci, and Share Pederson (Ross). The recording process of Vixen served as a wake-up call for the ladies as the studio sessions were a very different experience than performing live. However, this paid off as “Edge of a Broken Heart” became Vixen’s signature song. Richard Marx was behind the arrangement and production of a song he co-wrote with Fee Waybill. It became a number twenty-six hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was followed with “Cryin’.” That one became a number twenty-two hit, establishing Vixen as more than a one-hit wonder.
At the time, Vixen stood out as the only all-girl glam metal group that was on top of the world as a musical force to reckon with. After its successful debut, Vixen released its second studio album in 1990, Rev It Up. The ladies enjoyed a touring schedule that had them perform with legends such as Bon Jovi, Deep Purple, KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, and Scorpions. However, after the tours ended in 1991, Vixen disbanded for the first time in 1992. It wouldn’t be until 1997 that Gardner and Petrucci established a new Vixen lineup that would now feature Rana Ross and Gina Stile so they could embark on a tour across the United States. This was followed by the 1998 recording and release of Tangerine. However, Ross was no longer in the lineup at this point and was later replaced by Petrucci’s sister, Maxine. As Vixen, the group’s concert tour was interrupted when founder Jan Kuehnemund filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Gardner and Petrucci over the use of the band’s name. After the legal issues were resolved, 2001’s Vixen featured Gardner, Kuehnemund, and Petrucci in the lineup. Pat Holloway was added to make this a four-woman lineup. What should have been an ideal reunion tour as part of the Voices of Metal lineup was cut short due to internal conflict and management disputes.
After leading Vixen again in 2001, Gardner attended the University of Bridgeport and graduated with a degree that had her become a dental hygienist in 2005. After staying out of the spotlight for nearly a decade, Gardner resumed her musical career as part of a band known as Scrap Metal in 2010 and 2011. After a failed attempt to reunite the classic Vixen lineup with Kuehnemund, Gardner teamed up with Petrucci and Ross, along with Gina Stile, to form JanetShareRoxyGina (JSRG). After Khheunemund passed away from cancer in 2013, JSRG renamed itself Vixen as a way to honor their former bandmate’s legacy. Since then, Gardner has recorded and released a solo album in 2017. Despite this solo project, Gardner remained in Vixen’s lineup until announcing her retirement in January 2019. She admitted she wanted to focus more on her family as well as pursue her career as a solo artist. In May 2019, Gardner worked with her husband, Justin James, a second time for her next album, Your Place in the Sun. This was followed by Synergy in 2020, this time as Gardner/James. In 2023, the duo released No Strings as their second album, making it Gardner isn’t quite ready to hang up the microphone just yet.
#8 – Kelly Moneymaker
Kelly Moneymaker was born in 1970 and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, before moving to Seattle, Washington as a teenager. Her first band was BoyToy, which she co-founded with Michele Gray. This led to serving as an opening act for The Tubes during its Love Bomb Tour in 1985. A few years after this, Moneymaker moved to California and began to collaborate with several recording artists including Enya, Meat Loaf, Wayne Newton, Diana Ross, Todd Rundgren, Ringo Starr, and Connie Stevens. At one point, she was invited to join the all-girl group, Expose, by Jeanette Jurado. Moneymaker became Gioia Bruno’s replacement in 1992 when the singer required medical treatment to deal with the benign tumor that was affecting her ability to perform. It was a long road to recovery for Bruno but she would eventually return to the lineup in 2006.
In the meantime, Moneymaker was part of Expose’s lineup when it released the hits “I Wish the Phone Would Ring,” “I’ll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me),” “In Walked Love,” and “As Long As I Can Dream.” These came from the group’s third album, Expose. The album had less of a Latino influence as the musical style adopted a more contemporary sound. This RIAA gold-certified album had its biggest hit with “I’ll Never Get Over You” as it peaked as high as number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100 after it was released as a single in 1993. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart and in Canada, it was a number-one hit. While Jurado sang as lead vocalist, Kelly Moneymaker mostly performed as backing vocalist. However, she did perform as lead vocalist on the album, covering “I Specialize in Love” and “Touch and Go.” In addition to these, Expose performed “End of the World,” a song that was featured on the Free Willy 2 soundtrack. It also appeared on Exposes’s Greatest Hits album when it was released in 1995.
After Arista Records dropped Expose’s contract in 1996, Moneymaker moved on to pursue solo projects. However, she is still considered an honorary member of Expose and has performed with the group from time to time. As a solo artist, Moneymaker has recorded and released Like a Blackbird in 1996, then 2003’s Through the Basement Walls. The second of these two albums featured “Angels in the Snow,” a song that broke a US Billboard Single Sales record as an independent release. Also from the album was “Can’t Live Without Your Love,” a song that became the theme song of Bo and Hope, the super-couple from Days of Our Lives fame. The success of this song placed Moneymaker as a co-writer and co-producer for the 2005 release of the Days of Our Lives soundtrack, Love Songs. In addition to making appearances on the show as herself, Moneymaker has been married to the actor behind Bo Brady, Peter Reckell, since 1998. In 2007, the two gave birth to their first daughter, Loden Sloan.
Additional solo albums to Moneymaker’s credit include 2013’s Race Against the Sky and 2015’s Stone. There was also the 2009 collaborative recording and release of Goddess Killer by SIlvermoney and 2013’s Back Seat Taxi by Back Seat Taxi. In addition to these albums, Moneymaker has written, performed, and produced music for a variety of television shows such as CSI, Gossip Girl, Hawaii 5-0, Parenthood, and Without a Trace. As for the movies, her musical contributions can be found in fan favorites such as American Pie: The Naked Mile, Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control, and Warrior. As for gamers, 2005’s Guitar Hero featured Moneymaker’s musical talent at work as well.
#7 – Artis the Spoonman
Before he was seen performing on the streets of Seattle, Washington, Artis the Spoonman originally hailed from Kodiak, Alaska. Born in 1948 as Steven Tyler, he and his mother moved to Seattle when he was just a few months old. Fans of Soundgarden may recognize the man from the grunge rocker’s 1994 hit single, “Spoonman.” This came from the group’s fourth studio album, Superunknown. By this time, Artis the Spoonman had already risen to prominence as a legend. In 1972, Artis began making a name for himself as a street artist in Seattle, specifically at Pike Place Market. His first collaboration with a major recording artist was with Frank Zappa, first in 1972 in Eugene, Oregon before teaming up again in 1981 to perform at New York City’s Palladium. In 1992, Artis performed as a local talent at Bumbershoot, Seattle, when its musical festival featured a collection of musical artists, including Soundgarden. This is the group credited with letting the mainstream audience learn more about Artis the Spoonman.
It was also in 1992 that Artis learned the songwriting team of Soundgarden was writing a song about him. Not only did they write about him, but he also performed “Spoonman” with the group during the recording session that featured him playing the spoons as a musical instrument. Artis also appeared in the music video and it was he who opened up for Soundgarden in New York City when it held its 1994 tour. He also did the same in London, England. “Spoonman” became a number three hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart when it was released as a single. It also peaked as high as number nine on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, at number twelve in Canada, and at number twenty in the UK. The musical story about Artist the Spoonman also appeared as a top forty hit among the nations of Australia, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Netherlands, and Sweden. “Spoonman” also earned Soundgarden a Grammy Award in 1995 for Best Metal Performance.
Published works by Artis the Spoonman himself include Artis-Aspirations to Manifestations from the Womb to the Void. This 1993 publication featured a collection of his poems and short stories. In 1994, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition featured a story about Artis and how he didn’t care for what he felt were materialistic values. He preferred to stay humble, refusing to allow fame and potential fortune to alter who he was as an artist and as a person. In 1995, he released “Wake Up Call” as a song for the 1995 compilation album Northwest Post-Grunge. In addition to performing with Soundgarden and Frank Zappa, Artis has also teamed up with another Seattle-based fan favorite, folk singer-songwriter Jim Page. While in his prime, Artis performed locally, nationally, and internationally with a collection of musicians and recording artists such as Aerosmith, MC Shoehorn, and Phish. He also made television appearances, including Late Night with David Letterman and Night Music with David Sanborn.
Although Artis the Spoonman could have financially capitalized on his rising fame as a musical artist, he chose not to. Even as Soundgarden’s “Spoonman” became such a big hit, instead of collecting all the profit and royalties to become a rich man, he chose not to. This can be witnessed in the music video as it portrayed Artis the Spoonman with a collection of black and white photographs instead of hamming it up before a camera for the sake of looking good before an audience. The primary songwriter for “Spoonman” was Chris Cornell and it was done in such a manner where Artis made the rare exception to become the focus of a song that was all about him. In 1995, Artis the Spoonman released an album, Entertain the Entertainers. This was published by Sapphire Records. Also in 1995, he played an old man in the movie, Toast with the Gods. In 2001, a DVD titled Not for Sale featured Artis the Spoonman as Seattle’s humble street artist between 1979 and 2000.
In total, Artis the Spoonman has three studio albums and three compilation albums to his credit. The studio albums were Entertain the Entertainers, followed by 2003’s A Livin’ Spoonful and then 2018’s Finally. Aside from 1994’s Northwest Post-Grunge, there was 1994’s World Beat Ragtime and 2008’s The Blue Monk. These two featured Artis the Spoonman and MC Shoehorn recording together as musical artists. As for the man’s personal life, it’s as private as it gets for a man who chose to maintain a simple life instead of embracing a material world brimming with fame and fortune.
#6 – Jason Everman
Before joining the lineups of Nirvana as its guitarist and Soundgarden as its bassist, Jason Everman originally came from Kodiak, Alaska. At least this is what his birth certificate says but the musician believes he technically came from Ouzinkie as he and his parents lived in a small cabin there. The idea for the couple was to get closer to nature but it was a marriage that didn’t work out. While Jason Everman was a toddler, he and his mother moved to a few places in Washington before she remarried and had the family settle in Poulsbo. This is located across the Puget Sound from Seattle. This is where Everman grew up, along with his half-sister, as he witnessed his mother experience bouts of depression and substance abuse. This resulted in the siblings depending on each other for support which would eventually lead to the therapy sessions he needed to overcome his emotional issues.
Part of his therapy also came with playing the guitar as he observed there was one sitting in his therapist’s office. Realizing this was key to Everman’s healing process, the therapist performed music with him. This led to Everman playing in several bands while he attended high school. In the meantime, he reconnected with his biological father and realized he owned a fishing boat in Alaska. Everman headed back to his birth state and spent several seasons on that boat. It was during this time he played as a guitarist for a Washington-based band called Stonecrow. Also in the lineup was Chad Channing. In 1989, Everman signed up with Nirvana 1989 as its second guitarist while Channing became the drummer.
Channing was in the group’s lineup from 1988 until 1990. As for Everman, he was credited by Nirvana’s founder, Kurt Cobain, for the recording of Bleach. He also appeared on the cover despite the fact he didn’t actually perform any music on its tracklist. Everman was one of the financial contributors who paid a fee to help Nirvana record and release its debut album in 1989. He did, however, tour with them during the summer of 1989 before he was fired by the band due to his mood swings. Fans of Nirvana can hear Jason Everman’s guitar on the unofficial release of Trust No-One, a live performance in Boston, Massachusetts that had him perform as sole guitarist after Cobain broke his the night before the concert.
There is also “Do You Love Me?,” a KISS cover Nirvana performed with Jason Everman as its guitarist was featured on Hard to Believe: A Kiss Covers Compilation, a tribute album in 1990. In 2004, With the Lights Out featured Everman performing as a guitarist for its single, “Dive.” Both of these songs were recorded in a studio in June 1989 at a college studio in Olympia, Washington, before Everman was released from Nirvana’s lineup. Also in 1989, Everman temporarily replaced Hiro Yamamoto as bass guitarist for Soundgarden and it was he whose performance was heard in the group’s cover version of the Beatles classic, “Come Together.” This was featured in the 1990 EP Soundgarden released, Loudest Love. Also in 1990, he also appeared in its Louder Than Live home video. As soon as the Louder Than Love tour was over, Everman moved on to join as bassist for Old Lady Drivers (OLD). 1991’s Lo Flux Tube and 1992’s Masters of Misery – Black Sabbath: An Earache Tribute were two album releases before Everman moved on to join Mind Funk in 1993. He was part of the roster when the group recorded and released 1993’s Dropped.
In 1994, Everman was inspired to join the United States Army and left Mind Funk to sign up. He then served with its 2nd Ranger Battalion and then with its Special Forces. He served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq before completing his service and returning to the United States. He briefly worked as a bike messenger in New York City before relocating to Tibet as a worker and student at a Buddhist monastery. After this, he returned to the Army and signed up with its Special Forces unit until he received his honorable discharge in 2006. He later earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy as a student at the Columbia University School of General Studies in 2013. In a 2010 documentary about Motorhead’s Lemmy, footage of Everson revealed he classified the group’s music as ideal war tunes for soldiers. In 2014, as a New Yorker, Jason Everman was invited to attend Nirvana’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he accepted.
Today, Jason Everman still performs music as he, along with fellow veteran and New Yorker, Brad Thomas, formed a band called Silence & Light. The entire lineup features military veterans has Everman playing as its guitarist. In 2019, the group recorded and released its first album, Volume One. In 2023, it released its second album, Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda… in what Everman and his bandmates consider as its brand of modern rock.
#5 – John Luther Adams
Technically, John Luther Adams was originally born in Meridian, Mississippi. After learning and playing music as a teenager as a drummer for rock bands, he attended and graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in 1973. Two years after graduation, Adams’s work in environmental protection sent him to Alaska. From 1978 until 2014, Alaska was his home and it would be here he would rise to prominence as a composing musician. From 1982 until 1989, he performed as a timpanist and primary percussionist with the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and the Arctic Chamber Orchestra. As a composer, John Luther Adams worked with a variety of genres in both the audio and visual arts. He credits John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgard Varese, and Frank Zappa as the primary influencers that triggered his interest in music.
The source of inspiration behind the music John Luther Adams became famous for came from the natural surroundings the world had to offer, including Alaska. As an explorer trained to listen to its northern soundscape and sonic geography, his love of nature and concern for the environment brought albums such as Songbirdsongs, a collection of music Adams recorded while he spent time in rural Georgia. 1977’s Night Peace was his vocal work that focused on the soundscape of the Okefenokee Swamp.
As a recording artist, the crowning achievement for John Luther Adams so far has been Become Ocean. This orchestral composition featured the Seattle Symphony Orchestra premiere with Adams between June 20 and June 22, 2013, which won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a 2015 Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. The representation of water was the album’s primary focus and has been regarded as one of the greatest works of art music since the turn of the twenty-first century. This was the second part of a trilogy that began in 2010 with Become River. It is forty-two minutes of musical bliss. The third and final chapter was 2017’s Become Desert. According to Adams, these three recordings weren’t purposely designed as a trilogy. In its own way, nature took its course as if Adams served as the perfect vessel to put all recordings together as a three-part story.
#4 – Hilary Weeks
Although she was born Hilary Novakovich on March 7, 1970, in Colorado, the singer-songwriter better known as Hilary Weeks technically grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. She grew up in a household that was a devout follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Otherwise known as Mormons, this is a religious practice Weeks and her family continue today. While growing up, the music that influenced Weeks included learning how to play the piano when she was eight years old. By the time she was fourteen, she learned how to write her own songs. Before venturing into the music industry as a Christian recording artist, she graduated from Brigham Young University with a baccalaureate of arts degree in 1993 from its music department.
It was while attending the university in Utah she met and married Timothy Weeks. Since graduation, Utah has been her home even after enjoying an incredible career as a musician who ventured into Christian country and Christian pop. The first studio album she produced was 1996’s He Hears Me. This, along with its title track, was issued as part of an annual release of albums meant to inspire young people as they attended youth-related seminars. It quickly earned critical acclaim from several Christian-based and non-religious musical communities. He Hears Me earned an Inspirational Album of the Year award by the Faith Centered Music Association and was recognized as Best Album by a Female Artist by the LDS Booksellers Awards. This was followed by two additional albums she would record for the Deseret Book label, starting with 1998’s Lead Me Home. It earned Weeks additional FCMA awards, this time for Songwriter of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, and Album of the Year. In 2000, Hilary Weeks released her third and final album with Deseret, I Will Not Forget.
After this, Weeks switched to Shadow Mountain before recording and releasing 2004’s Day of Praise. There were six more studio albums she recorded for the label after this, two of which were Christmas-themed albums, Christmastime in 2006 and Christmas Once Again in 2009. Both of them charted in the top forty on the US Billboard Holiday Albums and Heatseekers Album charts. Among the roster of ten albums Hilary Weeks produced, Weeks reached the pinnacle of her recording career right after she signed up with Shadow Mountain. 2011’s Every Step and 2013’s Say Love both charted on the US Billboard Christian Albums as high as number six and number nine, respectively. They also charted on the US Billboard Independent Albums at number twenty-three and number thirty. She became the first Mormon recording artist to achieve a top ten album rating on the Christian Albums chart. So far, her best-selling album yet has been 2016’s Love Your Life. This one peaked as high as number seven on the US Billboard Christian Albums chart and at number twenty-four on the Independent Albums chart.
In addition to songwriting, Hilary Weeks published a book in 2004, Bedtime and Naptime…and Bedtime and Naptime: Survival Tips for Busy Moms. As the mother of four daughters, it was a parental guide shared by a woman who was already familiar with the vigors that come with raising a young family. While the name Hilary Weeks may not resonate so much with members of the mainstream music audience, she has been a leader when it comes to encouraging women to build on their strengths. Since 2013, she has used both her music and personal experiences in what has been described as a “billion clicks” campaign.
#3 – Lincoln Brewster
Born in Homer, Alaska, Lincoln Brewster learned at a young age how to play the drums his grandfather gave him when he was just a kid. When he was five years old, his mother introduced him to how to play the mandolin. He learned this instrument as quickly as he learned the drums. As a mother and son duo, the two played for cruise ship tourists in Homer. Brewster’s two step brothers, Johnny and Andy Hillstrand, became popular celebrities after the reality TV show, Deadliest Catch has been filming the Alaskan fishermen since 2005. As for Lincoln Brewster, his first love was music. By the time he was twelve years old, he had his first band, Lincoln and the Missing Links. His mother was in the lineup as bassist and vocalist. When he was a teenager, he and the rest of the family moved to Modesto, California. While there, he joined the Grace M. Davis High School’s jazz band and marching band.
When Brewster was nineteen years old, he earned his first recording contract but felt there was something still missing in his life at the time. He began to attend church with his high school sweetheart, Laura. It was a scary time for him but it served as a key turning point in his life that shaped Brewster as a man and as an artist. Instead of accepting a lucrative record deal that was offered to him, he rejected it, trusting his faith in the Lord would send him down a musical path that would be more appropriate. As fate had it, Brewster received a phone call from Journey’s Steve Perry. He was invited to audition as his lead guitarist for Perry’s second solo album, For the Love of Strange Medicine. Released in 1994, it featured Brewster’s songwriting skills and guitar technique for all the fans to hear. Discerning fans of Journey were quick to observe similarities between Brewster’s guitar work and Neal Schon. “You Better Wait” was Perry’s hit single from the album that peaked as high as number twenty-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100. On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart, it peaked as high as number six. In Canada, this single topped its official music chart and it was also a number thirty-three hit in Iceland.
After returning in 1995 from touring with Perry, Lincoln Brewster officially tied the knot with Laura. The two moved to Modest, California, and attended its Calvary Temple Church. Brewster worked as its sound technician before the senior pastor offered him a position as associate music director and youth worship leader. In 1997, the Brewsters moved from California to Nashville, Tennessee, as the couple continued to serve as youth pastors. They eventually became full-time music ministers at The Oasis Church. It would be there Lincoln Brewster met with the management team of Integrity Incorporated as they were working on a new Hosanna! Music album. Upon discovering Brewster’s talent with the guitar, one of the label’s executive producers listened to a demo he had and had him signed up to Integrity’s Vertical Music label. In 1998, while Brewster was working on his self-titled debut album, he worked with label mate Darrell Evans and contributed to his album, Freedom. He also performed with Michael W. Smith in 1998 during his Live the Life tour. In 2000, Brewster recorded and released his second studio album, Live to Worship. This featured the start of a musical direction where he hoped to use his music to minister to a new generation of biblical believers.
In 2001, the Brewsters moved back to California, this time to Sacramento, as the worship pastor at its Bayside Church. In the meantime, he continued to perform and record music. In 2002, he recorded and released Amazed, then Today Is the Day in 2008. These were followed by 2010’s Real Life, then 2012’s Christmas album, Joy to the World. In 2014, it was Oxygen, an album that witnessed a change in Brewster’s musical style that featured more guitar riffs and a modernized pop theme. All ten studio albums Lincoln Brewster has recorded and released so far have been with Integrity. This has also been the case for his compilation album, Let the Praises Ring: The Best of Lincoln Brewster. This 2006 release mostly featured a tracklist of the singles Brewster released that turned into hits on the US Billboard Hot Christian Songs charts and the US Billboard Christian Airplay charts. Among his biggest hits are 2006’s “Everlasting God” and 2015’s “There Is Power.” The second of these two songs originally came from Brewster’s ninth studio album, Oxygen.
Among members of the Christian community who enjoy its own niche of contemporary music, Lincoln Brewster has been a solid fan favorite since making his solo album debut in 1999. As for fans of Journey, they remember Brewster as the guitarist who worked with Steve Perry in 1994. This marked the beginning of a long-lasting career for a man who once upon a time called Alaska his home.
#2 – Jewel
Originally, Jewel was born on May 23, 1974, as Jewel Kilcher, in Payson Utah. However, shortly after her birth, the family moved to Anchorage, Alaska. The acreage between it and Homer was her father’s homestead he grew up in and it also became hers. Atz Kilcher was also a musician and it was with him she learned how to sing and yodel as the two performed locally as a duo act. When she was fifteen years old, she earned a partial scholarship to attend the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. Upon graduation, she began to write and perform music at clubs and coffeehouses in San Diego, California. She became a local favorite that won the attention of Atlantic Records.
The label was quick to offer her a recording contract and in 1995 she made her debut with Pieces of You. This became one of the best-selling albums of all time by selling enough copies in the United States to become certified platinum twelve times. In Canada, it was certified platinum eight times, and in Australia, six times. Jewel’s debut single was “Who Will Save Your Soul” and it was a number eleven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Two other signature hits to Jewel’s credit were “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games.” Those two became number two hits on the same music chart. They also peaked as high as number two in Canada.
In 1998, Jewel released Spirit as her second album. This became quadruple platinum with the RIAA and triple platinum in Australia. This was followed by 2001’s This Way and 2003’s 0304. The first of these two became platinum with Australia, Canada, and the US. As for 0304, all three nations had this album certified as gold based on its sales records. After these four albums, Jewel made a shift from folksy rock-style songs in favor of electrified dance pop with 2006’s Goodbye Alice in Wonderland. In 2008, she released Perfectly Clear as a country album and it produced three hit singles, “Stronger Woman,” “I Do,” and “Til It Feels Like Cheating.” In 2009, she released her first independent album, Lullaby. In addition to recording music, Jewel has also dabbled in writing and acting. In 1998, she released a collection of poetry, followed by a 1999 acting role in the Western movie, Ride with the Devil. Most recently, Jewel won the sixth season as the Queen of Hearts for the musical competition series, The Masked Singer.
Jewel’s family and its legacy were featured on the Discovery Channel’s Alaska: The Last Frontier. It revealed her grandfather was Yule Kilcher, an immigrant from Switzerland who moved to Alaska before becoming its state senator and a delegate to the Alaska constitutional convention. He was the first person in recorded history to cross the Harding Icefield. While growing up, it was a rugged life for Jewel Kilcher in an environment that had a barn serve as a house that had no running water and relied on a coal-burning stove for heat. Life in the Alaskan wilderness, as harsh as it seemed to be, was rich with fond memories that shaped Jewel Kircher to become the woman and artist so many fans around the world have come to love. While growing up, the first song Jewel learned to sing was “Saint Louis Blues.” This was a 1914 W.C. Handy classic she and her father used to perform together in roadhouses and taverns in the area.
Jewel’s singing voice is soprano but has a versatility that can tap into a wide variety of vocal ranges. Altogether, Jewel has thirteen studio albums to her credit, along with four live albums and five compilation albums. She has also recorded and released seven EPs and thirty-eight singles. “You Were Meant for Me” became her signature song and her best-selling. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart, it was a number-one hit and an RIAA-certified platinum seller. It also became platinum in Australia after it became a number three hit in that nation. As a country artist, Jewel’s greatest hit was 2008’s “Stronger Woman” as she made her debut with Perfectly Clear. It became a number thirteen hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. It was also established as a crossover hit when it appeared on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number eighty-four. In addition to her albums, Jewel’s music is also featured in twelve soundtracks. Although her version of “All By Myself” was featured in the 1995 comedy, Clueless, it was not part of the soundtrack’s song list. As for “Sunshine Superman,” this was covered by Donovan for the 1996 drama, I Shot Andy Warhol.
As a recording artist, Jewel has won several San Diego Music Awards after making her debut in 1994. In 1995, “Who Will Save Your Soul” earned Jewel a Most Performed Song award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). Throughout the span of her successful recording career, Jewel has collected an impressive list of awards and favorable reviews from critics and fans who love her brand of music no matter what genre it comes from.
#1 – John Gourley
Before Portugal. The Man began as a rock band in Wasilla, Alaska, John Baldwin Gourley and fellow high schooler, Zach Carothers, formed their first rock group together, Anatomy of a Ghost. Founded in 2002 in Portland, Oregon, the group rose in popularity quickly but it was short-lived as it broke up in 2004. In the meantime, the group recorded and released Evanesce in 2003 while signed to Fearless Records. There was intent to reform in 2005 and put together another album but that never materialized. Instead, Gourley’s Portugal. The Man started off as Gourley’s side project that had Carothers playing bass for him. The two later teamed up with Nick Klein, a guitar tech that used to be employed by Anatomy of a Ghost. They also brought in Wesley Hubbard and Harvey Tumbleson to officially form Portugal.
The Man as a rock band. This was done in Wasilla, Alaska before leaving the state again for Portland so they could record some demos and hopefully embark on a concert tour. After these demos were recorded in the summer of 2004, the men began to tour across the United States. By spring 2005, Klein and Tumbleson were out and were replaced by Jason Sechrist. In January 2006, Portugal. The Man made its recording debut with Waiter: “You Vultures!, courtesy of Fearless Records. This was followed by 2007’s Church Mouth before Gourley and his group headlined a tour across the United States, then in Europe.
As for Portugal. The Man’s band’s name, Gourley’s father mostly served as its source of inspiration. The first half of the name was chosen at random when Gourley and his bandmates wanted to name their band after a country instead of a specific person. The Man part was partly based on the idea of David Bowie’s larger-than-life status. Originally, Portugal. The Man was intended to be a book Gourley wanted to write about his father. Instead, this became a highly successful musical group that has so far released nine studio albums, four EPs, and eleven singles. 2017’s, “Feel It Still” earned Portugal. The Man its first Grammy Award, namely for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. This added to the impressive list of awards and accolades Gourley’s band from Alaska earned for itself as soon as Portugal. The Man. The first was for Best Vocalist of the Year in 2008 by Alternative Press as it recognized John Gourley and Portugal. The Man after releasing its third studio album, Censored Colors. This was followed by 2009’s The Satanic Satanist, an album that focused on John Courley’s memories and stories he experienced while he was growing up in Alaska. After this, it was American Ghetto, a 2010 release before signing up with Atlantic Records.
Before In the Mountain in the Cloud was released as an album in July 2011, in Portugal. The Man streamed a series of weekly half-minute musical clips from it on their YouTube channel. There was also a thirteen-minute film production, Sleep Forever, that aired about a month before the album’s release. In August that same year, the band’s van and trailer that had all of its equipment and gear was stolen. Although the van was found the next day, all of the contents inside were gone. It was later traced to a man who claimed he bought the stolen items from a flea market. By the time this ordeal was over, the popularity of Portugal. The Man spiked even further, thanks to all of the media and social media coverage it received. According to Gourley, all of the money he and his bandmates earned together was inside that van and its trailer but it wasn’t enough to put an end to the group’s career. There was a lineup change, however, as 2012 witnessed the arrival of Kane Ritchotte as its new drummer. Fans may recognize Ritchotte from Devo 2.0, a Walt Disney production that featured child actors performing as a pop quintet who covered musical material originally recorded and released by Devo between 2005 and 2007.
Ritchotte was part of the Portugal. The Man lineup when it recorded its seventh album, Evil Friends. Released in 2013, its tracklist mainly featured music that featured the musical influence of Pink Floyd. “Evil People” and “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” became the standout singles that would have their original and remixed versions become favorites among music critics and fans alike. In 2014, Portugal. The Man brought in Eric Howk, a friend who attended the same school as Gourley and Carothers who was also once upon a time their bandmate. The former guitarist from The Lashes intended to join Portugal. The Man in 2007 but he was in an accident on May 5th that year that left him paralyzed from the waist down. However, a wheelchair was not enough to put an end to the man’s career as a musician. He was in the lineup when Portugal. The Man released its eighth studio album, Woodstock, and its single, “Feel It Still.” The inspiration behind the album focused on the iconic 1969 festival as Gourley’s father was one of the members of its audience who still had the ticket stub in his possession. This album put Portugal. The Man on the mainstream music map as “Feel It Still” became a number-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as the group’s first Grammy Award.
“Feel It Still” went on to become the group’s best overall single to date as it became certified platinum seven times with Music Canada and the RIAA, six times with the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), and three times with the UK’s British Phonographic Industry (BPI). It also became platinum in Belgium and Switzerland, as well as a diamond certification in France. Another hit single for Portugal. The Man was “Live in the Moment,” which topped the US Billboard Alternative Songs Chart in 2018. In 2021, the group released its first live album, Oregon City Sessions. This was originally recorded in 2008 and featured a cover version of Metallica’s “Don’t Tread on Me.” This has since been followed by 2023’s Chris Black Changed My Life, a tribute album to a beloved friend of the band who passed away in 2019.
John Gourley, the man, was born in 1981 in Willow, Alaska, but he and his family moved around within the state often. His father was a contractor who went wherever his work took him. At one point, his family lived in a home that could only be accessed by a team of mushing dogs leading a dog sled. Although he did attend Wasilla High School, he dropped out when he was fifteen years old so he could study at home and work with his father. One of his best friends from Wasilla was Zach Carothers. The two formed Anatomy of a Ghost as a punk band before moving on to form Portugal. The Man, a group that continues to rock around the world today.
Complete History Of The Top 10 Musical Artists from Alaska article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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