10 Minnesota musicians who aren't actually from Minnesota

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How could you, Lizzo, Kat Bjelland, and Brother Ali? :-(

Local doesn't always mean from Minnesota.

While the majority of the musicians active in Minnesota do trace their roots back to the Gopher State, there's a surprising number of transplants making music under the Minnesota banner. In fact, it might surprise you how many of the most visible "Minnesota" stars have actually imported their talents across state lines.

Here are 10 of the most notable local musicians who aren't really that local after all.

10) Astronautalis

It's no secret that Astronautalis is a transplant. The real-life Andy Bothwell proudly wears a two-finger ring with the profile of his home state of Florida on the cover of This Is Our Science. Astro's is one of the best testaments to the magnetism of the Twin Cities rap scene — he traded the sweltering environs of Florida for mythically intense winters all because he saw it as an opportunity to further his music career.

That's indeed been the case, as the energetic rapper has managed to get in with native Midwesterner Justin Vernon, forming the divisive supergroup Jason Feathers.

9) Mike Mictlan

Fans of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air will immediately recognize Mike Mictlan's backstory. The Southern California native was shipped off to Minneapolis to stay with his uncle after acting up in school. It was there that the powerpack emcee met the other founding members of Doomtree.

He moved back to L.A. eventually, but five years of the local rap crew's urging lured him back to the Twin Cities, where he's been ever since. Mictlan's origin story is largely the subject of his 2014 album HELLA FRREAL.

8) Craig Finn

The Twin Cities have long since lost their claim to the Hold Steady's Craig Finn. He relocate to Brooklyn years ago, where he's become one of the most respected songwriters on the national scene. But what's less commonly known is that the Lifter Puller founder wasn't born in Minnesota in the first place.

He was actually born in Boston, just minutes down the street from where he'd one day study at Boston College. That's part of the reason the Bay State is such a prominent reference point in the Hold Steady's mythos. You'd be hard-pressed to call Finn a Bostonian, since he moved  to Edina as a very young child, but birth certificate truthers might push back on any claims that he's a native Minnesotan, too.

7) Haley Bonar

Local multi-instrumentalist songwriter Haley Bonar isn't from Minnesota, and she isn't even from America. Bonar was born in  Brandon, Manitoba, Canada and lived in Rapid City, S.D., before relocating to Duluth.

She even left Minnesota for a spell to move to Portland, Ore., and write her 2011 album, Golder. But, luckily for Twin Cities music fans, the Gramma's Boyfriend mainstay has settled down in St. Paul, where her status as a native Minnesotan has largely been assumed. 

6) Jeremy Messersmith

Everyone's favorite drunk Grammy's tweeter, Jeremy Messersmith has lived in Minneapolis since 1999, but his roots are in the Chesapeake Bay. He moved up to Washington state after a stint in Charleston, S.C., eventually heading to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for college at North Central University.

He's never left, winning the Strib's Best Local Artist award in 2010. The Mez even embarked on a "supper club tour" in 2012 to demonstrate how well he's absorbed Midwestern customs.

5) Kat Bjelland

Babes in Toyland started a revolution in 1987 when they formed. They quickly became a national sensation, pre-empting the riot grrrl movement with their venomous garage rock. Through their legendary gigs at First Ave and close ties to fellow Twin Cities bands like Soul Asylum, Babes in Toyland weaved themselves deeply into the fabric of Minneapolis/St. Paul, but their lead singer/guitarist Kat Bjelland traces her origins to Oregon, not Minnesota.

She moved to Minneapolis at the age of 26 with her friend Mary Beth because she was a fan of the Replacements, and she thought it'd be a good scene to break into. Weeks later, she met Lori Barbero, and the two are currently back on the road with Babes in Toyland representing the Twin Cities.

4) Bob Mould

Bob Mould is a goddamn treasure, and any city would be happy to claim him, but the erstwhile Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman chose to settle in Minnesota after attending Macalester College in the 1980s. It was the end to a childhood of transience that actually began in Malone, N.Y.

In 1988, when Hüsker Dü split, he shipped up to Pine City, Minnesota, where he settled on a farm and started working for the Minnesota DNR. After a stint of hermitude, he moved back to New York to record 1989's Workbook, but he's since settled in San Francisco, where he currently lives, though he remains one of Minnesota's most commonly cited icons.

3) Lizzo

Former Chalice and current GRRRL PRTY emcee Lizzo is one of the brightest beacons of the Twin Cities music scene right now, but she's only been a resident since 2011. She was born in the Midwest — Detroit, specifically — but her formative years were spent in Houston.

Lizzo was brought to the Gopher State when her producer, Johnny Lewis, suggested she relocate with him, and she was down to try out a new scene. The Totally Gross National Product signee cites the move to Minneapolis as the catalyst to her career, claiming that the variety of talent she was exposed to here provoked her own evolution.

2) Brother Ali

Both as an artist and as a political leader, Brother Ali has been monumentally important to the Twin Cities. The dyed-in-the-wool Rhymesayers rapper is a beacon of culture in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and the 38-year-old Ali will celebrate 24 years in Minnesota this year.

But those first 14 years were spent between Wisconsin (where he was born) and Michigan. He moved to New Hope, Minnesota, in 1992 to attend Robbinsdale Cooper High School. It was there that he converted to Islam, a move that dramatically changed the course of Ali's life. He's been a fixture ever since, earning the No. 11 spot on our rundown of the 20 Best Minnesota Musicians.

1) Alan Sparhawk

Perhaps no band has defined the Duluth music scene more than indie-folk trio Low. And while Alan Sparhawk and his wife Mimi Parker may have legendary vocal harmony — having met at the age of nine — they don't share the same hometown.

Sparhawk is actually relocated from Seattle, though those eight-odd halcyon years hardly seem relevant in the scheme of the Retribution Gospel Choir founder's years in Duluth. Sparhawk's presence in Twin Ports seemingly guaranteed that he'd been there since birth, which makes his Pacific Northwest roots so baffling.


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