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The Top 5 Indie Folk Artists From Portland

Music and lifestyle freelance writer from California. Covering upcoming artists, pop culture, celebrities and more.

Portland has produced some of the best forms of art and culture around, making the Northwest city not only a destination for tourists, but also for those looking to get creative and even start a band. Most of what you see in Portlandia TV show is exaggerated (but hilarious), and is rooted in an appreciation for music and creative culture. After doing your homework, you’ll figure out that some pretty iconic artists come from the PDX region and we wanted to round up 5 that we think many will agree on. Maybe you’ll hear someone playing one of these artists as you pass Burnside skatepark, or maybe you’ll be lucky enough to catch one of them playing live around town.

The Decemberists


Grammy nominated group The Decemberists have been a staple of Oregon music culture for over 20 years. Since dropping their first EP ‘5 songs’, the group has seen much mainstream success and are known for their energetic live performances that are audience inclusive. The Portland group has a wide range of folk and indie influences, which make the band one of the most unique on the list. As of August 22’, the group is heading on a long awaited “20th anniversary” tour that was postponed due to the pandemic.

She & Him


The supergroup featuring Portland artist M. Ward and international celebrity Zooey Deschanel has been a favorite of folk and indie music enthusiasts for longer than we can remember. Since 2008, the group has been releasing music as a songwriting collaboration between the musicians, and rose to further fame after their music was featured in the hit movie (500) Days of Summer. Ever since, the group has released 6 other albums, including popular holiday themed efforts and most recently a tribute album to Beach Boy icon Brian Wilson. It is said that M. Ward approached Deschanel about the project after hearing her singing in the cult classic Elf, starring Will Ferrell.

Shawn Brown


While running under the radar internationally, Portland singer-songwriter Shawn Brown has slowly but surely made a name for himself around Portland and beyond. He made an even bigger name for himself in recent years after notable studio collaborations with musicians involved heavily with icons like Morrissey, Shakira, Ryan Adams and Rufus Wainwright. His initial album Chasing Streetlights may have put him on the map, but recent releases including Angel of Oakland (single) and The Rain Parade (EP) have received critical acclaim and a quickly growing fanbase in PDX.

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Dandy Warhols


The Dandy Warhols have been at it for nearly three decades, producing their own brand of music that has captivated general audiences and music purists alike. While the band never developed a fanbase that larger indie artists may currently have, this group has kept at it while keeping their diehard listener base happy long term. As a play on artist Andy Warhol, this group has stayed busy one way or another since their 1997 major label debut. Most recently the band toured in 2019 as part of their 25th anniversary celebration, and multiple members of the group are also involved with other solo projects and session work for other artists.

Nick Arneson


Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and podcaster Nick Arneson has always kept himself busy in the Portland music scene. When not releasing albums or singles (including 2021’s Sunshine Guaranteed), you can catch him behind the kit with other Portland artists or recording podcasts and interviews with other industry musicians and pros. His hard work and passion for the PDX music scene has helped his name become a regular around town, and has been building a solid reputation in the media with rave reviews of his music.

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