Local alternative country band boasts original music, boot-stomping good times

Story, photos and video by Kelsey Haugen, NewsNetNebraska

Whenever the Emmett Bower Band performs, there are a few promises the group never fails to fulfill. Every show is a party — complete with dancing and beer. Every show is unpredictable, both musically and behaviorally. And every show features more original music than cover songs.

This combination of elements illustrates the uniqueness of the Lincoln, Neb. alternative country group.


“We infuse rock, reggae, hip-hop and other styles into country,” said Jeff Bower, singer-songwriter, guitarist and leader of the Emmett Bower Band. “Some traditional country fans might be angry that we do that, but I think it actually brings in people who wouldn’t normally listen to a country song,”

The band began three years ago, completely by accident. Bower was playing solo acoustic shows when he met Matty Sanders, who eventually became the band’s drummer. In Sander’s studio, the two began recording country songs Bower had written. Then they met Josh Rector, who now plays fiddle, violin and mandolin for the band. The last two additions were bassist Troy Johnson and a guitarist from a rock band Bower previously played in, Jeff Chelewski.

“It did take a while for us to become acclimated with each other, but now I would say I consider these guys my brothers,” Rector said.

Bower and guitarist Chelewski feed off each other's energy during a song at The Alley on Nov. 16.

Bower and guitarist Chelewski feed off each other's energy during a song at The Alley on Nov. 16.

For Bower, the title of the band has a powerful meaning. He chose it in honor of his grandparents — Emmett and Darlene Bower — both deceased. Since his grandfather played the fiddle, Bower wanted to incorporate the instrument in the band and specifically, in his first recorded country song, “Emmett and Darlene.”

Before performing the heartfelt tune, Bower always introduces it the same way: “This is a song I wrote about my grandmammy and my grandpappy from Bartlett, Neb. — 16 kids in a three bedroom-house. There was lots of love.”

That song is the thread that weaves through the band as a whole, and for Bower, performing it brings a humbling feeling.

In the short time it has existed, the Emmett Bower Band has already toured nationally, opened for big country acts like Gloriana and Thomas Rhett, earned radio play and released two full-length albums with a third in the works. Although there are many country groups in the Lincoln and Omaha area, the Emmett Bower Band is one of the few with original music. In fact, the band members aren’t afraid to play entire sets of their own music.

Bower smiles as he hands the spotlight to Rector, the violin, fiddle and mandolin player.

Bower smiles as he hands the spotlight to Rector, the violin, fiddle and mandolin player.

Another unique, but more surprising, fact about the Emmett Bower Band is that the musicians don’t have regular practices because some of them don’t live in Lincoln. Instead, their “practice time” is often during sound checks before shows. But the band’s togetherness and precision make it impossible to tell that rehearsal is a rarity, and their audience members always seem to enjoy the music and have a great time.

“It’s the coolest thing when a girl grabs a guy, and they’re out on the dance floor cuttin’ it up and fallin’ in love to our music,” Bower said. “I don’t see that with any other type of music, really. Country music brings people together.”

Right now, the band is polishing its next album. It includes a new single, “Main Attraction,” for which they produced a music video.

“It’s a little poppier than a lot of the other stuff we’ve done, but right now, it’s the funnest song we play live,” Bower said. “With this new CD, we’re concentrating on the songwriting hardcore. I’ve got a lot of faith in what we’re doing with this new record.”

Rector is also excited for the album, which is tentatively called “Main Attraction.”

“There’s always a new twist we’re trying to add that is going to make things a little more interesting,” he said, “and we will always defend the option of being interesting.”

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