Location: Eau Claire, WI Estimated Population: 63,902
Where would Justin Vernon be if not for his home state? Though the mythical cabin in the woods that birthed his debut was located outside of his hometown of Eau Claire, the dude is practically the physical embodiment of small town Wisconsin at this point. Wispy snowswept vocals and the bitter clang of a resonator acoustic guitar made up the majority of For Emma, Forever Ago, but the critical masses grew attached to its creation narrative. As the story is most often related, a post-breakup Vernon made his way to a cottage out in the Wisconsin wilderness with naught more than recording equipment and the barest necessities for his winter survival. Critics heard that voice and guitar, but they paid more attention to the desolation, the crackling fire and the bitter cold that they thought they could hear between the lines. Vernon proved his merit as a songwriter, but it was the unique sense of place that turned someone who might have otherwise been just another bearded folky into a Kanye collaborator.