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Omaha Magazine

Evan Bartels: Nashville's Omaha Connection

Aug 29, 2022 04:47PM ● By Hannah Heser
evan bartels plays acoustic guitar on nebraska bluff

Photo by Bill Sitzmann        

Most people don’t know what they want to do at a young age; one exception to that rule is Nebraska native Evan Bartels. He started playing music as a child and developed a passion for it. 

“I’ve always played music for fun. It’s one of those things, you know, ‘why does anybody do anything?’ I started doing it because I loved it,” he admitted. “It’s a funny thing about life if you start something, you’re obviously going to keep doing it. So, I started asking myself, ‘let’s see what happens next’ and kept going.” 

Evan Bartels grew up in a town with a population of 100 people. Tobias, Nebraska, is 60 miles southwest of Lincoln and 41 miles northwest of Beatrice, Nebraska. It has two churches and a bar, but groceries are bought in the nearby towns of Western or Bruning. That lack of resources offers a freedom to imagine, to think, and to play music. His website states: “It was here the sentiment behind his work was forged.” 

His interest began when his father played a folk song called “The Cuckoo." Since then, the artist’s musical inspiration has skyrocketed. Bartels grew up playing the guitar and piano, and, at 14 years old, wrote his first song, “Sinners and Saints.” He knew this was a real cut the minute he finished it. 

“I played it the same way every time,” he revealed. 

In 2017, he released a project, The Devil, God & Me. These 11 songs take listeners on a journey through his struggles with substances in the past. His raspy voice and smooth guitar skills help make the project stand out. 

“The only thing I’ve been hardcore hooked on has been tobacco,” Bartels told Omaha Magazine at that time. “Everything else I kinda skirted the line and was able to make it out."

Three years ago, Bartels packed his belongings and made his way to Nashville to chase a dream. There are several opportunities to play music in Nebraska, but he wanted to branch out into the business side of the music industry. 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

“I lived in Omaha for three years and in Lincoln for six years. Nashville has a similar vibe with a lot of independent artists doing the same thing as me,” Bartels said. “The biggest difference is that there is a lot more in Nashville, in terms of music opportunities in the business world.”

One of those opportunities is called a Writers Round, in which three or four songwriters are invited to play their music on a stage at once. The concept enables the songwriting community to connect, and, can be their tickets to bigger gigs. Bartels was already familiar with the concept when he arrived in Music City, having performed at Whiskey Jam at Winners Bar and Grill in 2018, and continued playing Writers Rounds after moving. In 2019, Intelligent Noise manager Rico Csabai showed up to watch him play at Big Machine Distillery on Broadway. Csabai was impressed with Bartels’ talent and signed him on the spot.

“Evan is truly one of the most exceptional talents,” Csabai admitted. “The reason I signed him is that he is of that caliber due to his hard work and creativity. He is also extremely courageous and vulnerable with his art.” 

Bartels writes songs that connect people; if he can relate to the human experience, he’s content with the creation. 

“I don’t classify music as a genre. I am a fan of songwriting, regardless of the genre,” he said. “Anything I can relate to the human experience is worth more than the style of the genre.” 

Bartels added, “I prefer something that nobody has seen before. Something you want to see within yourself or within the world. I like to show every aspect of what people go through and if you can capture that in a song, I think that’s the point.” 

Bartels keeps Nebraska close to his heart, and makes an effort to return home and play at least two to three times a year. 

“I play at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln and at Buck's Bar and Grill in Venice,” he said. “Buck’s Bar and Grill is honestly one of the best venues around. They bring in a lot of honky-tonk country bands, rock ’n’ roll [bands], and singer-songwriters. It’s a really special place to play.”

Bartels and his team are planning to tour across the U.S. this fall and he's working on another project he believes may release in early 2023. 

“I am working on the new album currently. In the past year, I put out my last full-length album and released a collection of alternate takes of those,” he said. “I am always working on new music and
new projects.” 

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This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

Music Video for Evan Bartels' "Shotgun," shot by Bill Sitzmann of Omaha Magazine.

Evan Bartels | "Shotgun" | Omaha Magazine from Bill Sitzmann on Vimeo.

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