17 singers and bands you might not realise come from Essex – Essex Live
It is no lie that Essex has produced some pretty epic musicians over the years.
Bands like The Prodigy and Depeche Mode, both born and bred in Essex, have been heralded as some of the greatest bands in history over the decades.
And still our county continues to see incredible stars rise to fame like Olly Murs, Anne-Marie or Nothing But Thieves.
Even some of the most iconic boy bands of the 90s and 2000s such as Busted, Five and McFly have members who grew up here in Essex.
We have taken a look through the history books to find some of the amazing singers and bands, which you might not realise come from Essex.
And we have no doubt there will be more to follow in the years to come.
1. Keith Flint – The Prodigy
Keith Flint died in March last year (Image: PA/Cheffins)
What better place than to start with Keith Flint and his band The Prodigy. In case you’ve been living in a hole the last few decades, the Prodigy, and the unforgettable Keith Flint come from Braintree, Essex.
The band was formed back in 1990 by keyboardist and songwriter Liam Howlett alongside Maxim, Keith Flint, Leeroy Thornhill and Sharky.
Keith’s death back in 2019 shocked not only the county but the world, whose fans flocked to pay their respects at his funeral.
The iconic singer had been found at his home near Dunmow, Essex, on March 4 by a friend.
The Prodigy gained worldwide recognition with their UK number one singles Firestarter and Breathe which topped the charts in both the UK and US.
2. Alison Moyet – Yazoo
Alison Moyet performs on stage during Bath Festival 2018 (Image: Artur Lesniak/Reach)
Alison Moyet came to fame in the synthpop due Yazoo back in 1982.
The now-59-year-old was born in Billericay, but grew up in Basildon where she attended Janet Duke Junior School and the-then Nicholas Comprehensive.
After she left school at 16, she worked as a shop assistant and trained as a piano tuner. It was then at 21, Alison formed Yazoo with Vince Clarke – the former Depeche Mode member.
They had huge iconic hits such as Only You, Don’t Go, Situation and Nobody’s Diary. But in 1983, Clarke decided to disband Yazoo and Alison went on to have a solo career.
3. Harry Judd- Mcfly
McFly released their debut album, Room On The Third Floor, in 2004 (Image: McFly)
It’s hard to believe that McFly hit our airwaves over 16-years-ago in 2004.
The band’s drummer, Harry Judd, was born in Chelmsford and grew up in Essex for much of his younger years.
McFly were handed their first chance to perform in 2004 when fellow band Busted helped them launch by inviting them on tour. The next year, they won the Brit Award for Best British Pop Act.
In 2013, fans were thrilled and shocked to hear about the pop phenomenon of McBusted.
Thankfully, last year, Judd and his fellow bandmates Danny, Dougie and Harry announced their comeback with an album of unreleased songs and a reunion gig.
4. Damon Albarn – Blur
Blur frontman Damon Albarn (Image: David Jensen/PA Wire)
Lead singer of Blur, Damon Albarn was raised in Essex around Colchester. There, he attended Stanway School where he met Graham Coxon and formed Blur.
Their debut album, Leisure, was released in 1991, followed by Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape.
Blur’s albums were hugely acclaimed and popular across the UK.
Damon also formed the virtual band Gorillaz in 1998 with comic book artist Jamie Hewlett before releasing their first self-titled album in 2001.
5. Olly Murs
Olly Murs attending the Voice UK Series 9 launch last December (Image: PA/Ian West)
Another singer who probably needs no introduction is Olly Murs.
Olly, from Witham, shot to fame in 2009 when he auditioned for the sixth series of The X Factor. While he narrowly missed winning the show, coming second, it didn’t stop Olly from producing some fantastic tunes.
He attended Notley High School in Braintree when he was younger and recently shared that his favourite place to visit in Essex was always Maldon Promenade.
The 36-year-old released his debut single Please Don’t Let Me Go in 2010, followed by numerous other hits like Heart Skips a Beat and Dance with Me Tonight.
In May 2011, Olly went back to X Factor to present the The Xtra Factor with Caroline Flack.
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More recently however, Olly has been a coach on The Voice since 2018 helping guide other singers in the spotlight.
Speaking to EssexLive this year about his homecoming gig, Olly said performing at home always has a “good energy”.
“It’s always great to come home and perform in your home town,” he said. “Lots of my friends and family come to those gigs, lots of people I didn’t even know turn up, old school friends or people I’ve lost contact with.
“It’s nice to come home and it’s a different energy, I’m one of their own, I’m an Essex boy.”
Anne-Marie talks openly about her childhood growing up in Essex (Image: How To Be Anne-Marie is available on YouTube 12th November)
Fast-becoming one of the hottest artists in the music industry today, Anne-Marie Nicholson is also another Essex-born star.
Anne-Marie was born in East Tilbury and has recently spoken about how much she loves coming back to the county.
During a recent documentary, Anne-Marie re-visited St Clere’s School in Stanford-le-Hope where she studied as a teen.
She spoke about the secret turmoil she faced during her earlier years. While she loved the school shows and drama documentaries, Anne-Marie admitted she could be a “nightmare” at school.
In 2018, Anne-Marie’s debut album Speak Your Mind was released. Just last year, she was nominated for four awards at the 2019 Brit Awards – including Best British Female Solo Artist.
Some of the 29-year-old’s more recent releases include; ‘Come Over’, ‘Birthday’ and ‘To Be Young’.
7. Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode were formed in Basildon (Image: Getty Images Europe)
Basildon’s most famous former residents are undoubtedly electronic band Depeche Mode.
The band was formed in 1980 with Vince Clark, Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore, who all went to Nicholas Comprehensive School in Laindon. Their lead singer Dave Gahan was a pupil at Barstable school.
Their first ever ‘gig’ was the year they formed at Nicholas Comprehensive school.
Vince Clarke, as we heard earlier, left after the release of their first album to form Yazoo with Alison Moyet. Alan Wilder replaced him and the band remained as the trio for 13 years.
In total, Depeche Mode have had a phenomenal 54 songs in the UK singles chart and 17 top 10 albums.
They have also sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
8. James Bourne – Busted
James Bourne from Busted
The other famous boyband that rocked the early 2000s is Busted.
Essex boy James Bourne was born and brought up in Southend.
There he attended Thorpe Hall School and later Morgan Academy of Performing Arts in Leigh-on-Sea.
James dropped out of college when he was 17 to pursue his music career – and boy, are we glad he did.
After being formed in 2000, Busted had four UK number one singles, won two Brit awards and released four studio albums, selling over five million records worldwide.
They disbanded in 2005 before joining McFly for McBusted in 2013. Then in 2018, Busted announced their fourth album Half Way which would be released in 2019.
9. Nothing But Thieves
Conor Mason, Dom Craik, Joe Langridge-Brown, Philip Blake, and James Price of music group Nothing But Thieves (Image: Frazer Harrison)
English rock band Nothing But Thieves was formed in 2012 in Southend-on-Sea with Conor Mason, Joe Langridge-Brown, Dominic Craik, Philip Blake and James Price.
Two years after forming, the popular band released their self-titled debut album in 2015. Their second album Broken Machine was held to wide acclaim, reaching number 2 in the UK album charts.
They are one of the best current rock bands in the world with 700,000 album sales and 750 million streams so far for their alt-rock sound.
Nothing But Thieves definitely have bigger and better things to come.
10. Scott Robinson – Five
Another throw-back to a classic boyband of the late 90s is Five – with Essex-born member Scott Robinson.
Scott grew up in Pitsea, Essex, where he attended Chalvedon Comprehensive School until year nine when he moved to Sylvia Young Theatre School.
He initially acted small parts in programmes like EastEnders and Casualty before joining Five in 1997.
After selling 10 million copies of their records worldwide, the band broke up in 2001.
11. The Horrors
Indie rock band The Horrors was another band formed in Southend-on-Sea.
The group were formed in the seaside town in 2005 with Faris Badwan, Joshua Wayward, Tom Furse, Rhys Webb and Joe Spurgeon.
The band have released five studio albums in total which all charted in the UK top 40.
Some of their hits include Something to Remember Me By, Still Life and Press Enter to Exit.
12. Rat Boy
Chelmsford-born Rat Boy performing at Reading Festival in 2017 (Image: Berkshire Live)
Musician Rat Boy, whose real name is Jordan Cardy, comes from Chelmsford in Essex.
The 24-year-old studied at Chelmer Valley High School in Chelmsford before moving on to study art at Colchester Institute.
His 2017 debut album Scum reached number 15 in the UK charts. He was also named as one of BBC’s Sound of 2016 inductees, losing out to Jack Garrat.
Since 2017, he’s had a song sampled on Kendrick Lamar’s album Damn, and he’s supported Liam Gallagher on a UK tour.
13. Rod Stewart
Sir Rod Stewart (Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
Until very recently, Sir Rod Stewart actually lived in Essex.
While Rod is London-born, he lived here for several years so we think its fair we see him as an honorary native.
The 75-year-old rockstar is one of the best selling musicians worldwide having sold more than 120 million records.
For many years, Rod lived in a £5m mansion in Epping before selling it in 2018 for a guide price of £4.73 million.
14. Matt Cardle
Matt performing during The X Factor back in 2010 (Image: Talkback Thames)
Another X Factor star from Essex is Matt Cardle who grew up in Halstead. He also studied music at an institute in Colchester.
The 37-year-old came to fame back in 2010 when he won X Factor, topping the charts with Biffy Clyro’s cover of Many Of Horror at Christmas.
While Matt hasn’t quite seen the same success as Olly Murs, he has still had four top 40 albums with two in the top 10.
15. Jesy Nelson – Little Mix
Little Mix are coming to Essex (Image: PA)
Jesy Nelson is one of the four members to make up the incredible Little Mix.
The 29-year-old singer comes from Romford and found fame with her girls on the eighth series of the X Factor in 2011.
They have sold just under 60 million records worldwide making them the top 5 best selling girl groups of all time.
Last year, Jesy shared her experiences of bullying and body image in an emotional documentary.
Dodie lived in Epping for a while (Image: Chuff Media)
Youtube sensation Dodie is also another singer from Essex.
Dodie, whose full name is Dorothy Clark, started uploading videos to Youtube in 2007.
Since then she has gone on to release numerous EPs which have all made the official top 40 album charts.
She was born in Enfield before moving to live in Epping.
17. Emma Blackery
Emma Blackery grew up in Basildon, but now lives in Brighton (Image: Chuff Media)
Emma Blackery is another Essex singer who first found fame on Youtube.
Emma was born in Basildon and attended Bromfords School in Wickford before moving to Brighton.
Her Youtube channel started in 2012 but in 2016 she toured with Busted on their Pigs Can Fly tour.
More recently, she released the album Villians in 2018, which reached number 24 in the charts.