Nilsen is a native of the Pacific Northwest, born in Seattle and raised primarily in Portland, where he has been a resident for many years. Nilsen began studying piano at age six and guitar at age twelve. He attended Southern Oregon University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He loves to get out on the rivers, into the forests and onto the mountains of the region. The people, landscapes, weather, and tenor of life in the Pacific Northwest frequently influence Nilsen’s musical themes.