After several years of hearing his dad playing the guitar around the house and of being enthralled with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the virtuosic piano stylings of the late Johnny Costa on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Matt Nelson asked his parents for piano lessons at the age of 5. It was only a year later when he met lifelong friend and musical companion, future drummer and audio engineer, Matt Nischan. As kids, the two Matts spent hours jamming, attempting to pick out melodies and beats from current rock and pop songs and various Nintendo games by ear.
At age 13, Nelson hit an impasse with his piano studies and began studying jazz with pianist Tara Singer. It was with Singer that Nelson was introduced to the basics of the jazz language, as well as being introduced to Chick Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, an extremely influential record for Nelson. Nelson continued studying with Singer through the end of his high school years. While in high school, Nelson also spent time studying drums and percussion, including vibraphone and marimba.
Directly after high school, Nelson and Nischan entered a long period of creativity and musical exploration. Both decided to attend the College of Lake County before leaving town for a university, and Nischan had purchased a home digital recording rig. The pair spent months writing and recording music at Nelson’s house; several of the tunes on Nostalgiamaniac were conceptualized at this time. Finally, in 2003, Nelson moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College Chicago. It was there where he met a core group of like-minded young musicians, some he has been collaborating with ever since (Aaron Koppel, Brad Dickert, Robbie Tucker, Matthew Santos, Sarah Marie Young). Nelson studied jazz piano and arranging at Columbia, developing musical skills and relationships that continue to be fruitful for Nelson’s career.