John Nilsen was born in Seattle, Washington in 1956. The Nilsen family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1960. Nilsen began studying classical piano from his mother at age six. Continuing his musical education, he began playing guitar at age fourteen. John moved to Ashland, Oregon in 1974 to attend Southern Oregon College (Southern Oregon University). Nilsen graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts in English, and was honored by the institution in 1995 in recognition of his outstanding achievements, dedicated efforts and leadership in the field of the performing arts with the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the most prestigious award bestowed upon Southern Oregon
University graduates. An accomplished pianist, guitarist, songwriter, lyricist and vocalist, Nilsen was chosen to be a Deering Banjo Artist in 2016.
Nilsen founded the Magic Wing recording label in 1987. The label has a catalog of nineteen successful titles, each with international distribution. Before founding Magic Wing, John recorded three successful solo piano records on LA’s, Eagle Records from 1983-1985. He has released sixteen on his own Magic Wing label with fifteen other CDs licensed in countries including Germany, Great Britain, The Philippines, Canada, Taiwan and Singapore bringing reported total record sales to well over one million copies sold. Very few independent recording artists claim such success. Having performed in Europe, Asia and all fifty U.S. States countless times, John Nilsen has two hundred and fifty of his compositions and musical arrangements receiving BMI royalties world wide. John Nilsen’s newest release, Local Ocean, was released in January, 2017. Sessions for the 20th Nilsen recording began in 2017, continued throughout 2018 and are nearly completed.
Like each of the past twenty five years, John played two hundred and fifty performances in 2018, most being out of Oregon. Nilsen splits his performances between touring nationally as an in demand pianist with a national and international presence, performing with the John Nilsen Trio, featuring Jeff Leonard/bass and Jason Moore/ percussion and which has toured internationally, and with John’s guitar/vocal rock band, John Nilsen & SWIMFISH, featuring Dave Captein/bass, Mike Snyder/drums, percussion, Bob Logue/guitar, vocals and Don Woodward/guitar, mandolin, harmonica, vocals. SWIMFISH includes John’s piano, but features his acoustic and electric guitar
playing tucked into and soaring above a bed of a uniquely great supporting cast.
John has given back to his community by teaching songwriting residencies and speaking to students in schools throughout the country, and locally including every school in the West Linn/Wilsonville School District over the past twenty-five years.