Nielsen’s impressive output to date — which now includes an EP with his wife Kelly Steward in a side project they’ve dubbed Weep & Willow — exhibits a variety of Folk, Soul, Pop and Rock influences, boiled down by Nielsen himself to Otis Redding and Jellyfish. It’s self-described as “Beatlesque-Cosmic-Americana.” But even as Nielsen carves his own initials into the family’s musical tree, he doesn’t ignore the paternal elephant in the room; he often performs an acoustic ballad version of “Surrender” that is absolutely heart-stopping.
In addition to the unique experience of touring with his father’s Hall of Fame band as a child, Nielsen studied voice and production in Illinois and Florida and worked under Steve Albini in the iconic producer’s Electrical Audio studio before embarking on his performing career in earnest nearly a decade ago. He founded the band Harmony Riley and served as bassist for Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons while doing solo gigs and assembling what would eventually become the Rusted Hearts. And Nielsen even found time in his schedule for the Herculean task of scoring the Academy Award-winning documentary Undefeated. When he’s back in his hometown of Rockford, Ill., Nielsen pays his music gifts forward by visiting area schools and summer camps to teach kids about performing and songwriting, and he has started an internship through the band’s studio for college students who want an education on both sides of the glass. He also makes great music with a great band — so he’s a lot like the old man after all.