John Mark Nelson

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John Mark Nelson
Born (1993-11-23)23 November 1993
Laguna Beach, CA
Occupation(s) Musician, Singer-songwriter
Instruments Guitars, Keyboards, Drums
Years active 2011-Present
Labels GRNDWIRE Records

John Mark Nelson (born November 23, 1993) is a songwriter and producer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John Mark Nelson quietly released his debut album Still Here in 2011. His second release, Waiting and Waiting, was released in August 2012. In June 2014, Nelson released his third album, Sings The Moon, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped him fund the project.[1] His fourth full-length album, I'm Not Afraid, was released in September 2015 on GRNDWIRE Records.

Early life[edit]

Nelson was born in Laguna Beach on November 23, 1993. He attended Minnetonka High School and graduated there in 2012.


2011: Still Here[edit]

Nelson grew up around music, as his immediate family was composed of musicians. When he has 14 years old, Nelson started to learn instruments and arrange original compositions.[2] At 17, he spent the fall and the winters crafting songs at home, and in 2011, he put this record together and released his first full length, Still Here released independently on 29 December, 2011. He does not have the intention to be a songwriter.

2012: Waiting and Waiting[edit]

Main article: Waiting and Waiting

After graduating from Minnetonka High School, he produced his second full-length album, Waiting and Waiting released independently on 12 August, 2012. The album was released with a sold out show on Observer Drift and Husky and had songs featured on seven local radio stations. In December 2012, Nelson participated in a project called Minnesota Beatles Project Volume 4, recording The Beatles' song, A Day in the Life.[3]

2014: Sings The Moon[edit]

Main article: Sings The Moon

On January 17, 2013 Nelson launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his third album production. The campaign was funded in February 7, 2013 with the goal of $16,735.[1] The album was produced by Matt Patrick with co-production of Nelson. One of the songs on Sings the Moon, "The Moon and the Stars" was featured as his first music video and aired on MTV on August 13, 2013.[4][5] On June 24, 2014 he released the album Sings The Moon. For this effort, rather than playing and engineering everything on his own, Nelson opted for a professional studio recording and chose the Library Recording Studio in Minneapolis. Sings the Moon was co-produced by The Library Studio's owner/operator Matt Patrick (producer). He employed his live band; Nate Babbs, Benjamin Kelly, Nic Eggert, Grace Keating but also brought in several guest musicians; Jeremy Messersmith, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Matt Patrick (producer), Aaron Fabbrini, Ben Rosenbush, Kara Laudon, Zach Miller,Jim O'Neill, John Cushing, Josh Misner, and Kenni Holmen. Nelson released the album's second single "Boy" was directed by Mairin Hart and released on YouTube on October 22, 2014.[6]

2015: I'm Not Afraid[edit]

Main article: I'm Not Afraid

Nelson returned to The Library Recording Studio to record his fourth full-length album, this time working with Jacob Hanson as co-producer. Nelson took a different direction on the album, moving away from straightforward folk to a pop-rock sound driven by drums, bass and more adventurous guitar tones. The album was completed after five days in the studio. In May 2015, Nelson signed with GRNDWIRE Records, a record label started by Dave Simonett of Trampled By Turtles and Mark Gehring, and in July, booking agency The Billions Corporation added Nelson to its artist roster. I'm Not Afraid was released on GRNDWIRE Records on September 11, 2015, with a show at First Avenue marking the occasion.




  • "The Moon and The Stars" (2013)
  • "Boy" (2014)
  • "Dream Last Night" (2015)

Critical reception[edit]

The release of I'm Not Afraid brought Nelson a new level of exposure, with critics lauding his latest effort. NPR featured Nelson on both World Cafe Next and Heavy Rotation: 10 Tracks Public Radio Can't Stop Playing, calling I'm Not Afraid "mesmerizing."[7]

Nelson played live sessions with Daytrotter[8] and The Current, the latter of which said, "John Mark Nelson has amped up his sound (literally), producing his most accessible album yet, a record that belongs on the radio and all our earbuds.”[9]

In August 2015, Paste debuted the song "Control" on its website, saying, "Young Minnesotan singer-songwriter John Mark Nelson has accomplished more in 21 years than some artists do in a lifetime.”[10] The same month, American Songwriter premiered the track "I'll Give You More," and applauded Nelson's "thoughtful songwriting and meticulous arrangements.”[11]

When All Music premiered the full album on its site in September 2015, critic Chris Steffen wrote, "Minneapolis-based songwriter John Mark Nelson delivers a slick, elegant and catchy set of songs on his new album, I'm Not Afraid. It's a warm, easy listen that plays to Nelson's strengths as a writer of tight, effective songs that target the pleasure centers directly as opposed to any sort of delayed gratification."[12]

Earlier in Nelson's career, The Current said of his participation in the Minnesota Beatle Project compilation, a charitable project benefiting music and art education in the Minnesota public school system: "The other thought I'm struck with while listening to "A Day in the Life" is that John Lennon was dead for 14 years when John Mark Nelson was born. Yet this is the perfect kick-off track, capturing the Beatles at the height of John and Paul's collaboration, and offering a potentially intimidating challenge to any artist today to tackle. Maybe it is John Mark Nelson's youth that enables him to grasp it unabashed and imbue it with both respect and re-invention, adding a sax solo from Kenni Holmen that takes the song to a new place."[3]

Jon Schober from NPR wrote: "When people hear John Mark Nelson's music for the first time, there's often a sense of disbelief. With arrangements that recall the work of veteran songwriters, the 19-year-old Minnesota native has been recording sophisticated compositions since he was 14".[2]

The University of Minnesota wrote: "Music always being a part of his life and home, John Mark’s Bon Iver like sound young in life giving it a unique whimsical sound infused with simplistically deep lyrics. Who knows if it’s his lyrics that stick in your head for days, his toe-tappin’ folk tunes or his impressive beard that would make any young hipster boy envious, but the Twin Cities are crazy about John Mark Nelson and are excited for much more to come".[13]

"As there are more and more musicians employing these techniques every day, standing out is a challenge, but 18-year-old folkie John Mark Nelson has been scooped out of the Bandcamp fray. Nelson's popular trajectory has more to do with a pleasantly constructed presence on the web -- with the all-important "Minneapolis" tag—than a lengthy run in local clubs."[14]


  1. ^ a b Nelson, John Mark. "John Mark Nelson: A New Album] - Kickstarter". Kickstarter. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b SCHOBER, JON. "John Mark Nelson: A Teenager With Serious Talent". NPR. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  3. ^ a b McGuinn, Jim (December 3, 2012). "Album Review: Minnesota Beatle Project Volume 4". The Current. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "John Mark Nelson - "The Moon and the Stars"". MTV. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  5. ^ Raihala, Ross (June 26, 2014). "For third album, John Mark Nelson takes 'hands off the steering wheel'". Twin Cities. St. Paul Pioneer Press. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  6. ^ Songspace, American Songwriter (May 16, 2014). "Daily Discovery: John Mark Nelson, "Boy"". American Songwriter. ForASong Media, LLC. Retrieved November 29, 2014. 
  7. ^ Edition, Morning. "Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing". Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  8. ^ "Daytrotter: The source for music and free downloads from today's best bands". Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  9. ^ "John Mark Nelson performs in The Current studio". The Current from Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  10. ^ "Song Premiere: John Mark Nelson - "Control"". Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  11. ^ "Song Premiere: John Mark Nelson, "I'll Give You More" « American Songwriter". American Songwriter. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  12. ^ "Album Premiere: John Mark Nelson, 'I'm Not Afraid'". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  13. ^ "John Mark Nelson with Hippo Campus and Hunter & Colleen". University of Minnesota. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Fischer, Reed. "John Mark Nelson makes early Minneapolis impact via Bandcamp". CityPages. Retrieved 29 November 2014. 

External links[edit]