Nelson is an American rock band founded by singer/songwriters Matthew and Gunnar Nelson (twin sons of Ricky Nelson and Kristin Nelson). The band achieved huge success during the early 90s with their debut album After the Rain. The album featured the No. 1 hit "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection" and also reached double platinum status.
After the success of their first album, the band claims to have been faced with conflicts with their record label, lack of support from the media, and the shift in music towards grunge and alternative rock. They eventually split with Geffen Records in 1995. Despite this, the band has continued to produce and release albums independently under their own label, Stone Canyon Records.
Matthew and Gunnar also perform under the name of Ricky Nelson Remembered, as a tribute to their father. They are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only family to reach number one record status in three successive generations (beginning with grandparents Ozzie and Harriet Nelson).
Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, the twin sons of Ricky Nelson and Kristin Nelson, were involved in music from an early age. On an interview, Gunnar once said that he and Matthew had been writing songs since they were six years old.
During the 1980s, Matthew and Gunnar played as Strange Agents and as The Nelsons, with which they played the Los Angeles club scene. A year after the death of their father in a plane crash, Lorne Michaels agreed to have the Nelsons as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, at the request of their manager at the time. They became the first unsigned band to play on the show. During this iteration of the band, Matthew was the lead singer and bassist, while Gunnar played the drums. As they returned home from the show, Gunnar claims he had what he called "an epiphany" which he shared with his brother. He told him that they should break the band as it was and start sharing the front stage together. Gunnar promised to learn to play guitar and did so in a year.
As the band tried to grab a record deal, they settled with Geffen Records and began approaching A&R executive John Kalodner. According to Gunnar, they met with Kalodner "every month for a year", during which he filtered the songs they brought him until they had enough for an album. During this time, they were also introduced to Marc Tanner, who helped them polish their songwriting skills.
During this time, Nelson was also approached to contribute a song to the film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Matthew and Gunnar then co-wrote a song with Dweezil Zappa called "Two Heads are Better than One". Since the band was in process of being signed up to Geffen, Kalodner recommended them not to use their names for the song, so they were billed as Power Tool instead. The song eventually became the film's theme song.
Record deal and success with After the Rain:
After a year of meeting with Kalodner without being signed, Matthew and Gunnar met with him, against the wishes of their managers, and played an acoustic version of "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection". Kalodner was impressed and the band was signed the next day.
As the Nelsons prepared to go into the studio, they started assembling a band. They met drummer Bobby Rock at the MTV Music Awards, when he was still with Vinnie Vincent Invasion, and kept in touch. After that band broke up, Nelson asked him to join their band. Joey Cathcart had played guitars with the brothers in high school so they decided to approach him. They were introduced to guitarist Brett Garsed by their manager in Australia. Finally, they contacted Paul Mirkovich, who had worked with them during the demo sessions for the album.
The full band headed to the studio where they worked with Marc Tanner. According to the Nelsons, John Kalodner "basically let us do our own thing".After the Rain was released in June 26, 1990 and became an instant success. The album ended up selling more than 3,000,000 copies, eventually being certified double platinum by RIAA. As a result, the band began a World Tour with over 300 concerts. Their first single, "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection" peaked at #1 on Billboard's Hot 100. Other songs like "After the Rain", "More than Ever", and "Only Time will Tell" peaked at #6, #14, and #28 respectively.
Struggles with Geffen and Imaginator:
After several years of touring, the band went into the studio to record their follow-up. The result of this was a darker and harder concept album titled Imaginator. According to Gunnar "it was about the machine that is the media. That same machine that built us up and was also so ready to tear us down." According to the band, producer John Kalodner wasn't involved with the recording process because he "was too busy making Aerosmith records". When they presented the album to the executives at Geffen Records, they weren't pleased and gave the band the choice to either produce and record another album, more according to what they were expecting, or they would be released from their contract.
"I'm proud of that record Because They Can. I think it's a great record for what it is. But I was given the mandate by John Kalodner, 'You're not allowed to play any crunchy guitar on this record at all. It's got to be acoustic and organic, and that's it'."
Gunnar Nelson (guitarist/singer)
Gunnar has said that they left "frustrated and helpless", but decided to return to the studio. They began working on a more acoustic-oriented album which was, according to Gunnar, "180 degrees in the opposite direction of Imaginator". The result was the album Because They Can, which ended up being released in 1995, five years after their first album. Ironically, Kalodner left Geffen a week before the release of the album, and the label decided to give the album limited promotion.
Shortly after, Geffen released Nelson from their contract. Gunnar refers to this as "one of the best days of my life." The year after being released, Nelson finally released Imaginator independently. The band considers the album a representation of their live sound at that time.
The band then established their own record label, Stone Canyon Records. During this time, the band also got involved with Victor Japan to license their albums there. In 1997, they released in Japan their first album under their label, titled Silence is Broken. The Nelsons consider it an "experiment" and a "transitional" album.
In 1998, Matthew and Gunnar started out compiling a collection of demos with the purpose of doing a joint venture deal in Nashville. The result became a country album called Brother Harmony, in which they are billed as The Nelsons. The next year, they released Life in Japan, in partnership with JVC Victor. Gunnar has referred to this album in interviews as a "take no prisoners pop/rock album".
Matthew and Gunnar followed this with a tribute album to their dad, Ricky Nelson. The album titled Like Father, Like Sons, was released in 2000, as well as their 2010 album,"Lightning Strikes Twice."
In 2010, Nelson reached a record deal with Frontiers Records. They've released three albums almost consecutively. The first, Before the Rain, is a collection of some of the demo songs that were left out of the After the Rain album. The second one is Perfect Storm, which is a compilation of live recordings from the After the Rain world tour. This is notable because, despite being such a massive world tour that covered almost 300 dates across the world, no official recording was made of it. The third album is a new studio album called Lightning Strikes Twice, which features new material from the band. It is the first original studio album from the band since Life was released in 1999.
The release of the three albums in 2010 coincided with the band's official anniversary. For it, they organized a 20th Anniversary Tour around several countries. Singer/guitarist Mark Slaughter joined Nelson for the tour, which began at the Firefest in Nottingham, England, U.K.
In addition to touring as Nelson, the twin singer-songwriters also perform a separate tribute act for their father, called "Ricky Nelson Remembered." Plus, they perform with celebrity all-star rock band Scrap Metal.