The twin brother of drummer Alex Cline, Nels took an early interest in music and by the age of 11 they were both were playing rock, he on guitar, his brother on drums. Favoring contemporary pop and rock sounds, Cline became an in-demand session guitarist in Los Angeles. But for all his rock leanings, he was also influenced by the free spirits of the avant-jazz world, often switching between styles from avant-rock, free jazz, straight-ahead jazz, and just plain noise. Since 1979 he has appeared as sideman on more than 60 albums, recording across the spectrum of music with artists such as Tim Berne, the Geraldine Fibbers, trumpeter John Fumo, harpist Zeena Parkins, and bass player Mike Watt. He also led his own outfits, the Nels Cline Trio and Destroy All Nels Cline. In 2004, Cline joined alt-country experimentalists Wilco.