Nick Forster was born in Beirut (his father worked briefly with the U.S. Foreign Service) and grew on his family farm in Garrison, New York. He was an early lover of nature and music, and by the age of five he had chosen his favorite recording artists: Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, Trio Los Panchos, The Weavers, and The Kingston Trio.
Then, the Beatles played on The Ed Sullivan Show. Soon after, Nick started playing drums and then a guitar a year later. He then bought a banjo and a mandolin and was well on his way to becoming a versatile multi-instrumentalist. He made his first trip to Colorado when he hitchhiked from New York at the age of 17. His desire to pursue music as a career brought him back to Colorado a few years later where he worked at the famed Denver Folklore Center as an instrument repairman.
It was at the Denver Folklore Center that, in 1978, Forster joined Tim O’Brien, Pete Wernick, and Charles Sawtelle to complete the award winning contemporary bluegrass band Hot Rize. Nick played bass, sang lead and backing vocals and when the mood struck (and the Trailblazers emerged), played inspired Western Swing guitar.
Hot Rize toured relentlessly, appearing on countless radio and television programs, including Austin City Limits, The Grand Ole Opry, and Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. In 1991, Hot Rize earned a Grammy nomination and took home the Entertainer of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Ironically, in the face of this wave of success, the band members collectively decided to pursue other projects.
While on a State Department musical tour in eastern Europe in 1990, Nick, along with Sam Bush, John Cowan, and Laurie Lewis, saw firsthand the power of music to bring disparate community members together. He also saw the environmental degradation in Eastern Europe. That combination helped birth the idea for a new radio show, one that would feature live music plus conversation around sustainability, climate change, and stewardship. The following year, eTown was born, launching on NPR with roughly 40 stations carrying the show every week.
Now, 30 years later, eTown is carried weekly by roughly 300 stations. Nick continues his role as host and music director and is also the organization’s CEO. His warm on-air wit, insightful interviewing skills, and stellar musicianship are hallmarks of the show. Prior to COVID-19, eTown shows had been recorded live at the solar-powered eTown Hall in downtown Boulder, a renovated former church that is home to the eTown offices, world class recording studio, and other public spaces.
Nick remains an active player in the music world, performing at festivals and playing on recording sessions for various artists across all genres. He also is an accomplished record producer and songwriter with a long list of credits.
Nick has three daughters, three grandchildren, and lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife Helen and their adorable cat, Emma.