Nilssen-Love was raised at a jazz club in Stavanger, run by his mother, and his father, who was also a drummer. He did musical studies at Sund folkehøgskole 1993-94. In 1994, during studies on the Jazz program at the Trondheim Musikkonservatorium (1994–96), he formed the band Element which musically became a platform for several other groups with bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and pianist Håvard Wiik and lead to collaborations with Iain Ballamy and Chris Potter.
Relocating to Oslo in 1996, he took part in the forming of bands like Håkon Kornstad Trio, The Quintet and Frode Gjerstad Trio, as well as self initiated projects and collaborations with Swedish musicians such as pianist Sten Sandell and saxophonist Mats Gustafsson. In 1999, Nilssen-Love played his first solo concert.
Today his portfolio also includes his own trio with Ken Vandermark and Ab Baars, the bands Atomic, School Days, The Thing, Scorch Trio, Territory Band, FME, and various duo projects such as with reedmen Peter Brötzmann, Ken Vandermark, Terrie Ex (The Ex), John Butcher, organist Nils Henrik Asheim and noise experimentalist Lasse Marhaug.