English lutenist Nigel North picked up the lute in the late 1960s while studying guitar at the Guildhall School of Music. At the time, this was viewed as "slacking" to some extent, as the lute was then largely regarded as a historical curiosity rather than a pursuit that was liable to earn one a teaching position. But North found his voice in the lute and stuck with it, and managed to land a position as lute player within the Early Music Consort of London during the last part of its existence under David Munrow. North also backed up legendary countertenor Alfred Deller in some of his final recordings. As the period performance movement began to take off in the wake of Munrow's death, North was able to find work playing continuo parts in ensembles such as Academy of Ancient Music, English Concert, and le Grande Ecurie. In 1975 the Guildhall School of Music appointed North to the position of lute instructor, even though he was still a student at the time. He held this position for 21 years.
North's career as a solo artist on recordings began in 1978 with a L'Oiseau Lyre disc of music by Robert de Visée. Since then he has recorded most frequently (and arguably, best) with Linn Records in the U.K., but North has also appeared as a soloist on discs released by the Saydisc and Arcana labels. In 1988 North co-founded the ensemble Romanesca with violinist Andrew Manze and continuo keyboardist Toll. Together they recorded some of the finest discs of violin-led Baroque chamber music ever for Harmonia Mundi, including multi-award winning sets of works by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, Antonio Vivaldi, and Johann Rosenmüller. Unfortunately, when Manze accepted directorship of the Academy of Ancient Music in 1998, Romanesca's activity came to a close, and with the death of John Toll in 2001, their recorded output appears finite. North left the Guildhall School in 1996 and spent three years teaching at the Hochschule der Künst in Berlin. In 1999, North joined the faculty of Indiana University in Bloomington as a professor in the Early Music Institute there.