Nina Nastasia was born in Hollywood, California and is of Calabrian and Irish descent. She began writing songs in 1993, and released her first album, Dogs, in 2000. Only 1,500 copies of the album were initially pressed, with Nastasia putting together the album packaging herself in her apartment. Nastasia sold them at her shows, quickly selling all of them. By the end of the year 2000, the album was out of print. Famed DJ John Peel took notice of the album (calling it "astonishing") after having been given a copy by Steve Albini. Peel began playing songs from it constantly on his radio show on BBC Radio 1. The album, as well as Nastasia, subsequently gained a cult following.
Nastasia has released six albums, one in collaboration with Jim White. Her first album, Dogs, was initially released in 2000 on Socialist Records. Her subsequent albums, The Blackened Air (2002) and Run to Ruin (2003), were released on indie label Touch and Go Records, which also re-released Dogs in 2004. In 2006, On Leaving was released on Fat Cat Records. In 2007, an album on which she collaborated with Jim White entitled You Follow Me was released through Fat Cat. All of Nastasia's albums to date were recorded by Steve Albini, who has ardently praised her music in a number of interviews.
Nastasia recorded six sessions for late BBC disc jockey John Peel's show. The last one was recorded with the help of Tuvan throat singing group Huun-Huur-Tu. Two of Nastasia's songs were included in Peel's annual Festive Fifty: "Ugly Face" (ranked 4th in 2002) and "You, Her & Me" (ranked 13th in 2003).
A 7-inch single, titled "What She Doesn't Know" was released on February 25, 2008. The single featured the title track, along with the song "Your Red Nose". Both tracks were recorded by Steve Albini during the On Leaving sessions. Nastasia has called the single "a good complement to You Follow Me". A solo American and European tour coincided with the release of the single.
The single "Cry, Cry, Baby" was released on May 10, 2010 internationally and May 18 in the US. Her sixth studio album, Outlaster, followed on June 7, 2010.