Guitar virtuoso Nuno Bettencourt made his name with the eclectic pop-metal outfit Extreme during the height of the guitar-shredder era, and embarked on a solo career after the band's breakup. As a soloist, Bettencourt's most immediately recognizable influence was Eddie Van Halen, but as a songwriter, he might draw from Queen, the Beatles, Prince, and anything in between. The youngest of ten children in a musical family, Bettencourt was born Nuno Duarte Gil Mendes Bettencourt in the town of Praia da Vitoria, on the island of Terceira in the Azores (an archipelago governed by Portugal) on September 20, 1966. His family moved to Boston when he was four and he began playing music as a teenager, trying out drums, bass, and keyboards, but settling on guitar. Bettencourt played in several area bands, sometimes with his brothers, and joined Extreme in 1985; after becoming quite popular locally, the group signed with A&M and released their debut album in 1989. Three more albums followed, plus a number one pop single in the acoustic ballad "More Than Words," before the band called it quits in 1996. In addition, Bettencourt produced and guested on the second album by Australian hard rockers Baby Animals in 1993; the following year, he married the group's lead singer, Suze DeMarchi.
Bettencourt had been rumored to have a solo project in the works for some time, and after Extreme's demise, he threw himself into the idea in earnest. In fact, he played all the instruments on his 1997 solo debut, Schizophonic (released by longtime label A&M). While the album did take the alternative rock revolution into account, it failed to sell very well; feeling constrained, Bettencourt left A&M and in 1998 put together a permanent backing unit featuring nephew Donovan Bettencourt (who'd played on the supporting tour for Schizophonic) on bass and former Extreme bandmate Mike Mangini on drums. Mangini didn't stay long, however, and was replaced by Jeff Consi in January 1999. Bettencourt dubbed the group the Mourning Widows, and they signed with Polydor's Japanese division; their debut, Mourning Widows, was released overseas in 1998, blending hard rock and funk-rock with bits of alternative and psychedelia. The follow-up, Furnished Souls for Rent, was released in 2000. Bettencourt took two years to follow up Furnished Souls for Rent with a self titled debut from his new group, Population One.