Nigel played drums on one track on Elton John's debut album, Empty Sky, and the next year, as a member of The Spencer Davis Group with bassist Dee Murray. The pair joined John on the road as his touring band, and played with John during his debut tour in the United States at the Troubadour Club. Only permitted at first to play on one track of John's studio albums, Olsson and Murray were added, along with guitarist Davey Johnstone, who was newest to the band, and all teamed up to play and sing backing vocals on Elton John's early 1970s albums.

By 1975, Olsson and Murray were released from John's band, following the release of Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, which, upon release, hit the charts at #1. Olsson's second solo album, Nigel Olsson, appeared that year on John's own record label named The Rocket Record Company, and featured a cover of the Bee Gees' penned "Only One Woman", which featured the combination of Johnstone, Murray, and Cooper. The album was produced by Robert Appere.

Olsson continued working as a studio musician, releasing another self-titled album that was produced by Paul Davis on Columbia in 1978. Although that album brought no Top 40 recognition, in 1979, he released the album Nigel and enjoyed some mild success as a solo artist, scoring a pair of Top 40 hits on the U.S. pop chart with "A Little Bit of Soap" and "Dancin' Shoes", the latter of which cracked the Top 20 at #18.