Nugent grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts. He was the original keyboardist for The Cloud Room, an indie rock band based in Brooklyn, New York. Nugent began his literary career as a reporter for Time magazine, writing mostly about music.
In 2004, Da Capo press published Nugent's book Elliott Smith and The Big Nothing, a biography of the late musician Elliott Smith. His essay "Security," about authors and money, appeared in Bookmark Now, a collection of work by young writers on writing. Nugent has also written pieces for New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, Good Magazine and n+1.