Duncan Sheik Biography
Duncan Scott Sheik (born November 18, 1969) is an American singer-songwriter. Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Sheik's upbringing was split between his parents' home in South Carolina and that of his grandparents in New Jersey. His grandmother, a piano graduate of The Juilliard School, taught him to play the piano and encouraged his musical development. Sheik graduated from the Eaglebrook School before attending Phillips Academy in 1988. He subsequently studied semiotics at Brown University.
Sheik began his professional musical career playing for other acts, including Liz And Liza (with Lisa Loeb and Liz Mitchell), and played on His Boy Elroy's 1993 album. Through connections from fellow Brown alum Tracee Ellis Ross, Sheik's music gained the attention of executives at Atlantic Records. Duncan Sheik's eponymous debut album for Atlantic spawned the 1996 hit single "Barely Breathing" in the US, which remained on the charts for 55 straight weeks. In 1998, he was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Barely Breathing".
A lay Buddhist, Sheik's involvement with Soka Gakkai has increased steadily over the years. In 2000, Sheik wrote the foreword to The Way of Youth: Buddhist Common Sense for Handling Life's Questions by Soka Gakkai leader Daisaku Ikeda.
In his second album, 1998's Humming, Sheik experimented in the studio with meticulous string arrangements while keeping the haunted vocal sound of his first album. Additionally, on some tracks Sheik took a step away from his pop roots to address larger social issues. In fact, some songs are laced with biting anger. Some say that Sheik went to greater lengths to reflect his Buddhist faith after reaching certain popular success from his debut.
Sheik's next record, 2001's Phantom Moon, was a collaboration with poet and writer Steven Sater, who Sheik met through his Soka Gakkai involvement. The two collaboratively created the album by each drawing inspiration from other's simultaneous work, with Sheik sending Sater music and Sater sending Sheik words. The album continued the melancholic tone of Sheik's previous work, and displayed his growing prowess as a composer and arranger. Also with Steven Sater, Sheik has written the music for a new musical Spring Awakening, slated to premiere in May 2006. Spring Awakening is based on the controversial German expressionist play Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind.
In 2002, Sheik made a brief commercial comeback with his album Daylight, including success with the tracks "On A High" and "Half Life". Eschewing the Nick Drake-like sound of Phantom Moon, Daylight featured a lighter, more modern sound with production effects and electronic backgrounds. Sheik indicated in interviews that the record was an attempt to create an album of pure pop songs.
More recently, Sheik wrote the score for the 2004 film A Home at the End of the World, including two original songs for the film. The score was well received, even though the film was not.
Sheik's newest album, White Limousine, was released on January 24, 2006, on the Zoe Records label. The first single released from the album was the title track. Like its predecessor Daylight, subtle electronic influences are a hallmark of Sheik's fifth studio album, as well as many songs that are politically charged. The album is both Sheik's first to be released outside of what is now Warner Music Group, and his first with companion software on a DVD-ROM to remix individual album tracks.