Duncan Scott Sheik (born November 18, 1969) is an American Grammy-nominated and Tony-winning singer-songwriter and composer.
Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Sheik's upbringing was split between his grandparents' home in South Carolina and that of his parents 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 Lisa (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 and good looks gained the attention of executives at Atlantic Records. Duncan Sheik's eponymous debut album for Atlantic was certified Gold and spawned the 1996 hit single "Barely Breathing" in the US, which remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-setting 55 straight weeks. It also enjoyed lengthy stays on Billboard's Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40 charts. In 1998, he was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Barely Breathing" but lost to Elton John's Candle In The Wind 1997.
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.
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.citation needed
More recently, Sheik has moved into acting and even 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.citation needed
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.
Working continually with Steven Sater, Sheik wrote the music for the Tony award winning musical Spring Awakening over a period of eight years. The musical, which premiered off-Broadway in New York in May 2006, opened on Broadway to much critical acclaim in December 2006. Spring Awakening is based on the controversial German expressionist play Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind. According to the Los Angeles Times (Calendar-section) article summing up the Tony award wins in 2007, Sheik won two Tony awards for his work on the musical, including for Best Orchestrations, and jointly for Best Original Score (Music) along with Sater (Lyrics). Sheik's partner on the project, Sater, also won the Tony for Best Book of a Musical. All told, Spring Awakenings garnered eight Tony awards wins that year from its eleven total nominations.
Studio albums: Duncan Sheik · Humming · Phantom Moon · Daylight · White Limousine