Duncan Sheik

Duncan Sheik
Duncan Sheik
Background information
Birth name Duncan Scott Sheik
Born November 18, 1969 (1969-11-18) (age 42)
Montclair, New Jersey, U.S.
Genres Rock, pop, alternative rock, acoustic rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter, composer
Instruments Guitar, piano, voice, electronics
Years active 1993–present
Labels Atlantic Records
Nonesuch Records
Elektra Records
Zoë Records
Rounder Records
Universal Records
Rhino Entertainment
Website Official website
Grammy Awards
2008 Best Musical Show Album
Spring Awakening
Tony Awards
2007 Best Orchestrations
Spring Awakening
2007 Best Original Score
Spring Awakening

Duncan Scott Sheik (born November 18, 1969) is an American singer-songwriter and composer. Sheik initially found success as a singer, most notably for his 1996 debut single "Barely Breathing". He later expanded his work to include compositions for motion pictures and the Broadway stage, leading him to involvement in the multiple award-winning musical Spring Awakening. He resides in New York City.



Early years

Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Sheik's upbringing was split between his grandparents' home in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and his parents' in New Jersey. His grandmother, a graduate of Juilliard, taught him to play the piano and encouraged his musical development. Sheik graduated from the Eaglebrook School before attending Phillips Academy, Andover, in 1988. He subsequently studied semiotics at Brown University.[1] After college, he moved to Daly City, a suburb near San Francisco where he started his music career.


Sheik began his professional career playing for other acts, including Liz and Lisa (with Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell), and played on His Boy Elroy's 1993 album. Through connections from fellow Brown alum Tracee Ellis Ross.

His 1996 self-titled debut album for Atlantic was certified Gold and spawned the #16 hit single "Barely Breathing" in the United States, which remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-setting 55 straight weeks during 1997-98. It also enjoyed lengthy stays on Billboard's Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40 charts where it reached #2. In early 1998, Duncan was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category for "Barely Breathing" but lost to Elton John's "Candle In The Wind".

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.

His next record, 2001's Phantom Moon, was a collaboration with poet and writer Steven Sater, whom Sheik met through his Soka Gakkai involvement. The two collaboratively created the album by drawing inspiration from the each other's simultaneous work, with Sheik sending Sater the music and Sater sending Sheik the lyrics.[citation needed]

In 2002, Sheik made a brief commercial comeback with the album Daylight, including success with the singles "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]

Sheik composed original music for a New York Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night, which opened July 21, 2002, at the Delacorte Theater.[2]

In 2003, he portrayed Bobby Darin in an episode of the television series "American Dreams". He also composed the score for the 2004 film A Home at the End of the World, including two original songs.[citation needed]

In 2006, Through the Fire was released, for which Sheik served as the composer.[3] Through The Fire follows the senior high school year of Sebastian Telfair.

His fifth 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.[citation needed]

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. Sheik won two Tonys for his work on the musical —for Best Orchestration and Best Original Score (Music)—and the show won the Tony for Best Musical. The original cast recording album, released in December 2006, received the Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Musical Show Album. The guitar Sheik used to compose songs for Spring Awakening is on display at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.[4]

On January 27, 2009, Sheik released Whisper House, his first new studio album since 2006 and first release under his new deal with RCA Records on their RCA Victor imprint. This marks Sheik's first full length album on a major label since 2002's Daylight. Singer-keyboardist Holly Brook plays a prominent role alongside Sheik on some of the songs. Sheik toured throughout the first half of 2009 in support of the album.[5] He was a judge at the 7th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.

Sheik composed the music for the Musical adaption of American Psycho.[6]

Sheik's Facebook page announced March 15, 2011 that he planned to release a full album of 1980's songs that he has recorded his interpretation of on June 6, 2011.

It was announced that Sater and Sheik wrote an adaption of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland called Alice By Heart, which is being workshopped at the Royal National Theatre. It was commissioned by the National Theatre Connections. Sater said "It's about how to leave childhood behind and the challenge and struggle in that." The two week workshop will be directed by Jessie Nelson and musical direction by Lance Horne.[7]

Sheik is working on the musical score for a Broadway play based on the book "American Psycho" at his home in upstate New York. http://www.observer.com/Duncan-Sheik-American-Psycho-Maserati. Duncan described the musical as "The American Psycho score is, so far, completely electronic. Prophet 5, Moog, various drum machines. Imagine Depeche Mode as the pit band!" on his Twitter feed on 8/20/11.


In 1998, Sheik recorded " Embraceable You" for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot + Rhapsody, a tribute to George Gershwin, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease. In 2008 he participated in a music album called Songs for Tibet, which is an initiative to support Tibet, Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso and to underline the human rights situation in Tibet. The album was issued on August 5 via iTunes and on August 19 in music stores around the world.[8]



  • Nero (Another Golden Rome) - 2006
  • Spring Awakening - 2006, 2007—2009
  • The Nightingale - 2006 (based on The Nightingale)
  • Whisper House - 2010
  • American Psycho[9] - In production


Studio and compilation albums

Note: All certifications based on current data from RIAA's website: http://www.riaa.com

Year Album Billboard Top 200
1996 Duncan Sheik 83
1998 Humming 163
2001 Phantom Moon -
2002 Daylight 110
2006 White Limousine -
2009 Whisper House 181
2011 Covers 80's -

Compilation albums

Extended play albums


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Adult
US Dance
US Pop
1997 "Barely Breathing" 16 19 2 10 Duncan Sheik
"She Runs Away" 24
"Reasons for Living" 3
1998 "Wishful Thinking" 103 Great Expectations (soundtrack)
"Bite Your Tongue" Humming
1999 "That Says It All"
2001 "A Mirror in the Heart" Phantom Moon
2003 "On a High" 1 Daylight
2006 "White Limousine" White Limousine
"The Dawn's Request"
2009 "Earthbound Starlight" Whisper House
"Play Your Part"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Other recordings

  • "Wishful Thinking" from Great Expectations: The Album - Atlantic Records - 1997
  • "In the Absence of Sun" from The Saint (soundtrack) (CD) - Atlantic Records - 1997
  • "Songbird" from Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (CD) - Atlantic Records - 1998
  • "Embraceable You" from Red Hot + Rhapsody: The Gershwin Groove (CD) - Antilles Records - 1998
  • "View from the Other Side" from Friends Again (CD) - Warner Bros. Records - 1999
  • "Now or Never" from Boys and Girls: Music from the Dimension Motion Picture (CD) - Ark 21 Records - 2000
  • "I am a Pilgrim" from Transamerica: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD) - Nettwerk Records - 2005
  • "A Purple Trail" from Other Songs and Dances, Vol. 1 (CD) - Backlight Records - 2006
  • "Something Somewhere" & "There's A Home" from "A Home at the End of the World" (2004).
  • "There Once Was a Pirate" (bonus track) from Spring Awakening (Original Broadway Cast) (CD) - Universal Music Classical - 2006


  • On Stage at World Café Live: Duncan Sheik (DVD) - Decca Vision - 2007

Recent and current tours

  • Sheik toured throughout Europe during the spring of 2010, followed with 15 dates around the United Kingdom later in the year, from September until October 2, 2010. Touring continued into the winter, with three performances in Asia during January and February of 2011.
  • Concert dates in support of Covers 80's were announced for cities on the U.S. east and west coasts for late spring and early summer of 2011, but later canceled due to Sheik seeking treatment for alcohol addiction. [15] In an August 24, 2011 message to fans and friends in his tumblr blog,[16] Sheik noted that he had entered a treatment center on the same day his latest album was released and had told his staff, "My record is coming out and I’m checking in."

See also


  1. ^ Loveline, 1996-09-08.
  2. ^ Finn, Robin (July 2, 2002). "PUBLIC LIVES; Decisions, Decisions. Name Recognition or Nirvana?". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D02EEDA1631F931A35754C0A9649C8B63&sec=&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ www.broadway.tv article, "Broadway’s Hidden Treasures Revealed".
  5. ^ Playbill article
  6. ^ 'American Psycho' musical takes shape Duncan Sheik to write music, Roberto Aguirre to pen adaptation.
  7. ^ http://www.playbill.com/news/article/151118-EXCLUSIVE-Steven-Sater-and-Duncan-Sheik-Workshopping-New-Alice-Musical-at-Londons-National-Theatre
  8. ^ E-Online (July 22, 2008) Sting, Matthews, Mayer Gamer for Tibet Than Beijing
  9. ^ http://www.playbill.com/news/article/136527-Duncan-Sheik-and-Robert-Aguirre-Sacasa-Will-Make-American-Psycho-Sing
  10. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. http://www.billboard.com/#/artist/duncan-sheik/chart-history/103661. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Adult Contemporary". Billboard. http://www.billboard.com/#/artist/duncan-sheik/chart-history/103661?f=341&g=Singles. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Adult Pop Songs". Billboard. http://www.billboard.com/#/artist/duncan-sheik/chart-history/103661?f=343&g=Singles. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Dance/Club Play Songs". Billboard. http://www.billboard.com/#/artist/duncan-sheik/chart-history/103661?f=359&g=Singles. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Pop Songs". Billboard. http://www.billboard.com/#/artist/duncan-sheik/chart-history/103661?f=381&g=Singles. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  15. ^ http://www.observer.com/2011/06/duncan-sheik-cancels-tour-dates-to-deal-with-alcohol-related-addiction/
  16. ^ http://dsnews.tumblr.com/post/9345502953/message-song-from-duncan

External links

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