Duncan Sheik

Duncan Sheik (born November 18, 1969) is an American singer-songwriter and composer. Initially finding success as a singer, most notably for his 1996 debut single "Barely Breathing", earning a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. He later expanded to compositions for motion pictures and the Broadway stage, such as the musical Spring Awakening for which he won multiple Tonys and a Grammy.

Duncan Sheik
Duncan Sheik
Background information
BornNovember 18, 1969 (age 49)
Montclair, New Jersey, United States
GenresRock, pop, alternative rock, acoustic rock, pop rock
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, composer
InstrumentsGuitar, piano, vocals, electronics
Years active1993-present
LabelsAtlantic, Nonesuch, Elektra, Zoë, Rounder, Universal, Rhino Entertainment

Early life

After being raised by both his parents in Montclair, New Jersey and his grandparents in Hilton Head, South Carolina (of whom his Juilliard-trained grandmother taught him piano), and after graduating from Phillips Academy, Andover in 1988, Sheik studied semiotics at Brown University,[1] and moved to Los Angeles. Playing for other artists, including Liz and Lisa (with Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell), Sheik also played on His Boy Elroy's 1993 album through his connections from fellow Brown alum, Tracee Ellis Ross. He is the half–brother of Broadway actress Kacie Sheik.


Early career

In 1996, Sheik released his self-titled debut album, which was certified Gold and spawned the #16 peaking hit single, "Barely Breathing", which itself remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-setting 55 consecutive weeks. The popular track also enjoyed Top 20 success on Adult Contemporary radio and topped the Adult Top 40 charts. The song garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

In 1998, Sheik released Humming, an experimental follow-up with string arrangements.

Later career

In 2001, Sheik released Phantom Moon, a Nick Drake-influenced album which was a collaboration with poet and writer Steven Sater. The following year, Sheik released Daylight, a brighter, more modern-sounding album which included the singles, "On A High" and "Half-Life". After a four-year recording break, Sheik released White Limousine in 2006, an album which included companion software on a DVD-ROM to remix individual tracks. In 2008, Sheik was a judge at the 7th annual Independent Music Awards. A year later, Sheik released Whisper House, a concept album which provided the score for the musical of the same name.[2]

In 2011, Sheik released Covers 80's, which included covers of popular 1980s songs. Concert dates in support of the album were later canceled due to Sheik seeking treatment for alcohol addiction.[3] In a message to fans in his tumblr blog,[4] 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." A remixed version of the album was released the following year.[5] Sheik returned to the studio in 2015 and released a new studio album, titled Legerdemain, in October.[6]


In 2004, Sheik composed the score for A Home at the End of the World, and, later, composed the score for Through the Fire.[7]

In 2012, Sheik wrote Alice By Heart, an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, along with collaborator Sater. Directed by Jessie Nelson with musical direction by Lance Horne, the musical was workshopped at the Royal National Theatre and commissioned by the National Theatre Connections.[8]


In 2002, Sheik composed original music for the New York Shakespeare Festival production, Twelfth Night.[9]

In 2004, Sheik composed the score for A Home at the End of the World, and, later, composed the score for Through the Fire.[10]

In 2006, Sheik wrote the music for Spring Awakening, another collaboration with Sater. Written over a period of eight years, the musical, which premiered off-Broadway in New York during the summer, opened on Broadway to critical acclaim later in the fall. Based on the controversial German expressionist play, The Awakening of Spring by Frank Wedekind, the musical won Tony Awards for "Best Orchestration" and "Best Original Score" (Music), as well as "Best Musical". The original cast recording album received the Grammy Award in 2008 for "Best Musical Show Album", and the guitar that Sheik used to compose songs for the Spring Awakening is currently on display at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.[11] Currently, Sheik is composing the music for a feature-film adaptation of Spring Awakening, an adaptation almost a decade in the making.[12]

In 2013, Sheik wrote the music and lyrics to the musical adaptation of American Psycho,[13] which opened at the Almeida Theatre in London, and was later staged on Broadway in 2016.[14] That same year, Sheik wrote the music for the musical adaptation of the novel Because of Winn-Dixie, which opened at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.[15] Dixie was a collaboration with director John Tartaglia and Nell Benjamin, who wrote the book and lyrics. The star is an Irish wolfhound trained and provided by William Berloni Theatrical Animals, Inc. If the show moves to Broadway, it will be the first play with a dog as the lead.

In 2015, Sheik wrote the musical thriller Noir along with collaborator Kyle Jarrow, which premiered as part of New York Stage and Film's Powerhouse season. Inspired by live radio plays and classic film noir, the musical was directed by Rachel Chavkin.[16]

Other appearances

In 1998, Sheik recorded "Embraceable You" for Red Hot + Rhapsody, a George Gershwin tribute to increase AIDS awareness, and also recorded "Songbird" for another tribute, Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. In 1999, Sheik produced singer/songwriter Micah Green's debut album,[17] as well as his 2012 follow-up.[18]

In 2000, Sheik wrote the foreword to The Way of Youth: Buddhist Common Sense for Handling Life's Questions, by Soka Gakkai International leader Daisaku Ikeda. Sheik also sang a duet with singer Howard Jones on Jones' single Someone You Need.

In 2006, Sheik recorded the song, "A Purple Trail", for Other Songs and Dances, Vol. 1. In 2008, Sheik participated in Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace, an initiative to support Tibet, Dalai Lama and Tenzin Gyatso.[19]

Awards and nominations

Year Awards Work Category Result
1997 Billboard Music Awards Himself Top Adult Top 40 Artist Nominated
"Barely Breathing" Top Adult Top 40 Track Won
1998 Grammy Awards Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
1999 BMI Pop Awards Award-Winning Song Won
2007 Tony Awards Spring Awakening Best Original Score Won
Best Orchestrations Won
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Music Won
Outstanding Orchestrations Nominated
2008 Grammy Awards Best Musical Show Album Won
2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards American Psycho Outstanding New Score Nominated



Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
US Heat
1996 Duncan Sheik 83 1
1998 Humming
  • Release date: October 6, 1998
  • Label: Atlantic
2001 Phantom Moon
  • Release date: February 27, 2001
  • Label: Nonesuch
2002 Daylight
  • Release date: August 22, 2002
  • Label: Atlantic
2006 White Limousine
  • Release date: January 26, 2006
  • Label: Zoë
2009 Whisper House 181
2011 Covers 80's
  • Release date: June 7, 2011
  • Label: Sneaky
2015 Legerdemain
  • Release date: October 9, 2015
  • Label:
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Adult
US Dance
US Pop
1996 "Barely Breathing" 12 16 19 2 10 Duncan Sheik
1997 "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
2002 "On a High" 21 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


  • At the Reservoir EP (1997, Atlantic)
  • Humming Along EP (1998, Atlantic)
  • White Limousine EP (2005, Zoë)
  • Brighter/Later: A Duncan Sheik Anthology (2006, Rhino)
  • Brighter: A Duncan Sheik Collection (2007, Rhino)
  • On Stage at World Café Live: Duncan Sheik DVD (2007)
  • Whisper House EP (2008)
  • 80s Covers EP (2010, Sneaky Records Inc.)
  • Music from the Motion Picture 'Harvest' EP (w/ David Poe) (2011)[29]


Film and television

  • "View from the Other Side", Friends
  • "A Body Goes Down", Jeff Buckley: Goodbye and Hello
  • "Now or Never", Boys and Girls
  • "Mama Who Bore Me", 90210
  • "Barely Breathing", Glee
  • "Barely Breathing", Girls

Personal life

Since 2011, Sheik has been in a relationship with model Nora Ariffin, the pair having previously dated in 1999.[32]

Sheik practices Nichiren Buddhism and is a member of the US branch of the worldwide Buddhist association Soka Gakkai International.[33]

See also


  1. ^ Loveline, 1996-09-08.
  2. ^ "''Playbill'' article". Playbill.com. 2009-01-08. Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  3. ^ Miller, Michael H. "Duncan Sheik Cancels Tour Dates to Deal with Alcohol-Related Addiction | The New York Observer". Observer.com. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  4. ^ Peter Vidani. "Duncan Sheik News Archive (Message + Song From Duncan)". Dsnews.tumblr.com. Archived from the original on 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  5. ^ Kevin Thomas (2012-11-30). "Duncan, chic". Dallasvoice.com. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  6. ^ Ann Powers (2014-10-16). "Hear Two Songs From Duncan Sheik's Next Album : The Record". Npr.org. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  7. ^ [1] Archived April 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik Workshopping New "Alice" Musical at London's National Theatre". Playbill.com. 2011-05-24. Archived from the original on 2011-09-15. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  9. ^ Finn, Robin (July 2, 2002). "PUBLIC LIVES; Decisions, Decisions. Name Recognition or Nirvana?". The New York Times.
  10. ^ [2] Archived April 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Hidden Broadway Treasures Revealed". Broadway.TV. Archived from the original on 2011-09-23. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  12. ^ Pat Cerasaro. "BWW EXCLUSIVE SCOOP: Duncan Sheik Teases SPRING AWAKENING Movie; Filming in Spring 2013 & New Cast?". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  13. ^ Gordon Cox (2010-02-02). "'American Psycho' musical takes shape". Variety. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  14. ^ "In Case You Missed It: Duncan Sheik Is Having a Busy Season and Do Critics Have Faith in Amazing Grace?". Playbill.com. 2015-07-17. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  15. ^ "Because of Winn Dixie, New Musical by Duncan Sheik and Nell Benjamin, Will Premiere in Arkansas; John Tartaglia Directs". Playbill.com. 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  16. ^ "Exclusive: Duncan Sheik on His New Show Noir, American Psycho Casting & Spring Awakening Film's Delay | Broadway Buzz". Broadway.com. 2015-07-22. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  17. ^ "The Top 100 Artists on ARTISTdirect - Pop, Rock & Hip Hop Music Styles - Free Music Download, Music Video, MP3 music and Music CD". Artistdirect.com. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  18. ^ "Duncan Sheik produced Micah Green's latest album I Know, I Know, I Know, due out Tuesday August 28th via MRI/Sneaky Records « Duncan Sheik Duncan Sheik - Official Website". Duncansheik.com. 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  19. ^ [3] Archived July 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  21. ^ "allmusic ((( Duncan Sheik > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Allmusic. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  22. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - August 10, 2014: Duncan Sheik certified albums". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  23. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  24. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  25. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Adult Contemporary". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  26. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Adult Pop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  27. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Dance/Club Play Songs". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  28. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Pop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  29. ^ "Music from "Harvest" Film, With a Score by Duncan Sheik-David Poe, Due May 3". Playbill.com. 2011-04-27. Archived from the original on 2013-12-30. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  30. ^ "Duncan Sheik and Robert Aguirre-Sacasa Will Make American Psycho Sing". Playbill.com. 2010-02-02. Archived from the original on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  31. ^ "Shakespeare Theatre Company - The Taming of the Shrew - Shakespeare Theatre Company". www.shakespearetheatre.org.
  33. ^ "SGI-USA Arts Division Conference". Soka Gakkai International News. February 8, 2008. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013.

External links

Alice by Heart

Alice by Heart is a musical with music by Duncan Sheik, lyrics by Steven Sater, and a book by Sater with Jessie Nelson. The musical is inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and was originally presented by London's Royal National Theatre in 2012.

Barely Breathing

"Barely Breathing" is the first single from the Gold-plus debut album of American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik.

Bite Your Tongue (song)

"Bite Your Tongue" was released as a single on February 2, 1999 and is found on Duncan Sheik's second studio album, Humming. The song was called "a driving hard-pop number" by Rolling Stone's Neva Chonin, "self-deprecating" by Allmusic's Roxanne Blanford and Elysa Gardner from the Los Angeles Times said: "The single “Bite Your Tongue” rocks harder and more buoyantly than his previous hits.". The song would also appear as a bonus track on the 2004 Daylight (Limited Tour Edition) CD and on the 2006 double disk album Brighter/Later: A Duncan Sheik Anthology, released by Rhino Records (Also released in 2007 as Greatest Hits – Brighter: A Duncan Sheik Collection, a single CD version.)

Covers 80's

Covers 80's is the seventh album by American singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik. It was released on Sneaky Records in 2011. The album is composed of covers of songs by British artists originally released in the 1980s.

Singer Holly Brook, who appeared on Sheik's album Whisper House, and Rachael Yamagata, who has toured with Sheik for various concerts, contribute backing vocals throughout this album.

Daylight (Duncan Sheik album)

Daylight is the fourth album by American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik. It was released on Atlantic Records in 2002.

Duncan Sheik (album)

Duncan Sheik is the self-titled debut album by American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik, released on Atlantic Records on May 20, 1996. It spawned three singles: "Barely Breathing", "She Runs Away" and "Reasons for Living". The album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting sales of over 500,000 copies in the United States.

Humming (album)

Humming is the second album by American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik. It was released on Atlantic Records in 1998.

Mark Plati

Mark Plati is a New York–based musician, record producer, and songwriter, widely acclaimed for his work in the 1990s with David Bowie. Plati also has worked with Spookey Ruben, The Cure, Duncan Sheik, Hooverphonic, Robbie Williams, Joe McIntyre, Dave Navarro, Lou Reed, Fleetwood Mac, Deee-Lite, and Natalie Imbruglia. He also worked in France with artists like Kyo, Louise Attaque, les Rita Mitsouko, Alain Bashung, Émilie Simon, Saule, Raphael and Axelle Red.

On a High

"On a High" is a song written and recorded by singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik and released as the first single from his album Daylight.

A female cover of "On a High" can be heard in the commercials for the TV movie Queen Sized, sung by Nikki Blonsky.The song was also featured on an episode of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.

Phantom Moon

Phantom Moon is the third album by American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik. It was released on Nonesuch Records in 2001.

Reasons for Living

"Reasons for Living" is the third and final single from the debut album of American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik.

She Runs Away

"She Runs Away" is the second of three singles released on the debut album by American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik.

Spring Awakening (musical)

Spring Awakening is a rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Sater. It is based on the 1891 German play Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind. Set in late 19th-century Germany, the musical tells the story of teenagers discovering the inner and outer tumult of teenage sexuality. In the musical, alternative rock is employed as part of the folk-infused rock score.

Following its conception in the late 1990s and various workshops, concerts, rewrites and its Off-Broadway debut, the original Broadway production of Spring Awakening opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on December 10, 2006. Its cast included Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, Skylar Astin and John Gallagher Jr. while its creative team comprised director Michael Mayer and choreographer Bill T. Jones. The original Broadway production won eight Tony Awards, including Tonys for Best Musical, Direction, Book, Score and Featured Actor. The production also garnered four Drama Desk Awards, while its original cast album received a Grammy Award. In addition, the show was revived in 2015 on Broadway and garnered three Tony Award nominations, among other honors.

The success of the Broadway production has spawned several other productions worldwide, including various US productions, a short West End production that won four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical, and a series of international productions.

Whisper House

Whisper House is the sixth studio album by American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik. It was released on RCA Victor in 2009.

White Limousine

White Limousine is the fifth album by American singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik. It was released on Zoë Records in 2006.

Wishful Thinking (Duncan Sheik song)

"Wishful Thinking" is a song written and performed by Duncan Sheik for the soundtrack to the 1998 motion picture Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Robert De Niro. The song was released as the only radio single from the soundtrack.

Duncan Sheik
Studio albums
Additional Works
Awards for Duncan Sheik

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