Open main menu

Duncan Sheik (born November 18, 1969) is an American singer-songwriter and composer. Sheik is known for his 1996 debut single "Barely Breathing", which earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. He has composed music for motion pictures and the Broadway stage, winning a Tony Award for Best Orchestrations for his work on the 2006 musical Spring Awakening.

Duncan Sheik
Duncan Sheik.jpg
Background information
Born (1969-11-18) November 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 lifeEdit

Sheik is a native of Montclair, New Jersey. Following his parents' divorce, he split time between his father's house in New Jersey and his mother's home in South Carolina.[1] He is the half–brother of Broadway actress Kacie Sheik.[2] Sheik's Juilliard-trained grandmother introduced him to the piano, and he later took up the electric guitar. By age 12, he was playing guitar with high school students in a cover band.[3] After graduating from Phillips Academy, Andover in 1988,[4] Sheik studied semiotics at Brown University;[5] while at Brown, he played guitar in a band with fellow Brown student Lisa Loeb. Following his graduation from Brown in 1992, he moved to Los Angeles.[3]


Early in his musical career, Sheik played guitar 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 a fellow Brown alum, Tracee Ellis Ross.[6]


In 1996, Sheik released his self-titled debut album, which was certified gold.[7] The album featured the hit single "Barely Breathing", which peaked at number 16[8] and remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 55 consecutive weeks.[9] "Barely Breathing" also enjoyed Top 20 success on Adult Contemporary radio,[10] reached no. 2 on the Adult Top 40 charts,[11] and garnered Sheik a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.[12]

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.[citation needed] Also in 1998, Sheik released Humming, an experimental follow-up with string arrangements.[citation needed]

Sheik sang a duet with singer Howard Jones on Jones' 2000 single entitled Someone You Need.[13]

Sheik released Phantom Moon, a Nick Drake-influenced album on which he collaborated with poet and writer Steven Sater, in 2001.[citation needed] The following year, Sheik released Daylight, a brighter, more modern-sounding album which included the singles, "On A High" and "Half-Life".[citation needed] After a four-year recording break, Sheik released White Limousine (2006), an album which included companion software on a DVD-ROM to remix individual tracks.[citation needed] In 2008, Sheik was a judge at the 7th annual Independent Music Awards.[citation needed] A year later, he released Whisper House, a concept album which provided the score for the musical of the same name.[14]

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.[15] A remixed version of the album was released the following year.[16][dead link] Sheik released a new studio album entitled Legerdemain in October 2015.[17]


In addition to being a singer/songwriter, Sheik has also composed music for plays, musicals, and movie soundtracks. He composed original music for the 2002 New York Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night.[18] In 2004, he composed the score for A Home at the End of the World, and, later, composed the score for Through the Fire.[19][better source needed]

Sheik wrote the music for Spring Awakening (2006), 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. The musical was based on the controversial German expressionist play The Awakening of Spring, written by Frank Wedekind. Sheik won a Tony Award for Best Orchestrations for his work on Spring Awakening,[20] and he and Sater won a Tony Award for Best Original Score.[21] In addition, Spring Awakening won a Tony Award for Best Musical[22] and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.[23] The guitar that Sheik used to compose songs for Spring Awakening was displayed at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.[24] As of 2012, Sheik was composing music for a feature-film adaptation of Spring Awakening, an adaptation almost a decade in the making.[25]

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.[26]

Sheik wrote the music and lyrics to the 2013 musical adaptation of American Psycho,[27] which opened at the Almeida Theatre in London, and was later staged on Broadway in 2016.[28] 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.[29] 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.[citation needed]

In 2015, Sheik wrote the musical thriller Noir along with collaborator Kyle Jarrow. It 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.[30]

Other workEdit

Sheik produced singer/songwriter Micah Green's 199 debut album[31][better source needed] as well as his 2012 follow-up.[32][better source needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[33]

Personal lifeEdit

Concert dates in support of Sheik's 2011 album Covers 80's were canceled when Sheik sought treatment for alcohol addiction.[15] In a message to fans on his tumblr blog, 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."[34]

As of 2016, Sheik was reportedly in a relationship with model Nora Ariffin.[35]

Sheik practices Nichiren Buddhism and is a member of the US branch of the worldwide Buddhist association Soka Gakkai International.[36]

Awards and nominationsEdit

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


Stage creditsEdit

Film and television creditsEdit

  • "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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rose, Lisa (8 March 2010). "Duncan Sheik gets his Jersey on in South Orange".
  2. ^ "Happy Birthday To Garrison's Duncan Shiek". Putnam Daily Voice. 18 November 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Waiting to Exhale : 'Barely Breathing' Singer-Songwriter Duncan Sheik, Busy Touring, Can't Wait to Get Back in the Studio". 15 April 1997 – via LA Times.
  4. ^ "Duncan Sheik to roll out new material at Drury show". The Berkshire Eagle.
  5. ^ Loveline, 1996-09-08.
  6. ^ "Duncan Sheik talks about composing for 'Winn-Dixie'". delawareonline.
  7. ^ "Gold & Platinum". RIAA.
  8. ^ "Duncan Sheik Barely Breathing Chart History". Billboard.
  9. ^ "Update: East End Favorites Expected To Rock Out During Inaugural Hamptons Music Festival - The Arts - Live Music View".
  10. ^ "Duncan Sheik Barely Breathing Chart History". Billboard.
  11. ^ "Duncan Sheik Barely Breathing Chart History". Billboard.
  12. ^ "New awakening spurs 2nd Grammy bid for Sheik". 1 February 2008.
  13. ^ "The people have their say: Hojo rocks". 7 July 1999.
  14. ^ "''Playbill'' article". 2009-01-08. Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  15. ^ a b Miller, Michael H. "Duncan Sheik Cancels Tour Dates to Deal with Alcohol-Related Addiction | The New York Observer". Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  16. ^ Kevin Thomas (2012-11-30). "Duncan, chic". Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  17. ^ Ann Powers (2014-10-16). "Hear Two Songs From Duncan Sheik's Next Album : The Record". Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  18. ^ Finn, Robin (July 2, 2002). "PUBLIC LIVES; Decisions, Decisions. Name Recognition or Nirvana?". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Archived April 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Duncan Sheik In Concert".
  21. ^ McPhee, Ryan (18 October 2018). "Spring Awakening Writers Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater at Work on Twelfth Night-Inspired Amazon Musical Series". Playbill.
  22. ^ Wallenberg, Christopher (10 December 2018). "From the Archives: Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, and John Gallagher Jr. of Spring Awakening Reflect on 'Surreal' Success". Playbill.
  23. ^ Gans, Andrew (10 February 2008). "Spring Awakening Wins 2008 Best Musical Show Album Grammy; Krieger and Dale Also Win". Playbill.
  24. ^ "Hidden Broadway Treasures Revealed". Broadway.TV. Archived from the original on 2011-09-23. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  25. ^ Pat Cerasaro. "BWW EXCLUSIVE SCOOP: Duncan Sheik Teases SPRING AWAKENING Movie; Filming in Spring 2013 & New Cast?". Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  26. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik Workshopping New "Alice" Musical at London's National Theatre". 2011-05-24. Archived from the original on 2011-09-15. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  27. ^ Gordon Cox (2010-02-02). "'American Psycho' musical takes shape". Variety. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  28. ^ "In Case You Missed It: Duncan Sheik Is Having a Busy Season and Do Critics Have Faith in Amazing Grace?". 2015-07-17. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  29. ^ "Because of Winn Dixie, New Musical by Duncan Sheik and Nell Benjamin, Will Premiere in Arkansas; John Tartaglia Directs". 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  30. ^ "Exclusive: Duncan Sheik on His New Show Noir, American Psycho Casting & Spring Awakening Film's Delay | Broadway Buzz". 2015-07-22. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  31. ^ "The Top 100 Artists on ARTISTdirect - Pop, Rock & Hip Hop Music Styles - Free Music Download, Music Video, MP3 music and Music CD". Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  32. ^ "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". 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  33. ^ Archived July 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ Peter Vidani. "Duncan Sheik News Archive (Message + Song From Duncan)". Archived from the original on 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  36. ^ "SGI-USA Arts Division Conference". Soka Gakkai International News. February 8, 2008. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013.
  37. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  38. ^ "allmusic ((( Duncan Sheik > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Allmusic. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  39. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - August 10, 2014: Duncan Sheik certified albums". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  40. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  41. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  42. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Adult Contemporary". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  43. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Adult Pop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  44. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Dance/Club Play Songs". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  45. ^ "Duncan Sheik Album & Song Chart History - Pop Songs". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  46. ^ "Music from "Harvest" Film, With a Score by Duncan Sheik-David Poe, Due May 3". 2011-04-27. Archived from the original on 2013-12-30. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  47. ^ "Duncan Sheik and Robert Aguirre-Sacasa Will Make American Psycho Sing". 2010-02-02. Archived from the original on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  48. ^ "Shakespeare Theatre Company - The Taming of the Shrew - Shakespeare Theatre Company".

External linksEdit