Pin It
Submit to Reddit

Duncan Sheik: Weaving narratives 

These days, acoustic and chamber-pop singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik isn't having any trouble breathing. In fact, with almost every breath he takes he's delving into some new and mysterious musical waters -- deeper than what he's used to and more exciting as each wave passes. After his 1996 self-titled release, which contained his biggest hit "Barely Breathing," Sheik has gone on to release five studio albums and is gearing up for his sixth.

His next effort, which will be released on Jan. 27, 2009 on Victor Records/SonyBMG, is titled Whisper House. It differs from Sheik's previous efforts since he uses brass and woodwind arrangements as opposed to his usual use of string instruments.

This time around, he also shies away from writing about his own personal thoughts and experiences. Instead, Sheik wrote in narrative to compose the album, which he is collaborating on with friend and actor Keith Powell, for a forthcoming stage production. "He wanted to work on a theater piece with me," Sheik says. "It was something that involved ghosts and lighthouses. I grew up in South Carolina and there's a big tradition of ghost stories there."

Sheik traveled to Charleston, S.C., to write the songs, all of which are to be sung in the play by ghost parts. Holly Brook accompanies Sheik on the album, and together they sing duets -- male ghost and female ghost joined in vocal harmony. Brooke will also accompany Sheik on his upcoming tour, along with Spring Awakening's Lauren Pritchard.

"She'll be singing the Spring Awakening songs with me and Holly too. Lauren is actually opening the show as well," Sheik says. When asked more about what the show will be like, he says "It is kind of a hybrid of things. There's going to be several songs from Whisper House and then a kind of mini-set of songs from Spring Awakening. Then, at the end of the show I'll do however many Duncan Sheik songs from the catalog. So, the show will kind of have three parts to it. I also have a nine-piece band that I'm going to be traveling with."

In 1999, Sheik became involved in the musical Spring Awakening through a Buddhist friend, Steven Sater, who is also a playwright. Sheik himself is a practicing Buddhist who lives in New York and has had an interest for theater for sometime, but didn't start writing music for theater until Sater approached him.

"I guess the reason I wanted to do it was because I felt like theater as a medium is this really great, powerful kind of living experience," Sheik says. After he decided to take on the process, he began putting music to lyrics that Sater had written. Despite Sheik's ability to write teary and thought-provoking lyrics, he didn't feel disturbed when Sater took on the writing responsibility.

"I actually found it to be a very natural process. I was surprised at how kind of organic it was to just take his words and set them to music. I'd never done that before, but I really found it to be a very enjoyable process," Sheik says. "In fact, writing lyrics myself can be a very painstaking process, so it was really nice to have somebody as prolific as Steven just giving me these words to work with."

Spring Awakening workshops took place many times over the first three or four years while Sater and Sheik locked and sealed the nuts and bolts of the production. During that time, Sheik also worked with Sater to create his third album, Phantom Moon. "We first started working on Phantom Moon and while I was kind of writing and recording that album, that's when we started having the conversation about Spring Awakening. So, they overlapped," says Sheik, who was unsure of just how well accepted Spring Awakening, a musical about adolescence and puberty would be.

"Over the course of the seven years that we worked on it, I think we had every kind of expectation at various times," Sheik says of the musical that would go on to win eight Tony awards including Best Musical. Sheik himself picked up two Tony awards for Best Orchestration and Best Original Score, along with a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.

"There were many times when we thought the show would never get staged at all. It was a long process of development and definitely all the different possibilities occurred to us. That's for sure," Sheik says.

Duncan Sheik will perform at McGlohon Theatre on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $24.50 and up.

Pin It
Submit to Reddit


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Creative Loafing encourages a healthy discussion on its website from all sides of the conversation, but we reserve the right to delete any comments that detract from that. Violence, racism and personal attacks that go beyond the pale will not be tolerated.

Search Events
items in Creative Loafing Charlotte More in Creative Loafing Charlotte pool

© 2018 Womack Newspapers, Inc.
Powered by Foundation