Duncan Sheik - Biography

Duncan Scott Sheik was born on November 18, 1969, in Montclair, New Jersey. His mother was single, so he was raised by her and his grandparents in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He has one younger sister. His father lives in New Jersey. Duncan was raised Catholic, but converted to Buddhism later in life. He is a very serious practicing Buddhist and has been for around 15 years. Duncan got started playing music at a very early age, and was playing the piano at age five. He later mastered the guitar, and was in a cover band, called Slightly Off, at age twelve. During his teen years, Duncan was in boarding school and frequently had his musical instruments confiscated for playing too loud. Duncan attended and graduated from Brown University in 1992. He didn't want to major in Music because he didn't want his education to influence his musical style. Duncan majored in Semiotics, the study of signs and symbols, instead. Sheik didn't seriously consider music until college, when he was in Lisa Lobe's band Liz and Lisa as her lead guitarist.

Following graduation, he drove across the country to Los Angeles where he shopped around his demo tape. This began what is referred to as Duncan's "Lost California Years." He was signed to a $100,000 contract with the rappy-type label Immortal Records. The contract went nowhere, and Duncan rotted in limbo for two years. During this time, he was miserable and passed the time by writing songs. He was freed from this musical hell in 1994 when Atlantic Records recognized his considerable talent and bought him off of Immortal.

The rest, as they say, is history. Duncan released his self-titled debut album, Duncan Sheik, on June 4, 1996 to glowing reviews. He even earned a four out of five star rating from the prestigious Rolling Stone. The single from it, "Barely Breathing," became the fourth longest running top 100 single in Billboard history after being listed for 55 weeks. His self-titled album later went gold. Duncan's second album, Humming, was released on October 6, 1998. The first single from it, "Bite Your Tongue," quickly became the most requested track in the country. Humming earned glowing reviews, earning Duncan the status of the most important new singer-songwriter of the decade.

On February 27, 2001, Duncan released his third album, Phantom Moon, on the label Nonesuch Records. Phantom Moon is a primarily acoustic project that came out of Duncan's collaboration with New York playwright Steven Sater. Duncan and Steven both belong to the New York branch of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and started working together when Steven asked Duncan to write the music for a play he was working on. Steven faxed Duncan lyrics and Duncan wrote the music to them. They came up with about 17 songs, and Duncan decided to make a record out of them. He brought it to Ron Shapiro, the General Manager of Atlantic Records, who suggested that they release it on Atlantic Records' partner label, Nonesuch.