Duncan Sheik and Suzanne Vega have both proven their abilities to put on a great show and their gifts for incredible songwriting. Both have won Grammys and Sheik has won two Tonys for his composition of Broadway’s “Spring Awakening.” The two have been friends for the last 15 years and share a talent for writing and performing original music.
This April 27 the pair will take the stage at the and perform a variety of songs together, as well as their own sets. Both are promoting new albums to be released in the next year. And for Sheik, he is not traveling far from (second) home to be here.
Sheik, well known for his 1996 hit “Barely Breathing,” in addition to his composition work, owns a home and recording studio in Garrison, just north of Peekskill. He has recently been spending time at his Garrison home recording his latest album, to be released next year. The Hilton Head, South Carolina native considers TriBeCa, New York his permanent home.
Earlier this month I interviewed the composer and musician and learned about his history with Vega, his Buddhism, his run in with the Peekskill police, his trips to the Beach Shopping Center and Sherman Williams, and nostalgia for the 80s.
Sheik and Vega first met through mutual acquaintances and formed a bond over an appreciation for each other’s music and because they are both practicing Buddhists, Sheik said.
Sheik learned Buddhism when he was about 19 years old, a time when he was dealing with a lot of anxiety.
“It helped me to deal with that stuff and gave me an enormous amount of creative energy and I started writing songs,” he said. He had played guitar since he was a child but was not sure what direction to take his music until he adopted Buddhism as a religion.
“Our paths kept crossing because we knew the same set of people and the same set of musicians and we ended up working together,” Sheik said of his and Vega’s relationship. “She is really unique and amazing artist and has this incredible way of looking at the world and writes incredible sons,” he said.
The two have spent time practicing at his Garrison home this month. He bought the home in 2009 and built a recording studio called Sneaky Studios, open for artists to use and stay if necessary.
“(Garrison) is just a really kind of beautiful, untouched place. It is relatively close to the city and I found a nice piece of property there… I just make a lot of noise and no one bothers me,” Sheik said.
While spending time in our area, Sheik once got pulled over in Peekskill because his car registration was expired.
“The cops were really nice and some of them knew my music so we ended up taking photos,” he said.
Other than that Peekskill experience, Sheik has mostly only utilized the city’s Beach Shopping Center and Sherman Williams. He looks forward to playing in the Paramount Theater and was enthusiastic about trying some of our local restaurants when I told him he should check them out.
“I love playing old theaters,” he said.
Sheik’s most recent projects are the album he is currently working on, his “Covers 80s” album, which was released last June, and the score of a theater adaptation of “American Psycho.”
The 80s album was a project Sheik views as an “homage” to artists and bands that influenced him as a teenager. It features twelve of his highly personalized takes on the synth-pop era, including smashes and obscurities from the likes of the Cure, New Order, Tears for Fears, the Smthe Thompson Twins, Love & Rockets, Howard Jones, Ja Nile.
“I was kind of an Anglophile in terms of music I listened to. I made this record as a way of re-imagining the music from that time. Some people make fun if it because it is funny 80s pop music. But I am trying to show the other side of the coin about what 80s music is all about and strip away the production of that time and do something that is really organic and acoustic.”
Other than the nostalgia of the 80s, Sheik appreciates that the decade served as “kind of like the dirt of electronic,” a time when electronic music just began.
What about the 80s does Sheik not miss?
“The haircuts and shoulder pads. I guess sometimes shoulder pads are ok,” he said.
Sheik re-imagined 80s music for his last album, and he is re-imagining Broadway music for his latest score.
The score for "American Psycho" is completely electronic. “The band will be like a Depesh Mode sitting in a pit of a Broadway show,” he said. Sheik has written 16 songs for the play, including music and lyrics, and expects it to be in its first production by 2013, most likely first in London and then New York.
This April 27 you will have the opportunity to hear some of Sheik and Vega’s newest personal music to be released on their next solo albums. To order tickets for the show visit paramountcenter.org. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $35- $55.
To read more about Sheik, visit his website here.