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Duncan Sheik, Live in Studio 4A

Duncan Sheik in NPR's Studio 4A
David Banks, NPR Online /
Duncan Sheik in NPR's Studio 4A
Cover for Duncan Sheik's fourth CD, Daylight
/
Cover for Duncan Sheik's fourth CD, Daylight

Duncan Sheik burst onto the music scene in 1996 with his hit single "Barely Breathing," and garnered rave reviews for his own brand of folk-tinged pop music, featuring acoustic guitars, solid hooks and melodies and sensitive lyrics.

For his fourth record, New York-based Sheik — singer, songwriter, composer, producer and guitarist — went back to his roots in rock 'n' roll. Well, maybe not all the way back.

He sat down in NPR's Studio 4A with NPR's Jacki Lyden recently to chat and perform some of his songs. And he revealed tantalizing clues about his past life as a rocker.

Growing up in South Carolina, his first band — while in the 6th grade — was called Slightly Off. The band did Def Leppard and Van Halen covers, he says. "I still like to rock out sometimes," Sheik tells Lyden.

For his new CD, Daylight, Sheik says he intentionally aimed at crafting pop songs. And that in itself is a huge departure from the norm. "There was a whole stretch of time... where most pop music was totally uninteresting to me," he tells Lyden. "What I don't like is predictability and being convention-bound. There's some pop music that I really love — sometimes I'm really in the mood to listen to Coldplay or the Doves."

Even the pop sensibility of his latest offering can't mask the spirituality of his lyrics. Sheik has been a practicing Buddhist for 13 years. After a failed venture to get some of his songs published when he was 19, Sheik says he tried chanting with his aunt. "I realized that Buddhism is a good way of plugging into this huge source of creative energy."

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