CD Review and background – Sharif Iman – Shine
Release Date: January 25, 2011
by Jade Sperry
Nashville based pop rock singer/songwriter Sharif Iman (originally of Leesburg VA) has come a long way since his days as a homeless performer. The story begins when Sharif was brought to Nashville by renowned country music producer Frank Rogers (Brad Paisley, Darryl Worley, Josh Turner and Trace Adkins) who heard him performing at a small club in Myrtle Beach SC. Rogers told Sharif that he had the “x-factor” and could someday be a major pop/rock artist. With hands-on assistance from Rogers, Sharif honed his songwriting craft and quickly landed a co-publishing deal with EMI. H was signed as a writer while they helped him develop as a rock artist.
However, when the group who had signed him to EMI moved on, so did Sharif. But in his own direction. He had a strong determination to take what he had learned and carve his own path. Other deals came his way but he was dissatisfied with these and didn’t take them. At this time, the music industry was shifting fast and independent labels and artists were on the rise. Sharif soon realized that he needed to stay free of contracts, reflect and re-power his tools, write songs, watch the industry carefully and wait for his own opportunity to shine.
But soon he was broke and had little more than his guitar and a well-trodden journey of struggle in a town filled with great talent that comes and goes. He always had the option of returning home to Virginia, but, if he did that he’d be giving up on his dream and on himself.
He chose to be homeless, finding beauty in all the connections the community had to offer and he wanted to share his journey of freedom and musical purity with anyone he touched. Essentially, Nashville fed him, embraced him and loved him. He gave back that love with his time, his helping hand, his heart and soul and his music. He is a big, gentle man whose nickname “The Chocolate Soul Child” was what people referred to him as. He wasn’t going anywhere and he was not giving up.
His CD Shine is to be his national debut project, a musical journey that echoes of hope, freedom and of being embraced. This determination reminds us that we can never give up on our own dreams and ambitions, and that our own life journey is connected to a much larger world family. Sharif’s music is gaining advanced airplay in the Midwest US and will soon be impacting Adult Contemporary stations nationwide.
In Sharif’s own words: “I was never going to find myself looking in the mirror at 50 or 60 and be asking myself “What if…?” That’s scarier than not knowing how my musical dream would pan out! I’m glad that I’m seeing this dream through to fruition and I’m glad I stuck it out.”
Sharif’s musical dream began at age two when he saw his brother Mark playing the guitar. He loved the sound and began plucking at the strings. Growing up in Reston, VA, his heroes were Michael Jackson, Prince and The Police. He knew that he wanted to be an artist. He began writing songs at the age of eight and hasn’t stopped. He has taken opera singing and diction lessons and his range as a singer is from a liberal baritone 2 up to a tenor 2. He attended Coker College in South Carolina and focused on the performance aspect. He spent many of his college years homeless, crashing in dorm rooms and writing on his acoustic guitar in the hallways at 2 AM.
He recorded his first project and began pounding the pavement, passing out flyers for his local gigs. He soon hooked up with Swirl, a group with a Hootie and the Blowfish/Edwin McCain vibe that became regionally popular. He secured work at venues like the Hard Rock Cafe and The House of Blues and performed everywhere from Charleston to Hilton Head to different venues in Virginia and Myrtle Beach, which is where Frank Rogers first heard him. Sharif left the band after a successful five year run and decided to follow his dream of becoming a solo artist and he had to take the chance on Nashville.
In Nashville, he played in clubs like The End, Exit Inn and Rutledge and worked day jobs painting and soccer training. He continued to receive encouragement from artists like Brian McKnight and always from Frank Rogers. He stayed highly focused on writing and recording projects for years, fine-tuning his sound before he embarked on Shine.
In the fall of 2009, Sharif’s passion and faith in his dream served him well when Liz Fox of the Nashville-based Fox Music, LLC discovered his music online. She immediately recognized his talent and signed Sharif to her indie label with a plan to create his national debut album. David Wilson and Mark Lambert were brought in to produce, mix and master Shine.
Sharif’s longtime Nashville friend and colleague Catherine Highfill helped him out by having him stay with her family when he was homeless and always encouraged him relentlessly. At that time, Catherine had a PR agency located on Music Row and they both felt that one day they would work together. They reconnected just before he began working on Shine and they inked out a management deal.
Sharif strongly believes in giving back to the community that helped him for so long in Nashville. He has “Project: AK47” which is an NGO dedicated to rescuing and restoring the lives of children in Asia, Africa and Latin America who otherwise would only know lives of violence and exploitation. Those involved help save child soldiers who have been brainwashed by drug lords to rape and murder. These children have been subject to physical, sexual and mental abuse. The organization has reached out to musicians like Sharif to help increase awareness of the group to assist with fund-raising and financial support.
The 12 song CD opens with “Feel Me” which is upbeat, funky and powerful. This song is very fluid with vocals like velvet. The melody is very uplifting and the song itself is performed well. All the instruments meld together and are understated with the vocals layered over top. Lyrically I feel it’s about a long struggle with a dream that may or may not happen but working hard to achieve it – “I got my shine on from the inside/Nothing is bringing me down”. The lead off single for the CD “Shine” starts out slow and a certain feeling builds consistently throughout the song. The melody is very soft but powerful in its intention within the song. The lyrics to this song are a very personal statement for Sharif – “Said I wouldn’t quit till I reach the top/Well here I am and I’m still grooving/Aren’t you proud of me/I’m talking bout my family/And all the ones who were there for me/That knew one day I would”. Musically all the instruments blend well behind the vocals which are outstanding. Sharif can sing really well and is a very crafty songwriter with abilities that really shine from the inside out. Although more in the adult contemporary range, many people will find something within the songs on this CD to relate to. Other standout songs are “New York”, “That Girl” and “Tennessee”. This is one talented man who is ready to take his musical life to the next level. I feel that exciting times are ahead for Sharif.
His website can be found HERE with all kinds of information on the singer.
Video for the song SHINE