Duncan Sheik was sequestered in East Hampton, N.Y.

But he halted his writing retreat for a recent interview. The Grammy-winning musician has penned pop songs, including the certified gold "Barely Breathing." He's composed scores for musicals, including the Tony-winning "Spring Awakening."

"In this case, I'm writing this little book," he said. "This is my first book. It's my foray into long-form."

Sheik couldn't go into detail about the project, but he admitted that a 200-page task is daunting for someone who usually writes 20 lines.

"I don't know if I'm any good as a writer yet," he said. "I've read a lot of good writers, who are inspirations. I'm a voracious reader."

His reading list includes contemporary British writers, including Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan. Sheik also enjoyed "The Marriage Plot," written by fellow Brown University grad Jeffrey Eugenides. The book's plot revolves around a semiotics seminar at Brown University.

"It was a little too close to home," Sheik, who majored in semiotics, said with a laugh. "It brought me back."

Even though he started playing guitar at 5, Sheik didn't want to study music in school. He worried it would stunt his creativity, so he focused on other subjects.

But music became his career. His self-titled debut hit shelves in 1996. His latest effort "Duncan Sheik: Covers 80s" came out in June. In between, he released eight other albums and composed music for film and stage.

On Dec. 2, Sheik planned to leave his writing bubble to begin rehearsals for a "mini-tour." The eight-show run was set to kick off Wednesday, Dec. 7, in Delaware. Saturday, Dec. 10, Sheik takes the stage at the Capitol Theatre in York.

Listeners can expect a stripped-down show with Sheik and multi-instrumentalist Jason Hart sharing the stage.

"I'm in a slightly strange position," Sheik said. "(There are) 10 albums of material that I have to choose from. It makes it tricky to figure out what I'm going to play. I feel like I've played music from my catalog a lot."

So, he crafts each setlist differently. Sometimes, he throws in songs from "Spring Awakening" and "Whisper House," the concept album he released in 2009.

"It's a ghost story set in World War II," he said. "(Singer Holly Brooks and I) are two ghosts singing songs to a little boy. There is a narrative arc to the whole thing."

Sheik collaborated with a friend, Kyle Jarrow, to turn it into a musical. It debuted last year in San Diego.

"I'm really proud of it," Sheik said. He added that he hopes it can make its way to New York City.

After "Whisper House," Sheik did a 180 and released an '80s cover album.

"There is all this music that I listened to as a teenager; those were the bands that impressed me," he said of the synth-pop he gravitated to in high school.

He pulled the songs inside out and re-imagined them without drums or effects. Some titles - "Shout" by Tears For Fears and "Hold Me Now" by Thompson Twins - are familiar. Others - "Kyoto Song" by The Cure - are Sheik favorites and more obscure.

"It's . . . hopefully kind of a nostalgia-filled journey," he said of his tour. "This might be my last hurrah of acoustic (songs)."

On his next album, Sheik plans to go electronic. Concertgoers might catch a new tune or two Saturday. But Sheik will have to squeeze in time to finish the songs between other projects.

He's currently working on the musical adaptation of "American Psycho," a 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis. Christian Bale starred in the 2000 movie adaptation.

The musical is still in development. The plan, Sheik said, is to move it into the production phase in the next 18 months.

"We had our first workshop a few months ago in New York," he said. "It's really intense. It's really out there."

This summer, Sheik will be busy with the first staging of "The Nightingale" - an adaptation of a Hans Christian Anderson tale. He teamed back up with his "Spring Awakening" collaborator Steven Sater to bring the show to the stage.

"You kind of cross your fingers and hopefully it will do well," he said.

And, of course, Sheik plans to finish his book. But, with his schedule, he might need to plan another retreat soon.

- Erin McCracken, FlipSide staff

If you go

WHAT: CapLive presents Duncan Sheik

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10

WHERE: Capitol Theatre, 50 N. George St., York

COST: $21

DETAILS: 846-1111;


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