Meet Sharif Iman, Our Musical Guest At Tonight’s JOYfm A Chocolate Affair
Listen to Sharif Iman this morning at 8am with Joe and Cheryl on Buffalo’s morning show, and hear him perform tonight at JOYfm’s A Chocolate Affair…
(Sharif Iman Biography from his website)
Back when singer/songwriters still thought that being signed to a major label was the ticket to fame and fortune, Sharif Iman (www.sharifiman.com) was brought to Nashville by renowned country music producer Frank Rogers, soon after Rogers heard the up and coming performer at a small club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Rogers, who would go on to helm projects by Nashville greats like Brad Paisley, Darryl Worley and Trace Adkins, told Iman he had the “X Factor” and could someday be a major pop/rock artist. With Rogers’ hands-on assistance, Iman honed his songwriting craft and quickly landed a co-publishing deal with EMI, signing him as a writer while helping him develop as a rock artist.
A dream come true, right?
Not quite. When the group who signed him moved on from EMI, so did Iman, in his own direction, packed with valuable lessons, a strong direction, and a determined will to outlast anyone.
Other publishing deals came his way, but he was dissatisfied with these arrangements. The music industry was shifting fast during this period and Indie labels and artists were rising in the changing tide. Iman realized this was his time to stay free of contracts, reflect, re-power his tools, write, watch and wait…for his opportunity to shine.
But he was broke, soon had little more than his guitar, and began that well-trodden journey of struggle for years as an aspiring artist in a town filled with great talent coming and going. Iman always had the option of returning home to Leesburgh, Virginia, but knew if he did, he’d be giving up on his dream, giving up on himself.
He chose to be homeless at times, finding beauty in all the connections the community had to offer, and wanted to share his journey of freedom and musical purity with anyone he touched. Nashville fed him, embraced him, loved him. And he loved back, with his time, his helping hand, his heart, his soul, his music. His spirit was infectious, and he felt his “family” growing at every turn. He wasn’t leaving. This big, gentle man, “The Chocolate Soul Child,” as many began naming him, wasn’t going anywhere, and certainly wasn’t going to give up.
So, as a prolific writer of hundreds of songs, it was only natural for the powerful, indie pop/rock album, Shine, to be Iman’s national, debut project; a musical journey echoing with hope, embracement and freedom. He was determined to share his inspiration and determination, and maybe awaken the same lying dormant within his listener.
His soulful, infectious title track, Shine, and its accompanying video, share this light of hope and connection. It’s a hard-hitting musical autobiography: “Said I wouldn’t quit till I reached the top/Well here I am and I’m still grooving/I’ve been working so hard, and I’ve been waiting so long…to Shine.”
It reminds us we can never give up, and that our own life journey is connected to a much larger world family. No wonder it’s receiving advanced airplay in the Midwest and will soon be impacting AC and Hot AC stations nationwide.
Nothing was going to stop Sharif Iman from living out his dream. It was easy to give up a professional soccer career or even a roof over his head to pursue his first love, music. “I was never going to find myself looking in the mirror at 50 or 60 asking, ‘What If?’ Scarier than not knowing how my musical dream would pan out, was the prospect of not seeing this dream through to fruition. I’m glad I stuck it out.”
“Shine is my debut album on the national level, and that’s making all the difference,” he adds. “What makes these songs stand out from my previous work is that I’m sharing many of the emotional and spiritual breakthroughs in my life. I’ve become a more mature and transparent writer, much happier with who and where I am, and the 13 songs on Shine reveal the raw ways I got a grip on my life and became satisfied in my own skin. I’m excited that songs like ‘Shine,’ ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Wake Up’ are inspiring people to make their own breakthroughs and keep pursuing their dreams, but on a musical level, I also think this is an album that people can really have fun with. It’s a ‘roll your top down, have a good time, life’s gonna be alright’ album.”
Iman’s musical dream began at age two, when he saw his brother Mark playing the guitar, loved the sound and began plucking at the strings. Growing up in Reston, Virginia, his heroes were Michael Jackson, Prince and The Police, and he knew he wanted to be an artist in the fullest sense of the word. He began writing songs at age eight and hasn’t been able to stop. He later took opera singing and diction lessons. His range as a singer was from liberal baritone 2 to tenor 2. He loved opera, but while attending Coker College in South Carolina, he focused on performance and spent many of his college years homeless, crashing in dorm rooms and writing on his acoustic guitar in the hallways at 2 a.m.
Making enough from part-time jobs to secure studio time, he recorded his first project and began pounding the pavement, passing out flyers for some local gigs he did in and around Florence, including Apple Annie’s, local coffee houses and private parties.
He soon hooked up with Swirl, a group with a Hootie and the Blowfish-Edwin McCain vibe that became regionally popular. While playing acoustic guitar and working on his songwriting, Iman secured work at venues like the Hard Rock Café and House of Blues and performed everywhere from Charleston to Hilton Head to different venues in Virginia and Myrtle Beach, where Frank Rogers first heard him. Choosing to leave the band after a successful five year run was hard, but Iman had never abandoned his aspirations of becoming a solo artist and had to take the chance on Nashville.
While Iman performed at local clubs like the Exit Inn, Rutledge, The End and 12th and Porter and worked day jobs painting and soccer training, he continued receiving encouragement from artists like Brian McKnight. He stayed highly focused on writing and recording projects for years, fine-tuning his sound, before embarking on Shine, the debut album he’s chosen to bring to the world. “Shine features the awakened spirit of my life and artistry right now and I’m ready to share it and share it wide!”
In fall 2009, Iman’s passion and faith in his dreams served him well when Liz Fox of Nashville-based Fox Music, LLC discovered his music online. She immediately recognized his tremendous talent and signed Iman to her Indie label with a plan to create his national, debut album he’s been ready to share. David Wilson and Mark Lambert of Nashville were brought on to produce and master Shine.
Iman’s longtime friend and colleague, Catherine Highfill, met him soon after he moved to Nashville. When she saw his was homeless she invited him to move into her home with her family and would encourage him with, “Sharif, you have it—it’s just a matter of time.” They reconnected just before he began working on the project and during the making of Shine they inked a management deal.
“I think that my life these days is so surreal, and having the opportunity to finally share my music with people around the world is an amazing experience,” he says. “I didn’t give up when everyone told me I should, and I didn’t give into those strong doubts we all can have at key times in our lives. People are ‘getting me’ and giving me that opportunity to ‘Shine.’ I want to write songs of hope and also give fans of pop and rock works of substance, like a buffet for their spirit. I want my album to help change the atmosphere of a person’s life so that they listen and understand that while life is often a hard walk, there is always hope. I want them to taste just some of the freedom I have found.”
A deeply spiritual person who is intent on giving back, Iman is passionate about his involvement in Nashville-based Project: AK47, 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 and are subject to physical, sexual and mental abuse. The organization has reached out to musicians like Iman to help increase awareness of the group and to assist with fundraising and financial support.