Sharif - Almost There
There comes a time after a breakup when you have to pull yourself up, dust yourself off, put the past behind you, move on and have a little fun. That time for Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Sharif is now with the release of his new five-song EP, Almost There.
"My last record, Kisses and Lies, was a breakup record and every song was about the same girl. It was so serious and deep, but that was me. Then. That was sad me. Now, I am over it and I'm writing happier songs. I'm single and I'm enjoying the excitement that comes with new relationships," says Sharif, who has three critically acclaimed and widely licensed independent releases under his belt (Kiss the Moon, Surrogate Lovers, and the aforementioned Kisses and Lies).
With this change of heart also came a slight change of musical direction, steering away from the Americana feel of his last few records and onto a more romantic-pop singer-songwriter feel on Almost There. "I wanted to write catchier, lighter songs that didn't make people want to kill themselves. It reflects how I am feeling now," explains the Portsmouth, Virginia-bred artist.
Case in point: The first single and lead track from the EP, the upbeat "I Don't Miss You," lets Sharif flex his lyrical funny bone a bit with a humorous pop-oriented tune about all that he doesn't like about being in a relationship. The chorus goes:
I don't miss candles in the bathroom
Tofu in the Fridge
Magazines with pointers on what to do in bed
I don't miss Carrie and Samantha, Charlotte or Miranda
And I Don't Miss You
"It's not about one particular girl," says Sharif of "I Don't Miss You." "I got over all of my breakups when I wrote this song. I thought it would be funny to think about the things that aren't great about a relationship. I was sitting in my bed at 2 a.m. and this long list of things that all girls do came to me. It's taking little jabs at girls, but it's stuff they can laugh at too. I'm sure they'd have plenty to say about me!"
Following the single-and-loving-it theme of Almost There is the track "More for Me," a slow romantic number about crushing on a cool girl. Meanwhile, "Wander Back to You," which features Jon Graboff (Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Norah Jones) on pedal steel guitar, is about the excitement of thinking of a new love constantly and "Dangerous Destination" is about not being able to tear yourself away from a girl who's not good for you. The EP also features a Velvet Underground cover, "Femme Fatale," about the darker side of relationships, and a hidden bonus track, a cover of the Beatles old-timey "Honey Pie."
As for the title Almost There, Sharif explains, "There are a lot of things in my life that are 'almost there.' I'm in a happier place than I was for my last record. I'm past the sad breakup, and I'm dating again. So I'm almost there -- there being in another, happier relationship. I've gotten lots of positive responses from my music. I'm almost at that next level in my career. Whatever that is… almost there."
Almost There was written between January and March 2011 at Sharif's Los Angeles home and recorded in 10 days in April 2011 at Tim Bradshaw's Studio 34 in Manchester, England. Bradshaw (John Mayer, David Gray, Josh Ritter), who played on Kisses and Lies, produced Almost There and contributes keyboards and backing vocals on the EP as well.
"Tim's a fantastic musician," says Sharif, who met Bradshaw through his Surrogate Lovers producer in 2003. "He can play any instrument, has perfect pitch, and was brimming with great ideas on interesting places to take my songs. When he was in town with David Gray, I mentioned to him that I wanted to do my record but didn't have a lot of money. He invited me to come out to Manchester and do it with him there and it was such a great experience. We'd work on the record in the day and at night I'd have dinner and play games with his three little daughters."
As luck would have it, a week before Sharif headed to England to record, he ended up getting news that the Italian government wanted to license "Dark Side of the Dawn," a track from Kisses and Lies that features Old 97's Rhett Miller, for a national TV commercial, thus paying for the production of Almost There.
Sharif, in fact, has had nearly every song licensed for film or TV over the years (300 credits and counting), including "Paradise" from Surrogate Lovers in the WB's hit show Supernatural ("It was featured in a sex scene. It's a sexy song, so that made me incredibly happy," smiles Sharif) and "Just Another" from Surrogate Lovers in the A&E Emmy Award winning series, Intervention. Also, seven of the 14 tracks on Kisses and Lies have been featured on MTV's 16 and Pregnant and one of his covers ended up on American Idol in 2010.
Music Connection magazine named Sharif one of the top unsigned artists in the US, while Kisses and Lies landed on many year-end best-of lists. Also, “Another Wasted Rose” received an honorable mention in the Billboard World Song Contest while “Dark Side of the Dawn” charted on the national FMQB charts. Sharif has also worked with legendary songsmith Desmond Child, landed endorsement deals with 10 major companies (including Gibson Guitars, Taylor Guitars, D'Addario Strings, and Red Bull), and garnered press accolades such as Vintage Guitar magazine calling his last release "an often moving, overwhelmingly pleasing, well-constructed album."
Sharif - who is currently earning his Masters at the Berklee College of Music - has made quite a name for himself on the touring front as well, vacillating from playing intimate solo acoustic shows of his original material to belting out cover tunes (from Rihanna's "Disturbia" to Maroon 5's "Won't Go Home Without You" to Beastie Boys "Girls") at biker bars to playing one of his favorite genres of music, oldies, at retirement centers (because he wants to, not because he has to) to corporate gigs for Gap and Amstel Light to opening for the likes of Jason Mraz, Kenny Loggins, Rhett Miller, Rusted Root, and Blake Shelton.
"Music consumes me," explains Sharif, who has approximately 2,000 shows around the world under his belt. "I just love playing music, teaching music, learning more about music, and doing whatever I can to get there."