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    Shaun Escoffery

    It was actor Idris Elba who convinced Shaun Escoffery that his future career lay in singing and acting. They were best friends in their teens in the East End of London and attended Barking and Dagenham College together. Idris was studying performing arts, Shaun had enrolled in an architectural course, but his friend soon convinced Shaun that he should give it up and do what he really wanted to do – join him on the performing arts course. “I did drama as part of the course, but most of my focus was on music,” recalls Shaun. From the age of 13 he had begun writing songs, inspired by the music collection of his father, who was a DJ at dancehall and blues clubs. “He introduced me to Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye”. His mother was in a lovers rock group with her cousin.

    The name Escoffery is a famous one in UK black music – the Escofferys, Michelle Escoffery (a cousin), and Shaun…. The family had Sicilian roots, with a great great grandparent travelling to Haiti in the nineteenth century, then the family moved to Jamaica and Anglicised their name. More recently, in the Sixties, Shaun’s parents emigrated to the UK from Jamaica. His songwriting led to Shaun’s first recording, singing on “Got To Find Me A Love” with D’Influence in the early Nineties at the age of 17. “They gave me my break, showed me how it works in the studio,” he says. And then his nascent music career took an interesting turn. He auditioned for “Mama I Want To Sing”, the soul-gospel musical based on the life of Doris Troy, which opened in London’s West End in 1995. The cast list was phenomenal – Chaka Khan, Doris Troy herself, and subsequently Mica Paris and Deniece Williams. “I was going to go on tour with D’Influence but chose to do the show instead,” he explains.

    “It was an amazing experience performing on stage with such great singers. And everyone came to see the show – mainly to see Chaka – Luther, Prince, Stevie Wonder. I got to meet them all. One night I got to sing a song with Stevie, and on one occasion I was singing on stage with Prince” It was the beginning of a string of musical roles for Shaun. He went into a production of “Tommy” immediately afterwards, playing the role of The Hawker, meeting Pete Townshend, who gave him encouragement. Then came “Smokey Joe’s Cafe”, the musical revue based on the songs of Leiber and Stoller – including hits by the Drifters, the Coasters, Ben E. King and Elvis.

    His roles in musical theatre became more varied. In “Les Miserables” he played Enjoiras, a leader of the rebellion, then in 2007 he went into “Parade”, a hard-hitting American musical play by Jason Robert Brown, at London’s Donmar Warehouse. Critics gave him rave reviews and he was nominated for an Olivier Award as Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. The Independent reviewer wrote: “There are some great voices in this show, most notably Shaun Escoffery who is sensational as the black perjuring janitor who ends up on a chain gang”.

    Then came what is now a six-year run as Mufasa in the London production of the Tim Rice-Elton John hit show “The Lion King”. Shaun’s solo recording career began in 2001, just after he had been performing in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe”. The album was self-written or co-written with his friend Geoffrey Williams. Shaun recalls: “Trevor Nelson jumped on ‘Space Rider’, then when the album came out everyone gravitated to ‘Days Like This’. Elton John also championed the album – I was amazed to be watching a TV interview with Elton when he name-checked me as one of his favourite new artists, and he later invited me to meet him at one of his London shows”

    Both the initial singles made the UK charts. “Days Like This” had started out as “an acoustic guitar thing”, but the subsequent release of the DJ Spinna remix took him down the club route for the first time. In 2003 his label Oyster released a remix album “Soulonica”, with contributions from Jazzanova, DJ Spinna, Koop and Mark de Clive-Lowe, among others. And in 2007 came “Move Into Soul”, an album produced by Shaun with Geoffrey Williams, which featured his interpretation of some of his favourite soul songs, among them “Why Can’t We Live Together” and “A Change Is Gonna Come”. In 2002 Shaun was asked by boxer Lennox Lewis to sing the National Anthem at his title bout with Mike Tyson in Memphis – the star-studded crowd included Denzel Washington, Samuel L Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Richard Gere and Halle Berry.

    Away from music, he enjoys mixed martial arts – wrestling, kickboxing, karate and Gracie jiu-jitsu brown belt which he has been competing in for the past 12 years.

    The album “In The Red Room”, in 2014, his first for Dome, was his first recording in seven years. “I’ve taken my time, a couple of years of writing and recording. I wanted to have something to say, it takes time to get to that point, to say what’s in your heart. Meeting up with Gil Cang was a blessing. Kwame Kwaten from D’Influence introduced us.”

    The first Four singles from the album, “Nature’s Call”, “People” and “Nobody Knows” and “Perfect Love Affair”, have all received A-list rotation from BBC Radio 2 and all three have charted in the UK Airplay Top 50, the album was made Album of the week on BBC Radio as well as being added to the BBC Local Radio Central Playlist. During the campaign he has appeared on Jools Holland and a Radio 1xtra live lounge.

    In September 2016 he released his second album on Dome ‘Evergreen’ . The first single taken from the album “When The Love Is Gone”, enjoyed heavy rotation on the BBC Radio 2 playlist garnering a Single of the Week addition followed by A-list rotation.

    Shaun played a short UK tour in the autumn of 2016, selling out the prestigious Union Chapel in London. In 2017 he already has another Radio 2 A list record “Healing Me” and is a key part of Radio 2 at Cheltenham Jazz Festival and will play a headline show at the Soulstice Festival in June