Lion King’s Shaun Escoffery has been thrilling West End audiences with his powerful and soulful voice since he was a teenager. Holding the prestigious role of Mufasa in The Lion King for the past 12 years (the longest-standing actor in the world to do so), Shaun has been championed by Sir Elton John and childhood friend Idris Elba, becoming one of the most recognisable voices in the country. His new album ‘Strong Enough’, is released on Decca Records on 3rd July 2020, with the tracks ‘River’ and ‘Candle’ available now to stream and download.

Featuring gritty guitar riffs, gospel inflections and a driving rhythm, Shaun’s irresistible voice soars high above the instrumentation as he sings about the universal issues that make us human. Speaking about the track, Shaun said: “River is a metaphor for life’s troubles, and life (the river) can be overwhelming. Sometimes the current is so strong that you lose grip and it starts to suck you under. It can be confusing and leave you feeling an all-consuming helplessness. The song is saying don’t keep thoughts and feelings to yourself – share your feelings and problems. Whether that’s with friends, family or a spiritual outlet, don’t face your problems alone.”

‘River’ is just one of the many moments of pure bliss on ‘Strong Enough’. Shaun describes the dozen songs on his new album – produced by Troy Miller (Gregory Porter, Amy Winehouse), with four songs produced by Peter Vettese (Pet Shop Boys, Cher) – as soulful: “There’s a little bit folk, slightly rocky, blues, but the essence is soulful.”

Throughout his album, Shaun aims to fight the stereotypes associated with toxic masculinity by showing both strength and sensitivity in his music in equal amounts. He explains: “I grew up practising boxing and martial arts, which is an arena where strength, courage and machismo are encouraged. Where it becomes distorted is when a man is defined by these attributes alone.

As I have got older and matured as a performer, the internal battle of wanting to express myself through words and music contrasted with not wanting to come across as ‘weak’ has lessened. Men don’t tend to put our feelings down on paper, but I’m writing using my real feelings and real emotions. By opening ourselves up to show that vulnerability, that’s where we demonstrate our real strength.”

Born and raised in East London, music has always been an integral part of Shaun’s life. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing. From the beginning, it has always been the dream. Always. At home it was music, music, music – Mum was a singer and Dad was a DJ. I began to start writing and recording with a mate, performing at church. My school report advised my parents to encourage me in music.”

Yet it took his friend Idris Elba, a fellow student at Barking College, to convince him to take it seriously. Following the release of his self-titled debut in 2002, Shaun received an unexpected boost. “I was watching Elton John being interviewed on TV. He’s always got his ear to the ground musically and he was asked, ‘Who are you listening to at the moment?’ I was eating something, and he said, ‘There’s this guy Shaun Escoffery, his album passed my way and I thought, ‘Flipping hell, what a voice! I love this guy.’ I choked on my food!”

Since then, Shaun has enjoyed a string of BBC Radio 2 A-List singles and recently appeared on Michael Ball and Alfie Boe’s ITV special. Despite his success, he has never let it go to his head and continues a ritual that keeps his feet firmly on the ground: “I come home and first thing I do the dishes. Normal life, to bring myself down. It calms me.”

With the release of ‘Strong Enough’, Shaun hopes he can uplift those who may be enduring hardships, uniting people with the transcendental power of music.

‘Strong Enough’ by Shaun Escoffery is out on Decca Records on 3rd July 2020

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