West End star Shaun Escoffery on empowering new music and friendship with Idris Elba

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    Singer Shaun Escoffery

    British singer Shaun is empowered by his new album (Image: James Hole 2019)

    “When lockdown started, theatre and music just stopped and it’s a bit of a shock to the system. A few years back I didn’t have a day off all year. Now I’m chomping at the bit to perform again and I’m inspired by this new world that we’re living in.”

    The 45 year old, who lives in London, is used to lengthy days rushing from recording studio to the Lyceum Theatre, where he’s starred as Mufasa in The Lion King for 12 years running.

    “There are times where I’ve been exhausted, but I’m so driven,” admits the star, who in the past has barely seen his seven-year-old daughter Farah.

    “I’ve been trying to instil a work ethic in a gentle way.”

    “If you don’t try and work hard, you can’t expect to achieve.”

    “Nothing comes for free, and I can’t preach that and not put it into action.”

    “She needs to see that her dad is ambitious and works towards his dreams.”

    Shaun Escoffery as Mufasa on the West End stage

    Shaun is the longest-standing actor in the world to play Mufasa in The Lion King (Image: Disney)

    Shaun is a record-breaker, becoming the longest-standing actor in the world to play this character.

    He also possesses one of the most recognisable voices in Britain, which comes as quite a surprise to the humble singer.

    “Oh my gosh, that’s wonderful, I’m overwhelmed,” he laughs.

    “When I first started singing I used to ask myself, ‘What do I want out of this?’”

    “I want to be recognised as a good singer who is passionate about people.”

    “Music is something that you can indulge and embrace by yourself but, ultimately, you get more enjoyment out of it when people share the same experience.”

    Shaun’s been singing since childhood and will soon have six studio albums to his name, featuring on BBC Radio 1 and the Radio 2 Playlist.

    He’s wowed crowds in the West End since his teens, starring in Chaka Khan’s Mama, I Want to Sing and as Enjolras in Les Miserables – the first black actor to play the character.

    He even caught the eye (and ears) of one of music’s biggest legends, Elton John, who revealed his admiration for Shaun and his songs on television.

    “I was at home eating a sandwich and I heard Elton say my name on a talk show.”

    “He loved my music.”

    “I thought, ‘The legend Elton John has just mentioned me. That’s it, I’m good,’” he laughs.

    “Elton invited me to his show in London and last year he brought his sons to see The Lion King and we met again in the interval.”

    “He paid me some fantastic compliments. Such a lovely guy.”

    Shaun smiles for the camera

    Shaun was blown away by Elton John’s praise (Image: James Hole 2019)

    Shaun’s latest album, Strong Enough, is bursting with soul and soaring vocals, exploring life’s struggles and the empowerment of reaching out in times of need.

    Every song is full of passion and drive to inspire all those lost in their troubles to speak out and express how they feel.

    Shaun’s single River implores the listener to never face their problems alone.

    “Only after we recorded that song did we realise how relevant it was for the times we live in,” he muses.

    River represents life and how we get caught up in the currents.”

    “Don’t let that river engulf you.”

    “There’s always something or someone to hold on to.”

    Strong Enough is a personal journey for Shaun, digging deeper into his emotions and setting his feelings free through song.

    It’s a more mature album, he says, approaching the past he’s been hiding from and looking forward to the future.

    “It’s hard for me to talk about how I feel but if I put pen to paper, sing the lyrics and get that melody going, it connects those words with the emotion and I can express it freely,” he says.

    “I go through struggles, too. There is power in being vulnerable as a man.”

    Shaun’s physically strong, too, practising martial arts such as boxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

    He’s even taught self-defence to his castmates, who leave the theatre late at night.

    “People would give their right arm to do what I’m doing,” admits Shaun.

    “I make the most of what I’m doing and that’s driven me more than anything else.”

    Shaun promotes his new album

    Shaun set his feelings free through his new music (Image: PR handout)

    It’s hard to believe but without the encouragement of one famous friend, Shaun would not be the successful singer he is today.

    The star enrolled on a construction course but his pal Idris Elba would not let his voice go unheard.

    “My parents said I couldn’t rely on singing and it’s true, it’s not a stable career.”

    “I chose to study architecture and I ended up hanging out with the performing arts people.”

    “I remember Idris heard me sing and said [in a cockney accent], ‘You can’t sit on that voice, mate, know what I mean?’”

    Shaun enrolled in the performing arts course a year later and the rest is history.

    “I’ve been friends with Id since I was 15 and he persuaded me to change my path,” he explains.

    “Id and I caught up about two weeks ago and he berated me because I couldn’t go to his wedding.”

    “I was absolutely gutted that I couldn’t go.”

    “We don’t see each other as much as we’d like but that guy is so busy and has a wise head on his shoulders.”

    Shaun and his friend actor Idris Elba

    Shaun was urged by his friend Idris Elba to choose a singing career (Image: Alistair Hallam)

    As lockdown slowly lifts, Shaun looks forward to returning to his busy schedule, writing more music and stepping back onstage to play the king of the Pridelands.

    “Mufasa is a complex man, a spiritual warrior, but he’s extremely humble, too.”

    “It took a while to understand that and grow into him.”

    “It’s been quite a journey,” he reveals.

    “I hide behind a mask in theatre and that gives me a lot of solace.”

    “When I sing my own music I open up much more.”

    “I owe it to the people who have paid to see me to give a full expression of what these songs mean to me.”

    “I give 100 per cent for everyone, every single time.”

    Shaun Escoffery’s new album, Strong Enough, is out on Decca Records on Friday.



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