WASHINGTON — Meet Nasim Siddeeq, a boyish-faced New York-born singer with the placid soul of a man years his senior. This independent artist now calls the D.C. area home. His new CD, titled “Singing for My Life,” takes the listener on a seven-song roller coaster ride with lyrics, verve and emotion to escort the listener through the ebbs and flows as a melodic love relationship runs its course.
“That title encompasses many things,” Siddeeq told WTOP. “First, taking a leap of faith to sing for my life. I quit my job as a Spanish teacher this year.”
“There were some times I would be in class, I would give the kids something [to do and], I’d be working on a flyer for an event. And then, you know, I felt guilty,” he said. “There’d be other times kids would be telling me about their lives, you know, how they did at a sporting event or how they did in a musical or a play, and I had no clue what was going on in the school … If I do something, I want to do it all out, and I wasn’t being the best teacher, mentor and coach that I could be.”
It was then that he decided to pursue a full-time career in music.
Sideeq said the reasons behind the name of his project are that “when I perform or when I record, I sing really, really hard, like I’m singing for my life, like it’s my last chance to do what I love most. … I used to have some bad habits, and singing has been a huge help to keep me away from those habits. So singing for my life is, I guess, my therapy and it’s my getaway, it’s my release.”
August will mark nine months of complete sobriety, which he pursued in order to be prepared for any future opportunities to come.
“I want to be prepared, and I don’t want to be under the influence of anything. If that opportunity comes, I just want to be ready to take full advantage of it.”
As with many singers, church can provide an open and encouraging practice ground for budding musicians to hone their talents, and Siddeeq had that opportunity during his childhood. He said his grandmother discovered his raw vocal talent during bath time as a young boy. He couldn’t get a gospel song out of his mind — “Oh Happy Day,” the version from the movie “Sister Act, II.”
“I had that song stuck in my head, and I was singing it. And my Grandma she came upstairs and she said ‘Nasim, do that again.’ That’s the first moment I really remember … someone recognizing I had that in me.
Lots of encouragement flowed from the New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Middletown, New York, where Siddeeq grew up singing.
“I sang with the adult choir, and I used to lead the children’s choir as well.”
These days, he plays the guitar, but one of his first instruments was the tambourine, and of course, those vocal chords.
“My voice has developed over the years, but my brother, sister, mom, they heard all those bad notes in the shower.” But they’re included in his pantheon of cheerleaders.
The 29-year-old has gleaned inspiration from several old school R&B artists such as Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Aretha Franklin to Luther Vandross, Anita Baker and more contemporary singers such as John Legend, Musiq Soulchild, Chris Brown, as well as gospel artists such as BeBe and CeCe Winans, Smokie Norful. He also cites Latin musical influences from the Boleros, Bachata, Merengue and Salsa genres.
“Those feelings I get when I hear that music, I want people to feel that again when they hear my stuff.”