Omaha Famous #45

Local music, food, and people, you should know

Shafeeq Coleman – Singer, American Idol, and Omaha Karaoke Hero

I sat down with Shafeeq Coleman to learn a little more about his story, how he can sing so darn well, and what he’s all about. Check it out below!

Tell us a little about yourself Shafeeq –

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Love that place. We have family here we moved here. It was tough growing up, grew up in a bad neighborhood. But it’s one of those things that you learn how to be grateful for what you got now, because you come a long ways.

We moved here to Nebraska to get away from trouble. And we had family here. Moved away so things would be a lot better. Which Omaha is…very quiet and peaceful. Great place to raise a family.

Do you have kids?

Actually I do, two kids and a wife. My daughter is 13, her name is Zoey. Got a little son, his name is Shafeeq JR, and he’s 5 years old. And I got a beautiful wife, her name is Brandi.

Tell me about your musical career? And your ambitions…Because you are great, I’ve heard you and you smoke everyone at the karaoke stage –

Haha..I’m alright. I’m not much of a singer but I try…I’m just very humble, the thing is, I started off singin’ when I was 3. My grandmother, she taught me how to sing. When I was younger, I always wanted to be a drummer. I was like, “I wanna drum, I play drums all day long”

That’s how Barry White started…

Yup..and my grandmother, she was like, “Nope, you are gonna be a singer.” So after that happened, I said, “Okay, I’ll be a singer.” So I practiced and I practiced and I practiced, starting at the age of 3. There were days where I couldn’t go out and play with my friends because I was practicing, I was singing.

To me, it was upsetting to a point. But she was getting me ready for something. And I started enjoying it. And when I get older, her and my grandfather used to take me to restaurants, and I would have this little karaoke machine with a microphone, and she would make me sing on that machine in front of a whole group of people in a restaurant..

Just a random restaurant?

Just in a random restaurant, and it would be all the time. When we would go out to dinner, it would be 3 or 4 times a week. We would do it there, in Omaha, in Iowa, travel to Chicago, do out there, all over. And I think what she was doin was giving me exposure, getting me comfortable in front of the crowd.

As I grew up, just kept practicing, kept praciticing, kept being on it. Learning songs…Some of the first songs I learned were “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston. Song a lot of Beth Midler.

I did a lot of woman songs because as a young kid I had the voice for it. I was like a little Michael Jackson. Just growing up, and being able to hit those notes. There were times where I would have a hard time hitting notes. But I kept practicing and doing it, and doing it, and I conquered it. And it gave me a lot of confidence.

So that’s kind of how I started off. I started off young, and as I am talking to you, I can see it. It’s just jogging my mind of all the good times…And honestly, I really thank God now that I’m older, that she did have me sing instead of play drums. And I can play drums a little bit now, but it’s not like my singing.

And my singing you know, it’s passionate. I when I hear a song I feel it whole-fully, and soulfully…

Later on – I got accepted to Arista, the same record label that Whitney Houston was a part of, and I got to take my grandmother with me, to visit Arista in New York. My grandmother and I couldn’t believe the luxury. We had a Lincoln Town Car pick us up at the airport, and took us to a very classy hotel. Every morning they would bring you Fuji bottle water…

Ooo that’s how you know it’s a nice hotel..

Yea Fuji bottle water every morning..

You got a taste of the lifestyle…

Yup, yup..

So how did you get involved in American Idol?

So the reason I got into Idol was , at first, I thought about doing an audition…

And how old were you at this time?

So..2006. I’m 37 right now, so 2006. I was about 24. I was out there doin it. My Auntie was like, “Hey Shafeeq, you should go do American Idol.”

The first audition was in St. Louis. So I went out for it. It was at like, Denver Broncos dome or something like that. So there was a dome, and you could stay down there in the dome, stay overnight in the hallway before you go in..It was a long process honestly.

When it finally got to me, I actually had to compete. This is kind of scene that nobody sees in the beginning, but me and one other girl had to compete against a few other people. And I actually beat them out, and made it through the pre-judges. Before you go in front of the executive, star-judges…

And at that time, you had Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul?…

Yup, Simon, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson.

That was the original lineup, the golden age…

Yup, that was the amazing time. And they had a special guest line-up, and I got Kenny Loggins. Mr. Footloose himself…So I got pictures with him. And many others, they are all legends..

Yea and Simon Cowell is pretty incredible, as a businessman…

Right, and he’s a great man. I still talk to him, I still talk to him this day. Idol wasn’t one of those things where I didn’t get to stay in contact, I got far enough where I got to connect with them on a personal level, and on a business level as well. We would connect.

Now the situation is, I made it all the way through, but I ended up getting called off the show, because I have a degree in music. I have a masters in music also..

Oh that’s messed up, so you were too qualified basically?

I was too qualified basically. So they said, “We want you to work for us, we want you to write for us, produce for us” So I did a lot of that also.

Oh so you got a deeper relationship with them because you actually got to work with them.

Oh yea, I actually did a lot of traveling with them. State to state when they had events come up in Chicago, and Texas, I would go with them and basically cheer on everybody. I would encourage people to try out, and encourage people to do what they do.

Almost like an A&R position, but for American Idol.

Right, right. And it’s kinda funny cuz some of the new artists, and singers that they had, I ended up working with them, teaching them things, that a lot of people didn’t know. And I really enjoyed doing that.

So Simon Cowell is kind of a cool dude huh?

Amazing dude. The only reason he act the way he act on American Idol…

It’s a schtick..

It’s a show. It’s all about the ratings. It’s about what his boss can get from it.

Didn’t he discover One Direction?

Yup, he sure did. He owned a lot of record labels before he started at American Idol.

Who ended up winning Idol the time that you auditioned?

Carrie Underwood.

Yup, so after doing Idol, I was still under contract for them, writing, singing. And a lot of things with Idol, I had to take tours all over the world. I’ve been to Bora Bora, Tahiti, Germany, Israel – all over performing, singing on cruise ships, different bookings.

It’s been amazing, to see the world, to be able to get out and enjoy life, when you are overseas it’s like a fantasy world. And making a living doing it.

Was that hard on your family?

Yea it was. When I left and went over seas my daughter was born. It was really tough. The toughest part…is calling back. When you are overseas you get disconnected, I had to use satellite phones, and the minutes over there are crazy.

And they didn’t have Whatsapp back then..

No they didn’t. And it’s hard when you are talking to someone and it’s cutting out. And your kids wish you were home. It hits you hard at home. When you are out making a living.

That kid can have, and does have, everything that it needs and wants, but the most valuable thing about that child is the fact that that child didn’t have their daddy right there. And it took a while to get back. You can’t always make time to come back to your family.

And as much as you want to take them with you, that would mean taking them out of school, and traveling a lot. It was tough.

And how long were you doing that?

I did that about a year and a half. About 2 years. Traveling nonstop. I would go to Florida, Seattle, do listening parties, go back home for a few days, then get back on the road.

I mean there were plenty of times when I was sitting there, looking at the ocean, and thinking, “this would be so beautiful to have my family here.” I should be enjoying this right now. But I can’t enjoy it because that part of me is missing, those loved ones are missing. So it gets to be tough.

So you decided to come back eventually?

Yup. So what happened is, I came back, and my wife got pregnant. And what they said was, “we will let you have a leave, to spend time with your new baby” And they gave me the option to come back. What I did was really chose to be with my family.

If I really wanted to go back, I could go back, but at the same time, I would be putting myself in the same situation again. And one was tough already, so two would be really tough.

And he’s really connected to me. If he wasn’t at school right now, he would be sitting right here in this chair.

So changing gears…How did you come to do karaoke here in Omaha?

So after Idol, I decided to take some of that money from Idol and start a recording studio. And there’s a lot of talent around town. And I wanted to see how many good singers we have out here.

Because when it comes to the music, Nebraska doesn’t support the music like it should. They support Nebraska football more than they support anything. I don’t dislike the Huskers, but I think Nebraska needs to have a higher aim.

Omaha has the most bars per capita than any other city in the US, but what are we doing with it? And I go to Huskers games, but I don’t think you should shut the city down on a Saturday for one college football game.

I just think Nebraska can do better with supporting the music industry, supporting the artist industry. Other things other than just our football team…

I would agree with that…Any interesting karoake stories that you can share? Or people that were really good? And please don’t include me…

Haha, you’re good…I would say I have had like 10 people who were mind-blowing.

And you talk to em?

Yea I encourage them. I tell em, “man, where did you come from?” And they are like, “Oh, I just sing, I just like to sing.”

Have you had any guys get up there that were really bad?

We had this one guy. He acted like he was mister big stuff. He started singing, and walking up to the girls, he was doing Usher “You got it Bad” and he wasn’t that great of a singer, but he pushed it like he was. And he got back up front, and his pants were hanging low. And he was walkin like he was Rico Suave, and he was holding his pants. All of a sudden when he put his hands up in the air, his pants fell down. Boxers and all.

And everyone just started clapping. He was so embarrassed. It was so funny. As long as you are having fun.

There was that guy at T Henerys the other night, who was so good. You know someone is good when the whole room quiets down, and focuses on the stage…

That’s Daniel. I have known Daniel for a few years. A lot of great singers come out to my karaoke nights, because they know me. And follow me and know what I’m all about.

I will tell you one thing, this is how I feel about karaoke. I feel that if I can touch one heart, one soul, one spirit, with my singing, or with me being in the building performing and singing, or being nice to them – if I can touch one person, then I done my job. It’s all emotionally inclined in helping people. Music is food to the soul.

And you know, I think you feed a lot of people man. I love your singing, and it’s a great time. Where can we follow you?

I’m on Facebook under my name. Shafeeq Coleman. I also do weddings, I do a lot of weddings, I did 98 weddings. I DJ the weddings, mostly MCing, I sing at some. I got 10 guys that work for me, my company, Pretty Boy Entertainment, we try to promote and push all my bars.

Great man, well, I really appreciate your time, Shafeeq! You can catch Shafeeq often at Sullivan’s Bar, where he hosts karaoke. Give Shafeeq a follow on Facebook everybody!