Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Kevin Sharp came out of the gate swinging. His debut album on 143/Asylum Records, released in 1996, went gold. The first three of his six charting singles went top 5, including "Nobody Knows," which spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1997.
Then, after two albums, Sharp seemed to disappear from the country music scene.
His record label folded, and he was shifted to sister label Warner Bros. Records, where he says he sat around for a year-and-a-half before finally extricating himself from his contract when it became clear "nothing was happening."
Now, the 34-year-old is trying to stage a comeback on the tiny Nashville indie Cupit Records. Sharp's first album for that label, "Make a Wish," was released July 26. He has also published a book, "Tragedy's Gift," detailing the teenage battle with cancer that ultimately led him to a music career.
Sharp says he has had a hard time explaining to his fans who don't understand the music business just where he has been.
"I never went anywhere," he says. "I was still making music and writing songs. It's just that nobody got to hear it.
"After a label closes your life kind of gets turned upside down," he continues. "With all the different changes going on in Nashville in the last several years I got caught within that vicious cycle. It's taken me this long to find a place to land."
"Make a Wish" includes 10 new songs, a remake of "Nobody Knows" and 11 bonus tracks containing the album's music without vocals.
The album's first single, "Your Love Reaches Me," did not make a significant splash at radio, and the label is now working the follow-up, "I Think I'll Stay."
To set up "Make a Wish," Sharp went on an extensive radio tour. But his best prerelease exposure came from a July 18 appearance on the syndicated "Dr. Phil" show in an episode with a theme about the power of music. Sharp credits music with helping save his life.
The new album's title track was included on a Walt Disney Records compilation CD that was released in May as a fund-raiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Sharp is a national spokesman for the group, which grants wishes for ill children.
He is in good company on the compilation, "Walt Disney Presents Wishes," which also features tracks from Elton John, James Taylor, Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand.
Since Sharp is also a motivational speaker, he works his music into his many speaking engagements, and he loves that aspect of his professional life.
"Unlike playing in a club [for] a bunch of drunks," he says, "people hear every lyric and every word I say."
Excerpted from the Aug. 6, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available to subscribers.
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