Seven years ago, Kevin Sharp just was hoping to live until his next chemotherapy treatment. When he was contacted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the high-profile nonprofit organization that tries to fulfill the wishes of terminal patients, it seemed like a death knell of sorts.
But Sharp had dreams of becoming a country singer, and when the foundation gave him a chance to meet David Foster, the 12-time Grammy-winning producer-composer who has helped shape hits for everyone from Whitney Houston to Natalie Cole, it turned out to be far more than a bittersweet final chapter in Sharp’s life.
The meeting helped lead Sharp--now 26 and in remission from bone cancer--to a contract with Asylum Records and an album, “Measure of a Man,” which is in the Top 10 on the country charts. Now, Sharp has been nominated for top new male vocalist in the Academy of Country Music Awards competition, April 23 at the Universal Amphitheatre.
Sharp’s bald head, though rather trendy, is a constant reminder of the intensive chemotherapy treatments that helped save his life. The relentlessly upbeat singer feels he has been “truly blessed” but wants to get one thing straight: “I worked hard to be where I am. Make-A-Wish does a lot of wonderful things, but they do not give out record deals.”
Tracks on his album bring to mind Garth Brooks’ pop-crossover sound, but Sharp’s delivery is tinged with something different. He describes himself as a devout Christian, and there is a spiritual edge to his songs. Even breakup ballads are fiercely hopeful, spun around the idea that all of life’s experiences build character.
He says his relationship with Foster ultimately was pivotal to getting signed by Asylum but that, friendship aside, he had to prove himself marketable. The producer had heard Sharp only when the young musician was gravely ill. “David admitted to me later, ‘Man, you sucked, but how could I bear to tell you at the time?’ ”
Later, Sharp managed to scrape up a demo of his own. Foster asked to hear it and steered him to Asylum. “When David played that tape, he was trying to think of a way to let me down easy. But instead he said, ‘Wow. You can sing.’ ”