John Paul Sharp


I was born in the summer of 1979 in Wichita, Kansas.  I was a highly expressive, enthusiastic, and artistic child. I acted in summer theater and sang everywhere I went.

JP as a kid
JP as a kid.

I used to ride my roller skates all around my neighborhood, listening to 1950’s Top 40 on my tape player, singing my heart out, hoping someone from school might see how cool I thought I was. I once dressed up as on my idols, Cyndi Lauper, and went to school that way in third grade, standing at the entrance of the school, hoping everyone could see just how cool I thought I was.  I was never the most popular kid, but I was definitely one the infamous. I took a lot out on our upright piano, getting all my emotions out through my hands like hammers.  My first drag experience was in 1st grade, when I performed as “Big Momma'” for a talent show. The teacher had to get my mother’s permission and if I remember correctly, I wanted to do it quite badly.  My mom got a VCR camera recorder from the high school where she taught and I used to create a bunch of videos at home, using my friends, using my gerbils, using rocks; anything, really. I like to think that I had a pretty decent childhood.  I loved “You Can’t Do That on Television” and I thought Tiffany and Debbie Gibson were, like, everything.  I also loved Classical music and the Mamas and Papas. And Ralph Tresvant.  I’ve been eclectic my whole life.

I’d like to say life got easier as I got older, but that’s untrue.

JP's High school graduation 1997
JP’s High school graduation 1997.

I was raised by a single mother and I struggled with my identity as a gay person. I spent a lot of time in the gay community as a teenager and worked for social justice through writing and speaking at events. I was the entertainment writer for my college newspaper and got the opportunity to speak with musicians like Fleming & John. I almost went for an undergraduate degree in music, but then, through volunteering online, I ended up moving to the west coast to work for the first LGBT media corporation, PlanetOut, as their online community manager. I traveled all over the country, attended high-level business meetings, and faked my way through years of the dot-com bubble craziness. I had priceless experiences in San Francisco. I was completely unprepared for everything that happened, but I’m proud of how I survived it all.  When the rat-race got to be too much for me to handle, I moved back to Kansas and got therapy to sort life out.

I decided in 2003 to dedicate my life to music.  Why?  It was the one consistent thing I could always count on in my life and music helped me to process my emotional reactions to my environment. I didn’t know who I was without music. So I moved to Denver and started writing and recording music.  After a few years, I found myself hitting a wall creatively.

JP's Junior Recital 2008
JP’s Junior Recital 2008

I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in my singing.  I decided to get an undergraduate degree in Contemporary Vocal Performance at the University of Colorado Denver.  In the four years I attended school, I wrote and produced numerous albums, wrote and produced a musical, scored music for films, and produced a ton of events to raise money for nonprofits. I lost my sister the summer before my junior year, on the day before my birthday.  It was a tragic event that changed me forever and she is one of the reasons I have tried to do so many things in my life.  Sometimes I feel like I’m living for two and that has it’s good and bad. My undergraduate education was truly an amazing time in my life and I am so grateful for all the things I got to do.  I only wish I had spent more time working with more people. It’s been a lot of fun watching people I met grow into amazing artists in some form or another.  Some folks are currently touring, some are writing novels, and some are on TV.

John Paul Sharp
John Paul Sharp

When the great recession hit, my partner and I struggled to make ends meet in Colorado and so we had to try something new.  We moved to Seattle in 2011.  Here, I sidetracked myself into theater as a way to get to know people and figure out what to do next.  I acted in a ton of shows, most of them brand new works for stage. I wrote a huge three-act musical about my father called Total Family Massage. I took over management of a nonprofit theater organization with my friend Jason Dooley.  We’re still doing that now.  I’m working at one of the strangest, coolest, and best-paying jobs I’ve ever had in my life at a cooperative grocery store as a deli clerk.  Weird, I know.  But I also ended up getting a masters degree in digital learning and I have been teaching online in the same program for three years. I also taught voice lessons out of my home for several years. Through all these activities, it became increasingly easier to distance myself from music. After a few years, I deeply struggled with the lack of time I was giving to playing music.  Not spending time singing and writing songs was making me generally unhappy. So, I decided to do something about it and simply made more time for sitting down to a piano and singing.

John Paul Sharp
John Paul Sharp

I began playing the piano again and performing songs on Facebook Live.  This gave me a sense of satisfaction and confidence that even though I’ve taken some breaks from writing, recording, and performing music, I haven’t lost anything.  All the songs are still there and there’s still new songs coming out. The music is still very much alive within me and I’m looking forward to what I create and perform in the coming years.

Who will I become?  I don’t know yet, but I’m working on it.  I have braces.  I’m looking into getting a doctorate degree in musicology.  I’m hoping to find more work as a teacher and spend less time in food service. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a web-series for several years.  I’ve always wanted to be on Big Brother or Survivor.   I still have some dreams and work left in me yet.  Thanks for being part of this journey with me.