Efraym Elliott Yamin was born on July 20, 1978, in Los Angeles, California, to father Shaul Yamin, an Israeli of Iraqi Jewish descent, and mother Claudette Goldberg Yamin, a Jewish American of Ashkenazi decent. His family relocated to Richmond, Virginia, when he was 11, and his parents divorced when he was 14. He attended Douglas S. Freeman High School, but dropped out during his sophomore year, and later achieved a high school GED.
Yamin first discovered his vocal talent while singing karaoke in his late teens. He auditioned for the fifth season of American Idol in 2006. He finished in third and was eliminated on May 17, 2006.
Yamin's self-titled album, released March 20, 2007, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart and at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. The album was certified gold in the United States in October 2007. Retitled Wait for You, the album was released in Japan in May 2008 and certified gold in that country in September 2008. Yamin also released two Christmas collections: Sounds of the Season: The Elliott Yamin Holiday Collection in October 2007 and My Kind of Holiday in October 2008. Yamin's second album, titled Fight for Love, was released on May 5, 2009.