Zo! Interview in Indy Week (Raleigh-Durham, NC) (July 25, 2013)

Interview: Zo! talks new album ManMade, DIY R&B and happy accidents

Author: Brandon Soderberg
Source: Indy Week

Lorenzo Ferguson, or Zo!, as he’s known to fans, released his new album ManMade — a rakish collection of house and ghettotech-tinged slow jams — back in May. It’s another idiosyncratic and uncompromising release from Foreign Exchange Music, fueled by intense collaborations between Zo! and the Foreign Exchange’sPhonte Coleman (credited as writer and producer). The second single, “Count to Five” featuring Gwen Bunn and Phonte, is propulsive soul-pop about real-life concerns like anxiety and transition. And don’t miss the charming video, which pays homage to the ’70s era of Sesame Street when the kid’s show was almost activist in its embrace of multiculturalism and positive vibes. We spoke over the phone about the new album, being doggedly independent while the music industry crumbles, “jheri curl music,” and even afforded some music nerd trivia about ’80s softies Mr. Mister. Zo! is celebrating the release of ManMade at the Casbah in Durham tonight along with the exploratory jazz trio the Hot at Nights.

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Zo! Interview on NewsObserver.com (July 22, 2013)

Indie-R&B musician Zo! to return to Triangle

Even though he lives in Silver Springs, Md., Lorenzo Ferguson never stays away from the Triangle for very long.

The Detroit-born, indie-R&B musician and producer certainly didn’t stay away when he was composing his latest album, “ManMade,” which he will be playing (with Raleigh experimental jazz trio The Hot at Nights backing him up) at Casbah in Durham on Thursday night. While Zo! – that’s his performing name – worked on music for the album, he usually hollered at friend and collaborator Phonte Coleman in Raleigh about lyrics and about which vocalists would be perfect for which songs. Of course, the acclaimed rapper/singer provides vocals of his own on the album, doing lead and/or background vocals on many tracks, as well as the odd rap verse.

“He (Coleman) had a huge hand in ‘ManMade,’ ” Ferguson, 34, said on the phone from Silver Springs.

For nearly a decade, Ferguson and Coleman have had a continually fruitful working relationship. It started when they worked on an EP of ’80s covers, “Zo! and Tigallo Love the ’80s.” Ferguson also did production on “Leave It All Behind,” the second album from the Foreign Exchange, the R&B group Coleman fronts with producer Nicolay Rook. Ferguson would also go on the road with the Exchange whenever they toured.

 READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Zo! In The Michigan Citizen (06.20.13)

Source: The Michigan Citizen
Author: Steve Furay

Detroit’s Zo! Releases New R&B Album and Prepares For Homecoming Show

DETROIT — Detroit’s own Zo!, a soulful R&B music composer and master hip hop producer, has released a new album and is getting ready for a triumphant return to his hometown with a live performance June 29 at 8 p.m.

Critics and fans are celebrating his newest release, making this show a highly anticipated summer performance.

The show will be at the Elizabeth Theater at The Park Bar, located at 2040 Park Ave. in downtown Detroit.

“ManMade” is Zo!’s latest full-length album, released May 21, following his 2010 release “SunStorm.”

He shot a video for the song “Count to Five” featuring guests Gwen Bunn and Phonte, and the exposure has helped the album reach the Billboard New Artist and R&B sales charts for three weeks, marking the first time he’s been on the charts.

“The response has been great. I’m really, really happy with how things are starting to shape up,” says Zo! “I guess my thing now is I’m curious where the album and where the music is going to take me to. It’s going to be fun.”

“ManMade” is filled with the lush, soulful sounds that are a signature of the Motown experience. Tight bass and drum rhythms create a strong foundation for the keys and vocal melodies, a classic funk sound from an authentic Detroit musician, who now resides in Maryland.

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‘ManMade’ in YRB Magazine

Source: YRB Magazine
Author: Ingrid Ellis

ManMade is an apt title for Zo!’s recently released album, which has already climbed to No.2 on the Itunes chart.

Nu-Soul Tuesday celebrated his new album, ManMade, with a listening party/meet & greet event on the day of its release. Hosted by Jodine Dorce, Zo! opened up to his long-time friend about the project, ForeignExchange and music.

While hanging out with fans at Frank’s Lounge in Brooklyn for his album release party, the laid back artist admitted that he played all of the instruments himself.

“In order to keep costs low,” he chuckled to host Jodine Dorce.

All modesty aside, however, Zo! (aka Lorenzo Ferguson) plays piano expertly and says that he taught himself bass, guitar and drums.  The sound of real instruments (and voices!) prevails on this album, yet is complexly woven with the synthesizer, creating an effect that takes us back to the days of 80’s funk and R&B.

Known to many from his work with the group, The Foreign Exchange, Zo!, a Detroit native, commented that he has great respect for legends such as producer and bassist Leon Sylvers III.  The influence on his work is evident.

It’s “grown-folks” music (you know you’re grown when you immediately recognize a Rick James riff), but speaks through the generations – simultaneously vintage and modern.  Post-generational.  Most tunes on the album are driven by a funky bass line, but textured through the melodies sung by talented guest artists.

Representative are the first and last tracks featuring the sweet voice of Sy Smith who starts the album off with a fast mover – The Train, but ends with the vibey “Body Rock.”  Anthony David’s baritone is featured on “Show Me The Way” and gets you to feelin’ all Barry White-ish (or maybe that’s just me…).

Fans of The Foreign Exchange will delight in hearing contributions from the varied likes of veterans like Choklate, new comers, 1-O.A.K and Gwen Bunn, Eric Robertson, Jeanne Jolly, Carlitta Durand, and, of course, FE’s Phonte.

Zo! Says that he is happier with this album than the others because it “represented what I wanted it to represent.”  He noted that he wanted to create a dance album and, indeed, he does.

The album is mostly upbeat, but at the same time varied in its use of tempo.  Fans who thought the producer/artist had reached a pinnacle with his last album, SunStorm, should be relieved that the beat goes on.  “After Sunstorm people was lookin’ at me like what you gon’ do now,” jokes Zo!, a hint of cockiness in his voice.

“I took that as a challenege.”

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“Blue Collar Hustle” Zo! Interviews with Wax Poetics

Source: Wax Poetics
Author: Erin Ashley

Blue Collar Hustle
Detroit triple-threat Zo! prepares for ManMade

Detroit, Michigan, is a region defined by soul, passion and music. It was the launching pad for Motown and its subsidiary labels, has helped introduce music listeners to artists like Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, the Four Tops and more. Today, Detroit is known for more than just Motown, the region also has a foot in the evolution of hip-hop music today with artists like the late and great J.Dilla, Elzhi, Guilty Simpson, and more calling the region home.

One consistent theme shown through the music of Detroit is a passion that comes across with the sound, which can be heard in the music of Detroit-bred producer, Lorenzo Ferguson, simply known by music heads as Zo!

“I’m a very passionate musician, so anything that I’m feeling is going to come out through music and I think that’s very important when you create,” says Zo!

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Zo! Speaks with LifeandTimes.com About ‘ManMade’ and Working With The Foreign Exchange

Source: LifeAndTimes.com
Author: Quinn Peterson

Multi-instrumentalist Zo! is best known for his work with Phonte and Nicolay of the Foreign Exchange collective. Even when he’s not working in the background, however, he’s still capable of crafting the same kinds of mature, soulful grooves FE is known for, which is what he does on his latest project, ManMade. While he doesn’t contribute any vocals, he supplies all of the instrumentation. Life+Times caught up with the Detroit native to discuss ManMade, his creative process, working with the Foreign Exchange and more.

Life+Times: Tell me about your upcoming sophomore album, ManMade. How is it different from your first album and what can people expect to hear?
Zo!: 
It’s my sophomore full-length album with The Foreign Exchange Music imprint, a follow up to SunStorm, which was released in 2010. With this one, you probably hear a lot more musical growth as far as risk-taking, kind of being able to step out of the box a little bit. On the first single, “The Train“, it doesn’t really sound like anything I’ve ever done. A lot more uptempo, more of a dance-oriented feel. More growth, more maturity; I’m also a full-time musician now, so hopefully you’ll be able to feel that in it as well. I think it really came together and I’m definitely proud of the final product.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Interview with StimulateYourSoul.com – “Passing On Music With Zo!”

By: Margaret Tra • Source: StimulateYourSoul.com

As soulful multi-Instrumentalist and producer from Detroit, Zo! has had the pleasure of working with rapper Phonte from Little Brother, The Foreign Exchange, and more recently with singer Sy, who is also a back-up singer for Sheila-E. You’ll know him from the breathtaking beautiful track ‘If she breaks your heart’ which features in The Foreign Exchange album ‘Leave it all behind.’ I caught with Zo! last year to see what we can expect from his latest project ‘Man Made’ due to release in spring, the most unusual instrument he has used whilst producing, and why he doesn’t want to go to his grave without passing on music. Margaret Tra writes.

Are you just currently on tour, or are you on a break?

We just came off. We just did like a weekend. Three cities, three days, came back yesterday.

How was it?

It was…those joints are tiring! You’re driving, you’re performing, same day, but it’s all, it’s all worth it man.

Sounds like one thing after the next. A lot of shows backed up?

Like 3, 4 hours of sleep each night.

CLICK HERE TO READ FULL INTERVIEW

SOCIAL STUDIES: An Interview with Musician, Producer and Educator, Zo!

By: John Richards • Source: The Washington Informer

Growing up in Motown and being raised by two musical parents it was probably inevitable that Zo! (Lorenzo Ferguson) would be involved in music. Described by his friend and collaborator Sy Smith as a “young Quincy Jones”, Zo! can do it all, just don’t ask him to sing. The Washington Informer caught up with Zo! ahead of his show at Blues Alley with Sy Smith and discussed his musical influences, finding the time to be a touring musician as well as a music educator and his collaboration with Sy Smith.

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Zo! Featured on HUR Voices – SiriusXM Ch. 141

I took myself down to Howard University’s campus on Tuesday and did a pre-recorded interview with host Bobby Gailes for a SiriusXM program on channel 141 – HUR Voices. The interview was for the half-hour segment they do entitled “New Artist Feature” where they shine the spotlight on new or widely unheard artists. The interview is set to run on these dates and times…

Thursday May 31 – 12p EST

Saturday June 2 – 11a EST

Tuesday June 4 – 9:30a EST

Be sure to tune in as I’ll be running my mouth about a few things in my life and they’ll be running a few joints from SunStorm

Zo! + Sy Smith Interview with SoulCuts.org

We were cuttin up a bit in this interview… lol Enjoy!

 

Source: SoulCuts.org

By: Paul Cutting

At the start of March, 2011 I was backstage at the Jazz Cafe prior to ZO! and Sy Smith‘s first solo London show, lucky enough to have scored an interview. The pair had hopped the channel that morning following a successful performance in Paris to come and entertain the crowd at the KEEP THE FAITH ‘NEO SOULWW’ event. How on earth they retained any enthusiasm for an interview with little old SoulCuts is beyond me, but Sy beckoned me into the room with a warm and sweet demeanour before getting on with the ironing. The previous interviewer hung around chatting with them while I stood in the corner, quiet, feeling a bit of a lemon, but that’s cool, it’s not an unusual look for me.

In an uninspiring room at the top of the Jazz CafeZo! was spread out across what I can only describe as a huge slanted wooden donut, possibly the most uncomfortable piece of furniture since the electric chair. ZO! is a pretty big guy – not fat, mind you (that’s my forte!), regardless of how much macaroni cheese he wishes to gobble (quite a lot, apparently!), but he nonetheless carries a strong physical presence. Aligned to that physicality seemed to be a shy nature. This is somebody who clearly speaks honestly through the music (a thought further evidenced by his blistering performance on the Camden stage later that night) without any unnecessary embellishments.

Click to continue reading: Zo! + Sy Smith Interview with SoulCuts.org