‘SkyBreak’ Documentary OFFICIAL Trailer

I’m so very proud to be able to present this to y’all. After talking about and posting some of the teasers over the last month or so, here is the official trailer for my upcoming SkyBreak Documentary.

Film by Digital Café
Documentary Website

Zo! – ‘SkyBreak’ (2016)

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The third +FE Music release from producer, multi-instrumentalist, and musical director of The Foreign Exchange, Zo!.

The 10 song collection features guest appearances from Eric Roberson, Phonte, Muhsinah, innovative UK soul wonder Dornik, and longtime Dungeon Family affiliate and funk/rock veteran Joi.

01. Lake Erie feat. Sy Smith
02. Starlight feat. Phonte
03. Packing For Chicago feat. Muhsinah
04. I Don’t Mind feat. Shana Tucker
05. Wishing You Well feat. Carmen Rodgers
06. A Season feat. Eric Roberson
07. Just Whatcha Like feat. Joi
08. Lifelines feat. Dornik
09. For Pops
10. Steal My Joy feat. Tamisha Waden

Purchase SkyBreak
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Listen to SkyBreak
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NEW VIDEO: “California Love – A Triptych” starring Sy Smith, Carmen Rodgers & Zo!

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In the spring of 2015, Zo!, Carmen Rodgers and Sy Smith came together as an underground soul power trio, playing live shows on the west coast for a stint they called the “California Love Tour”. Director Shawn Carter Peterson filmed the Los Angeles performance and created a beautiful long play video/short film, capturing the trio’s musical mastery and camaraderie in this presentation of three captivating singles from the show. Sy playfully flaunts her quick-paced scatting chops on “Personal Paradise”, Carmen drips with honey-coated cooing on “It’s Me”, and Zo! shows off his piano virtuosity with “Flight Of The Blackbyrd”. The acoustic set exhibits a beautiful simplicity of instrumentation; just piano (Zo!), upright bass (Maurice Ellis) and drums (Stacey Lamont Sydnor) which makes plenty of sonic room to experience the tunes stripped all the way down. And just like the human form, these tunes are even better naked.

Sy Smith – “When I Think Of You” (Produced by Zo! & Sy Smith)

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Sy Smith and I have been making music together since 2008. So when she called me to work on a tribute song to Janet Jackson for my people at SoulBounce, she almost got cussed at (in approval) over the phone. She came through to the studio about a week and a half ago and we went to work on our version of Miss Jackson’s “When I Think Of You” for SoulBounce’s #31DaysOfJanet series this month. We had a ball knocking this one out and I hope y’all enjoy it!!

Sy Smith – “When I Think Of You”
(J. Harris III, T. Lewis)
Produced by Zo! & Sy Smith
Arranged by Sy Smith
All instruments by Zo!
Recorded & mixed by Grant Nicholas at G Nick Studios, North Hollywood,
CA and Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD
Mastered by Grant Nicholas

Studio Campfire Stories: ‘Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey’ Edition – “Asking For A Friend”

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This song right here? “Asking For A Friend”??! As some of you may know by now, this was the first single released from the upcoming The Foreign Exchange album Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey this past Monday night.

BUT….

Let me explain to y’all how there almost wasn’t even an album to begin with………

No, for real.

Making music is unpredictable. SO unpredictable that this entire project began with a very brief conversation Nicolay and I had during soundcheck before The Foreign Exchange’s New Year’s Eve show in Durham, NC on December 31, 2012 about possibly getting up to do some studio work. Up to that point, Phonte and I had worked closely on music dating back to the end of 2005 and I had worked with Sy Smith and Jeanne Jolly (who both toured with us at the time), but I still hadn’t stepped into the studio with Nic yet. I mean, he and I had played numerous shows together and we have done work on the same songs before by trading files, but never had we been in the same studio, at the same time, creating while trading ideas. Now, on paper it made sense… Two producers/multi-instrumentalists who both compose from scratch without aiming their final product at any genre in particular…. But what folks don’t understand is that the idea of a “perfect” collaboration can be tough when it comes down to its actual execution. For example, when I create music, I do it solo. Nobody just hanging around, no 20 people in the studio while I’m working, no “yes” men or hype men there to gas up every single note, chord, or new sound I play…. Absolutely, alone. Same with Nic. So, the idea of simply working together with another producer who creates in almost the same fashion presented itself to be somewhat of a challenge in our minds – I think because, creatively we didn’t want to step on toes. But with the May 2013 release of my solo album, ManMade and the September release of +FE’s Love In Flying Colors under our belts, we finally decided to give it a try and locked in a time to get to work. By the time we finally got up in February 2014, it was waaaay overdue. I loaded my car with some equipment, grabbed my small carry-on suitcase and hopped on 95 South for the six-hour drive from Silver Spring, MD to Wilmington, NC. I was anxious to get some new music done and to be honest, neither of us knew what to expect. On the drive down, several thoughts ran through my head…..

The hell will this music sound like?!

How will our sounds mesh together? Will they compliment or clash?

Will it sound more like a Nicolay track? ….Or will it sound more like something I did?

Let me explain one thing about art….. If you overthink it, you kill it. He and I knew not to discuss these things beforehand and I’m glad we didn’t because once I arrived at Nic’s studio, instincts took over and we just let the music happen. Three to four days later, we walked outta there with seven brand new instrumentals. Upon leaving, the only question I had while driving back home was, “Why didn’t we do this shit SOONER?!?!?!!” To me, the craziest part was the fact that the music sounded like Nicolay …AND it sounded like me – the two styles merged and the sound was literally split down the middle. With these seven new ones in the chamber, we then talked about working toward completing a “Nicolay & Zo! EP” containing some music with vocals and maybe a couple of instrumentals in there. I spoke publicly about the EP throughout 2014, we even discussed touring options once it was released and everything….

Fast forward to the top of 2015 when Phonte started recording to some of the music along with Carmen Rodgers, Tamisha Waden, Shana Tucker and Carlitta Durand… Once the music started to take shape around the new vocals that were recorded, we decided to focus on creating a “crew” album rather than just a Nic & Zo! EP… An +FE Music “compilation” project, basically. Sounded like an excellent idea to me… But, It also sounded like Nic and I needed to get back to work on some more music so that we could have a full album’s worth of material to pull from.  After coordinating schedules again, on March 31, 2015, that’s exactly what we began to do. I drove back down to NC for round TWO of marathon studio sessions in Wilmington.

The second time was a bit different mainly because we knew what to expect from each other from the jump…. At this point, all we needed to do was open up a “New Session” on Pro Tools and go in. Once I arrived, we set up quickly and jumped right into something brand new. I can’t remember why we specifically decided to knock out a House track that night for that very first song, but I DO remember being hyped up about it being as though I had never worked on one before…. Hell, I had never even PLAYED on one.

Nicolay sat down and began to program the drum track. In the final version, listen to the way the intro for “Asking For A Friend” comes in piece by piece. It’s perfect because that’s damn near how I heard him make the drums. First, was the four-to-the-floor kick with the open hi-hats, then, the toms…. percussion pieces, the snare ….and finally the claps to round it all out. As he was getting everything together drum-wise, I sat down on the Rhodes just to see what would happen and the very first thing that came out was the melody line you hear (right as Phonte’s vocals begin in the final version)… I then hopped on one of my favorite weapons in the studio, the Moog Little Phatty keyboard to work the bassline out until finding something that we both agreed with and from there it was back to the Rhodes to knock out the chord progression for what was to become the hook. Once the hook progression came THAT’S when things seemed to tie together, musically. By this time, Nic had the drums KNOCKING along with all of the intricacies placed and polished. Once we layered that hook up nicely with synths and strings, we added a fully extended vamp out and called it a night. While sipping coffee at damn near midnight we ran the song on repeat, satisfied with the new ‘nod’ to old school house music we had just created – Shit felt like a party in there. Meanwhile, two hours west in Raleigh, NC… Phonte and Carmen were getting ready to set up shop in the studio as well. With two spots running simultaneously for three to four days, we KNEW there was gonna be something special to coming out of this. So we sent the music to them to hear and write to if that’s what they felt, etc. Honestly, I really just wanted to hear their initial responses…

The next day, when Nic and I got back in the studio… Phonte had already called excited about this new record…… BUT, with the music that we already had for the album, he was thinking that it may have been too “hard” of a house record to include in the album batch. No problem… Hell, I knew we would use it somewhere down the line, the joint jammed too hard. We then moved on to start creating the next piece, which we would also send to Phonte and Carmen along with a third joint later on at the end of that day. In total, we ended up creating and sending 5 or 6 new ones to Raleigh, NC that week. ….But they kept going back to listen to that first one.

Once we wrapped, I drove back to Maryland on that Friday, April 3rd …and I’ll be damned if on APRIL 6TH, Nic and I didn’t receive an email from Phonte with the subject title “Asking For A Friend” that read……

“This shit went from “maybe it’s too hard” to “this could be the first single” REAL QUICK.”

I KNEW he couldn’t turn away from that joint!! I clicked the attachment and listened to the long introduction while nodding hard as hell….

“Work….Work….Work…..Work………..”

Heeeeell yeah… I was completely locked in wondering what would happen next once the verse started. Then the vocals came in …..and when them vocals came in??!?! ….WHEN THE VOCALS CAME IN?!?!?

My response: “Yoooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!”

The last time I responded like that to some vocals Phonte sent over to me, it was our “Africa” remake. I got him on the phone immediately and said, “You were on your Rockwell ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ shit with this one…” He explained that it was more of a Talking Heads “Once In A Lifetime” feel, which works completely because this is meant to be a FUN joint, so be fearless and go ALL the way in. We went from talking about the song itself, to this brand new collection of music we were now sitting on. He told me that after talking with Nic, the project went from an +FE Music compilation….. to an +FE ALBUM, to which I responded, “Hell yeah… RUNNIT!” I got hyped up not only because I felt the collection of music was CRAZY, but also because I knew I had production credit on all of it right along with Nicolay and Phonte – a first for an +FE project.   …..To make it even better, y’all get to hear the stories behind it all.

Zo! + Carmen Rodgers + Sy Smith on the CALIFORNIA LOVE TOUR!!!

California!! Make sure to catch me, Carmen Rodgers, Sy Smith (and possibly my talkbox) together LIVE on the same stage for our California Love Tour in….

LOS ANGELES (May 28), SAN DIEGO (May 29) and OAKLAND (May 31)
**SEE ALL TICKET INFO BELOW**

Thursday, May 28, 2015 – Los Angeles, CA
Zo! + Carmen Rodgers + Sy Smith
The E Spot Lounge
4349 Tujunga Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91604 | (818) 769-0905
Doors: 6:30p
BUY TICKETS

Friday, May 29, 2015 – San Diego, CA
Zo! + Carmen Rodgers + Sy Smith
WorldBeat Center 2100 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101 | (619) 230-1190
Doors: 7:30p | All Ages
BUY TICKETS

Sunday, May 31, 2015 – Oakland, CA
Zo! + Carmen Rodgers + Sy Smith
Leo’s Music Club 5447 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609 | (888) 477-9288
Doors: 8p | 18+
BUY TICKETS

CALITOURweb

Zo! + Carmen Rodgers + Sy Smith LIVE in Oakland, CA – May 31, 2015

CALITOURweb

Zo! + Carmen Rodgers + Sy Smith

(Opening Set by 1-O.A.K.)

Sunday, May 31, 2015 – Oakland, CA
Leo’s Music Club
5447 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609 | (888) 477-9288
Doors: 8p | 18+
BUY TICKETS

Zo!, Carmen Rodgers & Sy Smith
Three separate artists who come together LIVE on the same stage, at the same time to perform songs from each other’s vast discographies.

Zo! + Carmen Rodgers + Sy Smith “Studio Campfire Stories: LIVE” in Los Angeles – May 28, 2015

CALITOURweb

Studio Campfire Stories – LIVE

Zo! + Carmen Rodgers + Sy Smith

Thursday, May 28, 2015 – Los Angeles, CA
The E Spot Lounge
4349 Tujunga Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91604 | (818) 769-0905
Doors: 6:30p
BUY TICKETS

Zo!, Carmen Rodgers and Sy Smith: Studio Campfire Stories LIVE
Studio Campfire Stories, an original concert series where songs from Zo!, Carmen Rodgers and Sy Smith’s albums come alive in an intimate setting via colorful stories behind all of the music played as told by the artists themselves.

2014 in Pictures

2014 was a year I spent on the ROAD. Shall I even attempt to list all of the cities?! ….Hell, why not. This year I hit up Amsterdam, Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham (Alabama and United Kingdom), Boston, Brooklyn, Cape Town, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Cologne, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Durham, Fresno, Houston, Johannesburg, Kansas City, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, Paris, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Richmond, Rotterdam, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Ana, Seattle, St. Louis and right down the street…. Washington D.C.

I got to hear music that I worked on every single week on Adult Swim’s animated series, Black Dynamite, saw myself on TV one day and decided to make a change by dropping off 35 lbs in the first few months of the year, traveled and saw some of the world with The Foreign Exchange and solo with Carmen Rodgers, started working on an EP with 1/2 of +FE, Nicolay, rocked an NPR Tiny Desk with +FE, began scoring a documentary, began a storytelling series, “Studio Campfire Stories: LIVE” that started on the right foot with a sold out show in Atlanta, and released one of the more talked about videos of the year (in my eyes anyway haha)..

Here’s to a helluva 2015 and much love to everyone riding with me throughout this musical journey… *raises glass of brown likkuh* Cheers!!

+FE Music Is For the Children… Part II

I was sent another video today, this time by Lisa of Dallas, Texas… Allow me to introduce you to 11-year old Morgan who was riding in the car and rockin’ out to “Greatest Weapon Of All Time” (I was told that this is the song of choice for the morning commute to school). I love it!!

Much love to Lisa and my young fan Morgan for this video… it has truly made my weekend.