On Saturday, October 10 Zo! will bring his deep soul sound to Fountain Square's Hi-Fi. Zo! will be backed by the Detroit-based Collective Peace and vocalist Carmen Rodgers. Indianapolis favorite Bashiri Asad will take on opener duties, making this a must-see show for any soul music fanatic.
I talked baseball and beats with Zo! via phone in advance of his Saturday gig at The Hi-Fi.
Zo!: My mother was all into the Motown sound, whereas my father was more into jazz and funk. So I heard a wide spectrum of music. Of course growing up in the '80s we had a strong rock base. I got a lot of different flavors coming up as a kid in Detroit and they all influenced me. Detroit created techno music so I'm never scared to go to a four on the floor beat.
NUVO: I'm curious how you put together your productions. It's not sample-based. It's all live instrumentation, correct?
Zo!: That's true. The only thing I will sample is drums. But I'm just like anybody else in that I create from the heart. If I wake up one day and want to do a house record, that's what I do. If I wake up one day and want to do a jazz record, that's what I do. Probably 95 to 98 percent of the music is all played live by me, whether it be keyboards, bass parts or drum parts.
The music I grew up on was very genuine. I want to make my music the same and bring in that human element. A lot of producers are going completely computer-based. I want to keep in that human element so there's a higher rate of connectivity with the listener.
NUVO: I've read that you were a very serious baseball player and you almost pursued a career in professional baseball over music.
Zo!: That's 100 percent true. I started playing baseball at around eight- or nine-years-old and by the time I got to high school I was drafted to play with the Toronto Blue Jays in the thirteenth round. That was 1996 and I ended up going to Western Kentucky University and playing on a four year scholarship. I graduated with a graphic design degree and never went back to playing baseball. I had a transfer of passions at that point. All the love I'd had for baseball went into creating music and honing my craft.
When I was a kid, piano lessons took a back seat to sports. You don't what to be cooped practicing scales — you want to be outside running around.
NUVO: You have a large discography of recordings, but I think most people know you from your various collaborations with Phonte of the beloved indie hip-hop group Big Brother. Can you tell us about some of the projects you've worked on with Phonte?
Zo!: He and I met 10 years ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan when he was still in Little Brother. I was a big fan of that group. At the time I had a couple remixes of theirs on my album. I'd heard Phonte liked the remixes so I went to go meet him at the show. When I went to introduce myself he was like, "I already know who you are." He told me he had one of my albums on his ipod. No more than three months later we were working. That was on the …Just Visiting album which was a cover series I was doing.
After that, we worked on the Zo! and Tigallo Love the 80s album. From their we worked on the Getback album for Little Brother. After that I started working with Foreign Exchange. In 2008, Phonte brought me on the road as the musical director for Foreign Exchange. This year I co-produced their album. Phonte has grown into being one of my best friends.
NUVO: Tell us what sort of musicians you'll be performing with at The Hi-Fi on Saturday.
Zo!: I'll have my crew from Detroit called Collective Peace. Carmen Rodgers will be on vocals. It's a high energy performance. We're up moving around, dancing and sweating. We love to give folks a feel-good show. If we gotta play the Peanuts' theme to get the crowd responding, that's what we'll do. It's feel good music.