Sleep is a luxury Phonte and Nicolay still can't afford.
"Honestly, I had been working so much, it didn't hit me until I completely woke up," he laughs.
His reaction was fitting, considering the life of an indie artist. Phonte and his partner, producer Nicolay (born Matthijs Rook), do everything themselves, from writing, producing and engineering, to fighting what Nicolay calls "David versus Goliath" business battles with iTunes. Add to that their tour schedule and extra projects like the recent formation of their label, the Foreign Exchange Music, and sleep has become a luxury.
"I have no personal life," Phonte says, adding that he and Nicolay are wrapping up soulstress Yahzarah's upcoming album, The Ballad of Ms. Purple St. James, due this spring. "There's no 'Phonte enjoys kayaking in his spare time.' It's nothing for [us] to work 24- to 36-hour stretches."
Being independent may not support a balanced lifestyle, but getting the Grammy phone call is its own reward. It's also an encouraging sign for unsigned artists who've come to view such recognition as a pipe dream.
"A lot of people still say the Grammys are a popularity contest," Nicolay says. "But in our category, it showed a bit of guts from the committee that we were in there."
Though they lost to India.Arie this year, the "Grammy-nominated" label is one that they'll be flashing when they return to perform in Atlanta at Shameless Plug's Hey Love show Feb. 12. And with new releases from affiliated artist Zo! and the Foreign Exchange scheduled to drop this year, they plan on riding the wave into the sunset. "I ain't no fool," Phonte laughs. "I know we have to stay on people's minds while we have their attention."