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Indie-soul collective Foreign Exchange plays the Cat's Cradle (via The News & Observer)
It seems like only yesterday Phonte Coleman was just a North Carolina rapper/singer, one-third of the up-and-coming hip-hop trio Little Brother. Back then, Coleman was also exchanging music files with an Internet help desk employee and aspiring producer in the Netherlands (Matthijs “Nicolay” Rook), hoping the two could make music together.

Phonte and Nicolay remain focused on The Foreign Exchange (via Creative Loafing)
With their fifth studio album, Tales From the Land of Milk and Honey, The Foreign Exchange has perfected its sophisticated take on R&B, incorporating not only a range of sticky sweet melodies, but also a smattering of nuanced romantic themes like domesticity and compromise. But whatever you do, don't call it ''grown man music.''

The Foreign Exchange Evoke Chaucer on 'Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Exclaim!)
''More than anything else, the biggest crime as an artist is to be boring.'' Phonte Coleman, the primary songwriter, vocalist and animated gif half of the Foreign Exchange, has probably never been at the receiving end of such an accusation. Over the course five albums with partner Nicolay, Phonte has equated love to an excuse, displayed affection through lunchtime chicken wing delivery, and made a gorgeously passive-aggressive ode to the better mate. His songwriting is unparalleled in its combined frankness, humour and relevance in our everyday dalliances.

The Foreign Exchange introduces its own Song of Solomon: 'Tales From the Land of Milk and Honey' (via Washington Post)
Phonte Coleman, the rapping, singing half of the hip-hop/R&B duo the Foreign Exchange, has a complicated relationship with religion. When he was growing up, he detested the mandatory trips to his grandmother’s baptist church, so he joined the choir just to make the ordeal more palatable. At least from the choir stand there was an added element of entertainment. Stationed behind the preacher, young Phonte could gaze upon the flock and see who was fanning themselves, who was trying not to fall asleep and who was struggling to stay on beat.

The Foreign Exchange's Nicolay tours to find new inspiration (via IndyWeek)
Phonte Coleman and Matthijs 'Nicolay' Rook keep their distance. Together, they've made several albums, toured the world, been nominated for a Grammy and built a little independent empire under the name The Foreign Exchange. But Coleman raps and sings from Raleigh, while the Dutch-born Nicolay lives in Wilmington. The space between them must be fertile, as they both pursue separate artistic offshoots. Coleman has his hip-hop and TV endeavors, while Nicolay has just released his expansive fourth solo album, City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto, in which he offers up a Euro-soul take on South Africa's native rhythms.

We Be Spirits interviews Nicolay
Nicolay is one of the most eclectic and innovative music producers around, full stop. His first notable achievement as producer came in 2004 after Connected was released – the debut album of The Foreign Exchange, of which he is half. The album was famously recorded with the 'exchange' of electronic files across the Atlantic; the artists meeting only after it had been finished. He has since gone on to cover new and exciting musical ground releasing albums as a solo artist, as well as part of TFE.

Nicolay wraps his experiences abroad into a jazzy album (via Star-News)
It was around 3 a.m. one morning in May of last year when the Wilmington-based musician Nicolay and his neo-soul band, The Foreign Exchange, crossed Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg, South Africa. They were dead tired from being on tour, and only hours earlier had played a sold-out show for fans they didn't know existed.

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Connecting With The Foreign Exchange (via Stimulate Your Soul)

by +FE on June 24, 2011 at 6:26 AM · Comments
Grammy nominated duo Nicolay and Phonte make up The Foreign Exchange. With Phonte's rapping/singing and Nicolay's producing, the two found each other online and haven't looked back since. A soulful love story, their first album Connected was done all online before they even met. Between their Authenticity tour around the States, the man behind the music Nicolay took some time out to chat about why he uses live instruments when producing, his childhood dream of visiting Australia and the launch of their first intimate Dear Friends CD/DVD. Margaret Tra writes.

How's the Authenticity tour going?

It's been going really, really well. We're just having a blast; I think in general we are really excited to play some of the new tunes. Cause it kind of puts a new fresh dose of energy for our show. We have flipped things a little bit, we've changed a one or two things around. And as a result it's kind of like a brand new show to us. It's just been a lot of fun, we've been having a really good time.

So the response has been really good?

Yeah, we've had a really awesome feedback. I mean we try and follow it as much as we can, because we obviously like to know what people think and to see in general. You know it's something that people like, the feedback has been really strong off the last couple of shows.

You prefer to use live instruments when producing, why is that?

I have always been a musician kind of first before I ever really started producing records. So I always kind of have brought that angle to the table if you will. Over the years I found that I just really enjoyed playing instruments just a lot more and more. As I kind of grew in music and music making, I started doing it more. When I create music it's something I create from scratch you know what I'm saying.

Do you think you will change?

I change constantly, yeah sure. I always like to reinvent myself and just switch it up. I definitely like to switch it up every now and then.

You guys recently relaunched your first album 'Connected' how is that going for you guys?

That's actually great in itself; obviously it's our first record. And it's been available on CD for a while now, mainly because the label no longer releases that version. That album was really hard to find, so we just really wanted to keep it out there because it is our first album. It's how everything began for us, and we owe a lot to it so we really wanted to have it out there under our own control. It's been great, we have put some extras in the package just to mark kind of the new version of it and people really respond well to it. We're really happy about it.

How does it feel to know you have Australian fans?

It feels really good; I mean feels like I really want to come over there. That's really the main thing, Australia is really one of the areas I dreamt of even as a kid. It was just one of those areas that even as a kid it's so far away and seems so wonderful. We would love to come out there.

Who influences you?

Everyone does, literally. I am like a sponge when it comes to that. Right now I am really into Fleet Foxes album. What ever it is I hear, I take something out of it. I'm a big Prince fan, always been and still am. I am huge 60's and 70's fan. I get a lot of inspiration from the craft of making records. Even genres that may not appeal to me, I can find the appreciation for the arts and science behind it. I can look at everything as a source of inspiration, musicians, movies you name it.

How does it feel to know you guys have come so far?

It's kind of crazy to be honest. It's almost surreal at times because if I am really honest with you, it is something that I had always had hoped would be possible but I don't know. I always kind of thought that it would be very difficult to accomplish, because when we started we were so far apart. And a lot of things were not possible at the time. There was a lot of factors against us and just a lot of things like that, and to know that not only are we making music 10 years later, we have just accomplished a lot of things. And it's what we have done on our own, we have never really chosen the route. We made our own rules and that made it best. Everything we did we did for the music.

You recently released the Last fall video?

That was crazy. We knew that would be a bit of a shocker. The directors came to us and said we have an idea and those guys have done some really cool videos in the past for us, so we just trust the creativity. It is just a lot people did not see coming, some people were put off by it. It received strong things against it. It really got so many people to talk. And in my opinion it's kind of cool, it's a way to get people to talk about it, some controversy going on so it worked.

Any upcoming projects?

We got something really cool that is coming up, it's kind of a first for us. (Dear Friends) We did a fully acoustic session here in North Carolina back in February for a very small studio audience and we recorded it and filmed it. We are going to release that live acoustic CD/DVD, it's the first time we have done a live documentary and DVD so we are super stoked about it. We are very proud of that because it's something different for FE, it puts a very interesting sting on our music. We are always working on something.
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