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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Raleigh native, singer Jeanne Jolly lives up to her name

by +FE on October 5, 2012 at 8:22 AM · Comments
If there has ever been a person who truly deserves her last name, it's Jeanne Jolly.

The Raleigh native shows up for this interview bubbly and upbeat, beaming enough sunshine to make curmudgeons crack a begrudging smile. Jolly has good reason to beam: Her new album, "Angels," was released on Tuesday. And Friday, she's performing at her album release party at Lincoln Theatre.

"The performing thing has always been something I've wanted to do," says Jolly, 33, during sips of French press coffee. From the way she speaks of her musical journey, that's pretty much an understatement. She studied classical music at St. Mary's School, did community theater musicals, sang the national anthem at Carolina Mudcats games, majored in vocal performance at Western Carolina University, even getting her master's degree in classical voice (which she considered "more of a challenge") at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music.

Jolly moved to Los Angeles in 2004 and got a gig touring and performing with jazz trumpeter Chris Botti for a year and a half. After the Botti stint ended, she went through a bad breakup.

As she sat alone in her apartment, she discovered her true musical calling. "I realized what I really wanted to listen to and what most of my records that I already owned were," she says. "I mean, I have classical records, R&B records, hip-hop records. But I mostly had, you know, folk. I had a lot of bluegrass, a lot of country - old country."

She recalls working at a sushi bar and spending all of her tip money one night buying old country records at L.A. record mecca Amoeba Music. "I basically listened for a week in my kitchen and fell back in love with what I listened to," she says.

Even though she knew what she wanted to do as an artist, she had to go back home when her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "She passed away five weeks after I arrived," she remembers. "It happened very fast."

After her passing, Jolly concentrated more on studying guitar and working on songs. "It was a gift, I guess, in a dark time."

She began working on her 2010 EP, "Falling in Carolina," with childhood friend The Hot at Nights guitarist Chris Boerner. "He was really supportive in helping me express the music that I was starting to create on my own," she says. "Well, that was a true blessing, obviously, from the start."

Boerner was also a guitarist for the Foreign Exchange, the Triangle's Grammy-nominated R&B collective led by rapper/singer Phonte Coleman and producer/instrumentalist Nicolay Rook. "He had the rough mixes and was in the van with the Foreign Exchange, driving around Texas somewhere, and popped it in," she says. "And it was before I was in the band. And Phonte & Nicolay dug it."

Joining Foreign Exchange

When Coleman and Rook needed another background vocalist to perform with the Exchange on their "Dear Friends: An Evening with the Foreign Exchange" live album, they called on Jolly.

And even though the Exchange is known for their R&B melodies, she was well-versed enough in soul to go with the flow. "A good song is a good song," she says. "Good music is good music. So I'm not really into classifying genres and saying, 'Oh, I'm just gonna be involved in these certain projects.' And I like their music, you know. The energy of their fans is something I've never experienced before. And so after I did it the first time, I needed more, because it was truly a high."

Jolly eventually became a full-fledged member of the Exchange, touring with them and performing on certain members' side projects, such as Coleman's "Charity Starts at Home" album.

Songs on 'Angels'

"Angels" is being released on the band's Foreign Exchange Music label. "Every single song on this record is influenced by an angelic, ethereal existence of some sort," she says of the album, which has her working again with Boerner.

"Angels" certainly has Jolly melding folksy, soulful country with heavenly, heartfelt lyricism. For her debut single "Sweet Love," parts came from a poem she wrote about meeting her mom in the afterlife. "When I finally finished the song," she says, "it was more about someone that I loved very much. Just about love, true love - but more eternal love."

Jolly hopes that the same audience that got to know and appreciate her when she performed with the Exchange will appreciate what she offers up on "Angels." "If the music that we've created inspires anything from someone, takes them away from the craziness of the world for 4 1/2 minutes, then I felt like I've done my part," she says.

And that's Jeanne Jolly for you - making the family name proud in more ways than one.

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