SOCIAL STUDIES: An Interview with Musician, Producer and Educator, Zo!

Special to Informer | 6/11/2012, 3:52 p.m.

Growing up in Motown and being raised by two musical parents it was probably inevitable that Zo! (Lorenzo Fergusen) would be involved in music. Described by his friend and collaborator Sy Smith as a "young Quincy Jones", Zo! can do it all, just don't ask him to sing. The Washington Informer caught up with Zo! ahead of his show at Blues Alley with Sy Smith and discussed his musical influences, finding the time to be a touring musician as well as a music educator and his collaboration with Sy Smith.

Washington Informer: How would you describe your production style?

Zo!: Very free, very open. You know, it's nothing that I like to put boundaries around. I may wake up and wanna do an R&B record, next day I may wake up and wanna do a salsa influenced record, the next day I may want to do a jazz influenced record. So, I would say that it's pretty, pretty diverse. I'm a lover of music, I don't put any boundaries on what I listen to, so I definitely don't put any boundaries on what I'm creating.

Washington Informer: You grew up in Detroit, you now live in the DC area. How has growing up in Motown influenced you musically?

Zo!: I think it influenced me heavily. My mother is originally from this area, she's originally from Maryland and my father was originally from Florida. Living with musical parents I think had even more of an influence than the area, I think we could have been living anywhere and I would have had some type of influence from their musical taste. They were always playing music in the house, always playing music in the car; 8-Track and vinyl was all over the place, so I was exposed to great music very early. I would probably credit them much more so than where I was born, I wasn't around for the golden age of Motown, but it definitely influenced me. I think later on, once I started making music and started getting with other people from the area, we started pushing each other. You know, cats like Wajeed and Nick Speed and of course Dilla and Slum Village. I think growing up around a musical household was more my foundation than anything.

Washington Informer: Being from Detroit, Jay Dilla had to be a big influence on you right?

Zo!: Yeah definitely. You know his music was something that we really took pride in because it was so high quality and was something that nobody had ever heard. You know when I first heard the song "Players" like it kind of changed my view, just on the production quality of hip-hop, because up to that point, what was it '98?, up to'98? I hadn't heard anything that sounded anything like that, not even remotely close. I use to go on campus, I liked to go to the library, and log on to www.sandboxautomatic.com, and click on the [laughs] the little album sample and just listen to that joint over and over again I was like, yeah I was mesmerized.