PJ Morton Interview - Star Stories
SS101: For all of those who don’t know, let’s dig into your past a little bit. How long have you been doing music?
PJ: I’ve been playing piano since I was 8. I start producing and writing at 14. That’s when it really started professionally. I got my first placement when I was 16 and things just started to roll on from there.
SS101: Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
PJ: Stevie Wonder is definitely my biggest influence and the Beatles played a big part in writing. I would also say Prince is a big influence as far as live performing.
SS101: How would you describe your sound?
PJ: I call it soulful pop music. It’s definitely got it’s soulful elements in there, but it’s pop in the sense that it’s relevant and it speaks to the times and also pop in the sense that it reaches a large range of people, different types of people.
SS101: Who do you listen to in current music?
PJ: Well I got Justin Beiber’s joint the other day (laughs)
SS101: (laughs) how do you like that? Actually, a lot of people are talking about it.
PJ: There are some good songs on there. A lot of my friends wrote on that album and they did solid songs. It’s actually a good album. Mainstream artists of today I definitely listen to Drake. Anything that Kanye does I’m usually on. Some bands I listen to – MGMT. I listen to a lot of different music.
SS101: Who would be your dream collaboration dead or alive?
PJ: I guess it would be Stevie. He’s the reason I’m doing music. I would love to figure out what we could do together.
SS101: Speaking of collabs on your latest mixtape you had a few dope collabs like Adam Levine & Jazmine Sullivan, although your existing fan base would probably say the most unexpected would be the song with Lil Wayne “Lover,” Mainly because you have a strong fan base in the church community and Lil Wayne is.. yea (laughs) Have you gotten any slack from that?
PJ: I haven’t had any slack about it. I’ve had people say they don’t like Wayne on the song. I’d say the church community that are my fans, they just have to accept the music for what it is. It’s never been gospel music, so it’s always been the type of church fans who have been looking for something different anyway. But I didn’t get any slack, I don’t entertain that. I treat my music very selfishly anyway. Whoever likes it, likes it and that’s cool. And whoever doesn’t like it doesn’t like it and that’s cool as well.
SS101: I respect that mentality. I’ve seen a youtube video maybe a year or two about basically you responding to some people in the black church community putting pressure on what you should sing and shouldn’t sing about. Like can you sing about love and still consider yourself Christian? Do you have any new thoughts on that?
PJ: I think if I want to talk about Jesus in a song then I will. I don’t talk about Jesus all day in my normal life so I don’t think that I need to make a whole (Gospel) album. I’m a Christian, that’s what I believe in, that’s my personal relationship, that’s not something I talk about all day and that’s not all I go through in life.
SS101: Have you ever considered doing a Gospel or Christian music? Or are you continuing on the vibe that you’re on right now?
PJ: I don’t think that I’d ever do just a solely Christian/Gospel album. Just the way I think, I don’t think I would do that. But my response video is like my first and last response. That’s when I had written my book“Why Can’t I Sing About Love? The Truth About The ‘Church’ and ‘Secular’ Music” and I just wanted to address that. A lot of people’s opinions are just based on how we grew up. It’s not biblical, it’s just basically what we’ve learned in the culture what we’re supposed to do in our relationship with God. I mean some people just have to relearn things like I did, and like my father said in the forward in that book – he noticed that it’s just what he learned that that’s just what he was taught not necessarily what is. So I still just stand on that.
SS101: Along with the shock on the feature with Lil Wayne, I know that there was a huge shock that you signed with Young Money.
PJ: I’m an artist that’s signed to a record label it’s not like I’m a young boy who joined a gang (laughs.) I think people misconstrue that to mean that I have to conform to what everything else is at the label. Whatever changes for me sonically is just me changing and growing. I don’t think any of my records sound the same. It wouldn’t be from who I’m signing to. I wouldn’t go this long independent and do what I want to do to sign a deal that constrains who I am. I’m going to be who I am. To be honest, the fans who have a problem with who I signed to, I rather them not be my fans anyway. I don’t need that energy. I rather we just say peace to each other, it’s been real (laughs) If they think I can just change with the wind like that then I don’t think that they were much of a fan to begin with.
SS101: In terms of the creative process of your new album, where are you with that?
PJ: I’m just starting with the rest of it. Following My First My First Mind EP was part of the full LP that I want to put out, so it will include some of those songs. I’m probably four songs in on the new record. The Maroon 5 record comes out on Tuesday so I’ll be out promoting and touring with that, so I’ll be writing and working on my record while I’m touring.
SS101: Word, let’s talk about that Maroon 5 move! That came out and shocked a lot of people.
PJ: It started out as me being the sixth member of the band, just touring and stuff. A friend of mine just came in as a music director and they were looking for a keyboard player and singer. I thought it was cool because I had always been a fan of the band and I just thought it would be a good fit and a good time for me. That was 2010 and we’ve been rocking with that. We just really fit and they’re my brothers. The keyboard player took a break so they made me the official fifth member for this new record Over Exposed that comes out Tuesday. It’s been incredible and great for me to juggle those two things and gain perspective on who I am as a solo artist and being a part of a band as well. It’s been really cool and really fun and those guys definitely look out for me and support me.
SS101: And I’m sure that will help you expand your fanbase and visibility too, from who was looking at you before vs who knows your name now.
PJ: Absolutely! I think that’s what’s so cool about the next phase of my career. I kinda got the best of both words paying attention. I’ve got Young Money doing their thing as a major HipHop and even Pop label so the young people will pay attention, and Maroon 5 having one of the biggest songs “Moves Like Jagger” it’s almost like I’m starting over and reintroducing myself, I feel like I’m a new artist. It has been awesome so far.
SS101: I definitely think all of these moves are definitely going to catapult you to the next level.
PJ: Definitely! And I’ve forever be indebted to the people who have supported me from day one. Not just the people who know one song but the people who really support what I do.
SS101: When can we expect the new album?
PJ: We should be done in the fall. We’re about to put out “Lover” the song with Lil Wayne as the official single, it will be hitting radio soon. We shot the video last week. The video will drop in the fall and I should do another solo U.S. Tour and then hopefully the album will drop early next year. That’s the plan, I hope to have an album out next year.
SS101: Speaking of tours I actually went to your NY show at the Highline Ballroom with Dawn Richard and Aaron Camper. I’ve followed your music for years but this was my first PJ concert and I must say you did your thing.
PJ: Thanks man! I had a good time in New York as always.
SS101: You have a very strong following up here for sure. One thing I noticed with Dawn Richard on your tour and signing to Young Money is it fair to assume that you have an affinity to people from your home town New Orleans?
PJ: Absolutely. I’ve always been a fan of Dawn’s voice, with Dirty Money with Danity Kane. I’ve always noticed her voice. I think it’s just icing on the cake that she’s from New Orleans. And the Young Money deal has a lot to do with the fact that the President of the label, Mack Maine, we went to high school together. There’s history there, and that’s what the deal with about more than anything. That’s what people might not get looking in from the outside. He’s a supporter of my music as is and we go waaaay back, so that’s like history there. But absolutely I ride for the home team, New Orleans. Ledisi, Dawn Richard, Frank Ocean, Luke James, Teedra Moses. New Orleans is making some moves right now and I’m definitely riding with the home team.
SS101: For sure. As we’re always focused on highlighting the best place for young, fresh African Americans to hit in our favorite cities, what are your favorite spots in your city or New Orleans?
PJ: It’s a little different post-Hurrican Katrina. But if you want some good crawfish, Cajun Seafood on Claiborne and right down the street on Claiborne is Manchu’s chicken which is like the chicken to get in New Orleans. Of course the French Quarters just has a good vibe. Red Fish Grill is a good place to eat down there.
SS101: Cool and since you live in LA, what are some of your favorite spots out there?
PJ: I don’t get out much, I work so much man! Because my work is entertainment, I don’t really go out when I don’t have to work. But one of my favorite venues, it’s where Elton John was discovered. Troudadoure. And of course Roscoes!
SS101: Word, Roscoes Chicken & Waffles you can never fail with that!
PJ: Word! When my people come to LA I definitely take them there first.
Interview by Rondel Holder