3 Questions With: Young Money Crooner (and Preacher's Kid?) PJ Morton
PJ Morton is more than just another crooner, more than a "preacher's kid," and more than a Grammy-award winning songwriter. He is also the newest signee to Young Money and the keyboardist for one of the biggest bands in the world, Maroon 5.
Ironically, "PJ" was born Paul Morton, Jr. - the son of a preacher man - to well-known Bishop and Pastor of Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church, a 20,000 member congregation in their native New Orleans. In Gospel circles, young PJ had large shoes to fill - his father is not just a great orator, but an amazing gospel singer with acclaimed albums and a record label to his name.
The younger Morton, however, seemed to bloom in his own musical talent, penning songs for Monica, Jagged Edge, and winning a Grammy for his work with India.Aire. Morton's influence as a songwriter was cemented with a hit song in his first musical genre, Gospel. "Let Go, Let God", topped the gospel charts for a record 70 weeks. Now, as a preacher's kid who is signed to the ever-controversial and influential, Lil Wayne-led Young Money Entertainment, Morton will have to prove himself again to a whole new pool of fans.
Morton's first musical effort, an EP entitled Following my First Mind, had singles featuring Lil Wayne on "Lover", and Maroon 5's Adam Levine on "Heavy". The introduction was critically-acclaimed and whet the appetite for his yet untitled, full-length debut album. AllHipHop.com sat down with the Young Money crooner to discuss his faith, his deal, and his ultra-cool band gig:
AllHipHop.com: We've seen people who are a part of well-known Gospel families go on to sing secular music, and there always seems to be a little criticism and backlash. You wrote a book about that journey - Why Can't I Sing About Love?. What's your response to people who criticize you for the choices that you've made to sing the type of music that you do?
PJ Morton: I used to get more criticism than I do now, but it did come back some when I signed to Young Money. I think I'm remaining who I am. I don't compromise who I am to do the music that I do. For me, growing up thinking that secular music was wrong, I eventually found that there was no biblical basis for that thinking. We just, as the Black church, started to create our own rules and culture that secular music was wrong. I've seen people fight the argument, from Aretha Franklin to Al Green. But, they never really came at it biblically.
I did the research, I searched the Bible. I came to Song of Solomon which is, basically, a book of R&B songs that started me on my journey. My father wrote the forward to my book and admitted that he had been misled for years. I'ma do me, this is my calling, this is the gift that I've been given. I always wanted to talk about more than just God. My life is not limited to just God. So, my conversation isn't. And songs are just life in music form.
AllHipHop.com: What led you to link up with Young Money?
PJ Morton: It's always about growth for me. The independent thing worked for so long. I did all I could do on my own for so long, so I started to reach out to people. The Young Money situation, the seed was planted a long time ago, the president of the label (Mack Maine) and I went to high school together in New Orleans. A mutual friend of ours was a fan of my music, and he also worked for Mack Maine and reconnected us.
Mack was just a genuine fan of the music. I think that's what I like most about the label. People have a lot to say about the label, but they sign artists that they actually believe in, which is a lost artform these days. They're not looking to recreate the artist that they sign, but they like the artist as is. That was a big part of why I went over there, because they liked me just as is. A lot of people thought I was anti-major and pro-indie, but really no major was really to take me as is. When this Young Money situation came up, I couldn't pass that up. I'm happy to be a part of it; it's a beautiful thing.
AllHipHop.com: To be playing with Maroon 5, that's such a big look. How did you link up with them and how, if at all, has it influenced your sound?
PJ Morton: Through they musical director, Adam Blackstone, he introduced me to the band because they were looking for a keyboard player for their live shows. And, the relationship grew and they really just infused me into the band, and it's been a great two and a half years with the band. The way I think it's influenced my sound...as a musician, I'm a listener first. I was a fan of Maroon 5, before I was part of the band. They did a good job of mixing Soul with Pop, and I think that was always my thing and something I was reaching for. And maybe they leaned more towards the Pop than the Soul, and I lean more towards the Soul than the Pop; but I think it's really similar and I think that's why we click so well.
They definitely put me on to some sounds, some music that I had never been into. As I'm always trying to grow and push my creative boundaries, it's always good to be around what's on the pulse. We had four weeks at number one with "One More Night", went number one with "Jagger". As a musician, it's good to be around what's hot, that can only affect you in a major way. It's like, "whoa, I'm really a part of what's happening right now. I'm on the number one song in the country."
CLICK HERE to watch PJ’s lyric video for the funky “Heavy” featuring Adam Levine.
CLICK HERE to watch the official video for “Don’t Break My Heart”.
Follow him on Twitter (@PJMorton), and check out PJMortonOnline.com.