If you do an internet image search of PJ Morton, you’ll quickly notice something common to most of the photos: a stylish headgear. You have to scroll a bit not to see Morton – who visits House of Blues on Friday, June 17 – in a cap, beanie, bucket hat or some other variety of fancy headwear. Morton is a seasoned musician, singer, songwriter, and producer with multiple Grammys, but it seems too simple to infer that he wears so many different hats because he wears so many as an artist.
“I probably have every color you can imagine in beanies,” laughed Morton. “They just became part of my style. I don’t know exactly where it comes from. You know, I think of Marvin Gaye, an iconic photo of him. I think maybe somewhere unconsciously, it may have stuck with me. But for me, I think it’s just part of my presentation, part of what makes me feel like myself. I do not know. There’s nothing special about it, but I sure have a lot.
We wonder if the hats allow him to remain a little discreet. Throughout his career, Morton has often played backstage, writing, producing or playing with artists like India.Arie, Jon Batiste and most notably Maroon 5 as the band’s keyboardist. He simultaneously built a solo career that got a boost a few years ago with a Grammy-winning cover of the Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love.” His solo work is now taking off, thanks to his critically acclaimed new album, watch the sun.
“My journey has always been in all worlds. Starting out as a writer, it was always a selfless role in the sense that I was creating something for other artists. And I was a producer. And then I became artist while I was still a producer,” he said. “Once I got to Maroon 5 I was very used to being in front and at first it was a relief to be able to be the keyboard player and the background singer. It was really like a relief for me and now I think that’s what it’s for in my life, always juggling the two, they feed each other. I sometimes go from the Super Bowl to the House of Blues and get unique experiences from both.
“For me, it’s just an enchanted life, man, I feel really lucky to be able to experience and feel those two things because I love them all equally – producing, writing, playing in the background, playing the leader – I think all of them are necessary for me.
It could give some insight into the kind of artist Morton is and anyone could guess his pedigree based on Grammy wins alone. He’s won trophies at home four years in a row now, including a win this year for his work on Batiste We are, the title album of the year. Whenever asked about the winning streak, Morton redirects to the many times he was nominated – over a dozen – but didn’t win.
“Whenever I hear about the wins, it immediately reminds me of the losses because I don’t think anyone really told me about them when I was starting out as an artist,” he shared. “All you see is really the wins, that’s the only thing you post on your Instagram, the only thing you post is the beautiful things. And I just always want to, especially as a fan of independence and being your own artist, I just want to make sure it’s clear every time these victories are brought up, it was a journey to get here. It didn’t happen by accident. It’s going to be a journey, just stick with it and it can be a result. But don’t think for a second that I just got here winning. It was a journey and a lot of lessons along the way.
Morton’s journey began in the church. He is the son of a pastor who started playing music in church.
“Our favorite soul singers and the people who kind of define what R&B and soul is in our world came from there. I think that’s why someone who’s not even a practitioner can connect to it, because that’s the soul he grew up with or the soul his grandmother had. played. You know, it was from the church,” he said.
Morton said that starting his music in this setting helped him because “this environment is very supportive, but it’s also honest”. If you miss a note on a solo, you’ll receive a “keep working” and a pat on the back. He also said that his father’s church “was my first audience. It was my first time watching my father as a preacher call and answer with the public. It’s no different from what I do at my gigs now. He added that gospel was changing during his youth, still rooted in its traditional sound but also taking on rock and reggae inflections. This allowed him to stretch musically.
He said following his father, who could call a song that was “50 years older than me, and I was supposed to follow him”, prepared him for bigger stages. “When I came to the Grammys to play, or the Super Bowl, I was in high-pressure situations, I’ve been doing this all my life. It really is a crazy training ground, according to the church in which you grow up.
As a result, Morton’s songs may sound hopeful, but he doesn’t just rely on good vibes for change. Tracks like “Religion” and “MAGA?” of its back catalog takes an unflinching look at our shortcomings and urges us to do better. For a man who has an image of What’s going on-era Marvin Gaye in an iconic red beanie etched into his subconscious, it just makes sense.
“I’ve heard an artist talk about being an artist rather than being an artist and I think I fall somewhere in between. I think the artist is supposed to distract you from whatever is going on, make you forget your problems, dance your problems,” he said. “And then an artist is supposed to make you look at those things and when we do it in song form, enough so that you can chew on something that can be difficult to chew.
“I think some people lean more heavily to one side or the other. I like to try to fall somewhere in the middle and inspire and put the truth in there,” he noted, “and also entertain and have a good time too.He said the key is not to be stereotyped or dishonest.
“You don’t have to be the guy who preaches or inspires,” he said. “Just be who you are, because someone needs what you have as an artist.”
Many people needed what Morton offers as an artist and vice versa. Stevie Wonder, Nas, Jill Scott, Wale – he worked with all of them, just on watch the sun only. Even El DeBarge sings on a track that sounds lovingly like a DeBarge song. We ask who else he would like to work with in his career.
“I was a huge Beatles fan,” he began. “There are artists that I like and with whom I don’t necessarily have to work. Paul McCartney is the reason I’m a songwriter, you know? But I met him and I feel like that was enough.
“Stevie was the greatest in my world. It was the biggest thing I ever shot for,” he continued. “I’ll say it wherever I can, but I would really, really love to work with D’Angelo. He’s also been so influential in everything I do, so D’Angelo is a big one for me. Kendrick Lamar is a counterpart I’d like to work with, and André 3000. I like all the people you can’t reach, basically, I guess.
If anyone can reach them, it might be Morton, a literal and figurative wearer of many hats, an artist with something to say, a talent for the secular masses who comes from the church, a musician from musicians, a patient and selfless artist who has emerged as a solo act on his own terms. That’s how we see him, but we give him the last word and ask him what he would most like readers to know about him, something that isn’t written in press releases and isn’t. is not seen in the interviews he did to promote his stellar new album.
“I looked at the state of the music and how it really doesn’t seem to be about the music. Even as an entrepreneur trying to release a new artist, it’s much more of a narrative or a story just music,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s groundbreaking or anything, I don’t know if I shared it like that, but it’s really going to be my mission in my music, I’m going to fight because the labels are making it very difficult. They look at the numbers immediately.
“A lot of our favorite artists, our favorites today, would never have made it in this industry because they wouldn’t have had enough followers, they wouldn’t have had enough streams,” he said. declared. “I just make it my mission to push the music and make sure the music comes before the narrative as a musician and an entrepreneur. It’s become really important to me the more I see there are less possibilities for true artists who may not be able to play the numbers game and want to be able to make their music.
PJ Morton visits House of Blues Friday June 17 to support his new album watch the sun. 1204 Caroline, doors at 7 p.m. for this all-public event. With DJ ArieSpins. $34.50 to $49.50.