PJ Morton and the Maroon 5 Sequel

blog by Robyn Wyman-dill

For those of you who don’t know, PJ Morton came onboard Maroon 5 as a touring keyboardist in 2010. When Keyboard player, Jesse Carmichael, decided to take a hiatus in 2012, Morton sat in for him. That arrangement would pay off creatively for everyone involved.

When Carmichael returned to the group to record V two years later, he found he liked the way Morton’s soulful music fit with the band’s blend of modern R&B/Pop and decided to switch from keyboards to playing the guitar. As Maroon 5 began playing larger venues, Carmichael and the band saw the need for more backing-the-track fullness. It made sense to bring PJ Morton in to play keyboards on tour with Carmichael. Plus he’s a very creative and likable guy. Maroon 5 with PJ Morton are on the last lap of their World Tour in North America this Fall, performing in New Orleans on September 5, 2016.

FADE IN: April 28, 2016, NEW ORLEANS, LA. Music Stage, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, On the third and final day of Collision Conference, Morton stops in to discuss, What is it like to be an artist in music today?

At 35, the native New Orleans singer-songwriter-record producer-musician is still forging ahead in his own artistic expression – this time with his new company, Morton Records. A New Orleans native, Morton moved back to New Orleans from LA, two years ago, to make a difference with music. When he not touring, Morton is busy building his “New Orleans Motown” brand, to bring to light the vibrant sounds being created here.

“I think it’s a good thing that our art has been protected here in New Orleans but I want to follow that up and bring it to the world now.”

To find it, Morton plans to tap into talent on the New Orleans music scene and to build some much-needed infrastructure for their talents to flourish. He wants to structure his client list to be about 75 percent homegrown talent with the kind of talent that has it in them to be a modern-day industry artist while still remaining true to one’s roots. Which takes the right guidance.

“I do think that the step that gets missed. The how to develop that artist once you’ve found them.”

Morton believes it is very important to establish who you are and the kind of music you do right out of the gates. He hosts a monthly open mic jam session where artists can come and perform their songs with ease knowing that their work will be allowed to shine with a great band behind them. It also allows Morton to see first-hand how they interact with the audience. His focus is to find something special in an artist that can be nurtured and developed. To do that he’s going to start small with less than 20 artists.

“I do think technology and social media are making the job of finding talent smarter. The good thing about the internet is it allows people access to artists through things like soundcloud.com which cultivates an audience. It allows people to find people who are like them and from there, their demographics grow.”

When Morton was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, social media was not quite the hotbed for emerging talent that it is today. But, cream does rise to the top and so did Morton when he got his lucky break after meeting India.Arie – who was living in the same apartment complex. The duo collaborated on a track that landed as a bonus on Arie’s 2002 album, Voyage to India. The duo also landed a Grammy. At the time, Morton was still just a junior in college.

“I actually got my start as a gospel songwriter. I was 16 years old when I made my first song on a album.”

Working with India.Aire would prove to be a game-changer. Musically-speaking.images-1

A New Orleans homeboy, Morton was brought up in the church. Raised on gospel and then soul music. His father – a Baptist Bishop, was blessed with an amazing set of pipes. Hallelujah! The Morton musical family found a lot of musicians liked to play in their gospel house. But, it was the positive pop experience with India.Aria that radically broadened his horizons.

Today, the game has changed. Young artists have to define their persona across a lot of platforms – right out of the gates. Here’s where the cool factor weighs in on the internet. People that identify with an artist’s style will start to buy their music.

“Sometimes the fans kind of put the pressure on you to kind of grow but remain the same because people know you first for what you’ve done, not what you can do. But, I’ve been kind of lucky because as a songwriter.  I have always had that release to go write for other artists. So if I am in a country mood and want to write a country tune, I go write a country tune.”

Active on social media, Morton sets one condition. When it starts to sound disingenuous he backs off. Being back in New Orleans again, he wants to shepherd his hometown’s musical integrity.

“I think the integrity is built into this culture musically. People respect music here from a very early age. I want it to still be created here and for it to stay here. Rather than me bring it to LA and develop it there.  I believe the artists want it and I believe the world needs it. That’s why I want to bottle it up and export it. It is time to shine the light on New Orleans artists.”

Stay tuned.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.