From New Orleans to the Bretagne
Words: Thorben Kaiser
The question »Do you know this man?« next to a photo of PJ Morton could lead to many overwhelmed faces. That’s about to change. Because PJ Morton is promoting his third album on a world tour and in addition surprises with a collaboration with French headwear brand BÉTON CIRÉ.
PJ Morton has been in the game for several years and quite successfully so, but he never made a fuss about himself. The artwork of his new album »Paul« mentions his name very modestly, while his guests are in the limelight. There is no gossip, no scandals. His grounded demeanor may be due to the fact that he grew up in the household of a popular pastor of two Full Gospel Churches, Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr. He was born in the cradle of gospel – not just anywhere, but in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. So he found two disciplines that became second nature for PJ. Add the Nineties and various styles of Hip Hop to that, and you know where he’s coming from.
With open arms and an open heart for regional and global sounds, he matured into a composer and singer. His first album was released via Young Money / Cash Money Records in 2013. Its first single »Only One«, a collaboration with none other than Stevie Wonder, landed him his first Grammy nomination. Twelve more nominations should follow. »How Deep Is Your Love« from the 2018 album »Gumbo Unplugged« finally brought him the popular trophy home. The joy was great as this album was just the second release of this newly founded record company »Morton Records«, a label which PJ Morton sees in the tradition of »Motown Records«. A fresh label with a fresh grammy. Chapeau. Motown Records as a yardstick is a high standard, but above all, a nice view ahead of what we can expect from him. With »Paul«, his third solo album, the chances to succeed are not that bad at all. In addition to further establishing his own style, this time PJ surrounded himself with guests like Rapsody, Angela Rye and JoJo, who add vocal variety to the album with a spectrum between classic R&B, hip hop and funk.
An exciting time for PJ Morton. The beginning of the year takes him around the world. For the first time as a solo artist, not just a part of the band Maroon 5 which he joined in 2012. Playing the keys and adding vocals as the second voice, the band and fans equally appreciated PJ’s input. No reason to go nuts. When asked what he does for a living, he simply says: »Musician!«
Although it may seem that music fills up his schedule, the Morehouse-bred Marketing Bachelor is also interested in the history of New Orleans, so he resettled there after a trip around the world. So he’s able to reflect on himself at a familiar environment, while being culturally active beyond his own musical agenda. Morton also formed a nonprofit corporation, Buddy’s House Foundation, to collect money to renovate the former house of the Jazz musician Buddy Bolden in hopes to be able to turn it into a museum, but more than that into a place where Jazz enthusiasts can gather together.
HHV: It is easy to assume that your character was shaped from growing up with church as the main influence and that you transferred your humbleness to the music business. Is it tough to always keep up that mentality working in the music industry?
PJ: It’s not a tough thing for me. I just feel like I could do none of this alone. I’m confident in what I do, so I never feel the need to push it up front.
HHV: Could you accept being a role model with this attitude for a new generation of recording artists that speak through their work rather than media moves?
PJ: Role model is a word that scares me sometimes. I just screams ‚perfect‘. I don’t know if that’s what I’d accept. But I’m happy to be an example of someone who has done that.
HHV: With your upbringing as a pastors son in mind, did you ever ask a lyricist to change the lyrics they wanted to record because of ethical doubts?
PJ: Actually, I haven’t. I’ve wanted to once, but didn’t feel it was my place. If I asked them to be on the song that comes with accepting them as they are.
HHV: Your album »Gumbo« was followed up by an ‘Unplugged‘ version a year after the studio recordings were dropped and the songs seem to have grown. Is it difficult for you to finish working a song?
PJ: I enjoy finishing songs. They are able to grow in other ways after they are done and you can move to a new art.
HHV: Speaking of fashion as you are currently cooperation with a fashion brand. We wonder how everything came together with BÉTON CIRÉ?
PJ: I saw someone with one on in Australia and ordered one from the website. Now I own five caps. Since I am such a fan, my team and I reached out to BÉTON CIRÉ. We figured out a way we could work together.
HHV: You are now touring the world with »Paul«. Fourty cities. Fourty venues. That is a lot to handle. How did you prepare for that?
PJ: Yes, it can be tough, but I love it. I usually just try to stay warm and hydrated!
HHV: Does religion still play a vital role in your everyday life?
PJ: My faith is definitely still something that’s important. I feel as if my shows are spiritual experiences.
We are excited!
The »BÉTON CIRÉ x PJ Morton« bundle contains one of PJ’s favorite »Mikis« and his latest album »Paul« on vinyl. It will be exclusively available at HHV from January 22nd:
Here are some impressions of PJ’s visit to our store. We had a blast – Thanks to everyone who stopped by and a special Merci to our partners in crime BÉTON CIRÉ.
Visual Content: PJ Morton / HHV