Singer/songwriter PJ Morton is the newest face to join Young Money's Army, and he's here to add a fresh new element to the influential label.
Reigning from "The Big Easy" like Young Money's CEO Lil Wayne, PJ Morton is bringing his soulful imprint to one of the hottest hip-hop labels in the game.
As the keyboardist for Maroon 5, PJ's raw talent and appreciation for the art of music peeked Lil Tunechi's attention so much, he had to sign him.
GlobalGrind caught up with PJ to talk about signing to Young Money, his biggest influencer Stevie Wonder, and of course, his new EP Following My First Mind.
Check out GlobalGrind's exclusive interview below!
GlobalGrind: How did you and Lil Wayne link up?
PJ Morton: The link goes way back. We’re all from New Orleans of course. Mack Maine and I went to high school together. We’re all messing around with music, back then, and it just kind of came full circle. We had a mutual friend who worked for Mac that was a fan of my music, and kind of re-linked us. It just made sense.
I saw you at a show with Teedra Moses in 2008. When the news broke that you signed with Young Money I was like, PJ Morton who used to tour with Teedra?!
Absolutely! Now, Teedra and me are doing a show in Cleveland at the House of Blues. We’ve still got that relationship going. It’s definitely come full circle from that grind.
Your dad’s a pastor, how old were you when you started making music outside of the church?
Yeah, my dad’s a pastor. I’m a preacher’s kid. I’ve been playing keys since I was eight. I kind of started messing around with the singing and wanting to be an artist; I guess 15 or16. I was already producing and writing then.
Of course, Gospel music was my lowest hanging fruit. At 14 was when I got my first actual paycheck. I’d been pretty focused from 14 on, early.
As the child of a pastor, were you allowed to listen to secular music?
I remember Sundays we couldn’t really listen to anything other than Gospel music, but my dad was always an Anita Baker fan, and my mom is who put me on The Beatles when I was a kid. They’ve always been somewhat balanced people.
My fight came when I chose to be a secular artist, more than just listening to it. When I was going to be one of them, it became a different thing. That was something that I had to fight. I think initially my parents thought it was a phase, but going naturally they became my number one supporters and still are right now.
So they’re cool with you being signed to Lil Wayne?
Oh yeah, they know me! It’s really at the end of the day about nobody else. It’s about who I am, and they understand who I am.
You’ve also played the keyboards for Maroon 5 too?
How was it being on the road with Adam Levine & Maroon 5?
It’s fun! At the core of it all, we’re all musicians who just love to play. They remind me—even though it’s only been two years since I’ve been in the band—they remind me of the guys that I’ve been playing with for years because we’re kind of all the same in a way. It’s been a natural progression hanging with those guys. It’s been amazing! I’ve never traveled the world, as much as I have with them, so that’s been a step up from anything I’ve done. It’s been an amazing experience for sure.
Who are some of your musical inspirations?
Stevie is the number one for me, and always has been my biggest influence. Stevie’s a big one! The Beatles were a huge inspiration for me. James Taylor, the folk singer, is really where I started to focus on songwriting, and really understanding the art of songwriting. Prince as far as a live performer was always my go-to.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would you want to collaborate with?
I’d love to do something with Kanye. I’m sure Drake and I will mess around when I do the full record. And of course, Stevie would be full circle for me. I’d say those are my top three.
You’re currently working on your new album, right?
Yeah, I put out the EP just to kind of give people a taste of what to expect. What I’ve realized is my independent fans that have been with me for years are still there. They’re loyal fans. I understand they’re new eyes because of the Maroon 5 thing. They’re new eyes because of the Young Money thing. I kind of wanted to introduce myself again. Even to my old friends, show them where I am right now without making them having to pay for it. The EP is just a taste, while I’m still working on the full record, which I hope to have some time in the fall or early next year.
Your EP is called Following My First Mind, what does that mean?
It is something I feel creative beings like writers, song writers, artists, visual artists - I think we have lost that confidence in being elite in that way. I feel like when you’re gifted to have something that’s special, I think you’re supposed to lead the way, as opposed to follow somebody else, follow a trend that’s happening, or try to chase radio.
I think the fans used to look to the artists to find what they needed, and it’s become the opposite these days. It’s the rejuvenation of the artist. For us to be confident again in what we hear, you know that first crazy song we hear isn’t necessarily like anything that’s out right now or that painting that’s not popular, something like that.
Follow My First Mind is just my daily mantra right now. I’m not going to follow anything else. I’ll just do what I feel and hope people dig it because that one thing that you do different is what makes you a unique being, what makes you you! That’s what that’s about for me.
When Wayne announced you were signing to Young Money, my initial thought was, “I hope he doesn’t switch his whole style up too much.”
I think there’s a misconception with Young Money altogether. They’re as old school as it gets, in the sense of, they sign people that they actually believe in. Drake didn’t sign anything. Drake was brand new. He was fresh when he came out with “Best I Ever Had.” Those are the type of artists that Wayne signs.
Nicki is different. There’s no West Coast rapper that came out rocking like Tyga, so I think that is the misconception and people look at them as a crew, more than a serious label.
I think it’s time to kind of change that idea of Young Money because they’re continuing—we are—continuing to win these charts and sell all these records. I think people need to start paying attention and understand they’re a serious contender in this music thing. That they’re spreading their wings, and they don’t want to touch my music at all. If anything changes in my music it's because I’m changing, growing, and moving.
I think that’s a big misconception about it all. Like I said, I always look to Stevie, he always did what he did. But it is easy to fall into that thing of “We have to give you another hit; let me copy this song.”
What’s your vice?
Tattoos have been my vice. I’ve been getting tattoos since I was 17. I don’t actually know how many I have anymore.
You have that many?
It’s like 20 plus.
What’s PJ’s favorite thing to do besides making music?
I’m very chill. I try not come off bored. Music is what I really love to do in a nerdy type of way. If I’m working or not, it’s really what I l want to do. I love movies. I love basketball. Those are my two ways I let down.
You’ve traveled all over the world, what’s been your favorite moment while on tour?
My favorite moment was probably when we did ‘Rock in Rio’ a few months ago, in Brazil, and it was 100,000 plus people singing along. You couldn’t see where the people ended. For me it was one of the most special moments, just seeing that happen. I think about it while on stage…the journey. It’s just cool to see something like that.
If I sent you to a deserted island, and you could only bring three albums with you, what three albums would you bring?
I’d definitely bring The Beatles Abbey Road, Maybe Secret Life Of Plants With Stevie or Inner Vision, I can't choose between the two… I would definitely bring Thriller by MJ.
Can you tell us something about you most people don’t know?
I’m a clown! I like to joke a lot. I guess sometimes my personality can come out through Twitter, but I’m not this serious, deep brother. I think a lot of people do think I’m that guy that’s sitting around writing songs and crying. I’m really not that guy. I love music. It’s my sport of choice. I really do love doing this.
Is there anything else you want to let your fans know?
Just that I start this tour April 4. It will be out for a month everywhere. All the dates are online, PJMortononline.com.