Posted On 17 Jun 2015
Tag: Adam Levine, All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, Artist Interview, Grammy, Heavy, Henson Recording Studio, I Need Your Love, India Arie, Interested, Janelle Monae, Jazmine Sullivan, Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, Live Show Killer, Maroon 5, Michael Jackson, Moorehouse, Morton Records, Motown, New Orleans, Only One, Pharrell Williams, PJ Morton, Quincy, Ribbon In The Sky, SNL, Stevie Wonder, The Crusade, The Voice, Walk Alone, We Are The World
While many people may know the very talented PJ Morton as the pianist for Maroon 5, he also has a very successful solo career that he has been able to foster while being with the band. His latest album “Live Show Killer” will be out on July 17th via his label, Morton Records.
The collection was recorded in front of an intimate audience at the historic Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles in early May. Along with his band, The Crusade, PJ performed a special set including fan favorites, surprise covers and many songs from his 2013 album “New Orleans”.
In support of “Live Show Killer”, PJ will be touring throughout the US later this summer, including stops in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and his hometown of New Orleans. (See tour schedule below)
From his home in LA, I caught up with PJ for a few minutes. He called this time before the release of the album and the summer tour- “the calm before the storm”.
Your live recording last week at Henson Recording Studio was absolutely fantastic! Everyone in the crowd was loving it! What did it feel like for you playing there?
Oh wow, I’m so glad you could make it! Yeah, that room was great! That’s the “We Are The World” room! It was amazing. First, just the historic aspect and I do love history. It all connects us. I felt sort of connected to Quincy and MJ being able to record there. There were some good vibes in there for sure. Everyone came to have a good time and everybody came to expect good music. I had an amazing time.
When it comes to performing live, what sort of venue do you prefer at play at? An intimate show like that or a bigger amphitheater type show? What are the challenges or benefits of either?
I don’t think I have a preference. Performing in front of 20,000 is as exhilarating but in a different way. You don’t get to look everyone in the eye the way you can at an intimate setting. But it’s amazing to have 20,000 people sing along with you. You can’t beat that! But then you can’t beat the intimate setting that can feel almost like it’s a party. I like them both in different ways. They are like my children, I can’t pick a favorite. (Laughter)
Tell me about your upcoming album. When will you release it and what can we expect from it?
Well, it’s coming out next month and I’m excited to get on the road and tour with it. I think what you can expect a combination. The reason I just didn’t want to do a live album was because it’s been a dozen times already. I wanted to create a different experience, something from the audience’s perspective and just as far, the way we capture and record it. It’s going to be a mixture of a live and studio album. While it will have the live aspect of the audience and that energy, we were also able to manipulate and move things around too. I am really excited about what I’m about to give to the world. It’s gonna be a cool combination that hasn’t been done before.
The album is called “Live Show Killer”. It’s a nickname that fans have given me through the years. While I’m a rookie and laid back and almost shy sometimes with strangers, on stage, I feel kind of like a super hero and I feel like I can conquer the world. So yeah, I embrace it now that I am the Live Show Killer.
In 2013, you released your major label debut, “New Orleans”. How do you think you and your music has grown since that collection?
I think “New Orleans” was sort of a re-discovery. I had been this independent artist for a number of years. So, finally I had this major label release. It was kind of like a starting over in a way and rediscovering who PJ was. It’s really the reason why I named it “New Orleans” – my place of birth and it’s where I fell in love with music and where I learned how to write songs and where I became the musician I am now.
This new album is really a natural progression of getting back to who PJ is. I thought in order to start all that, I should do a live thing because that’s really who I am. The stage is my natural habitat, more then the studio more then anything else. That’s really where I become who I really am. I think I’ve grown in that way. I want people to know that I’m this performer and musician who lives on stage.
You earned a Grammy for your hit single, “Only One” which features Stevie Wonder. What it was like working with him? Did it exceed all your expectations?
It’s still crazy to me when people tell me that I have a song with Stevie Wonder. It was a dream come true. When I was deciding that I wanted to be an artist, Stevie was who I looked up to. I was this keyboard player who sang a little bit and wrote songs. I thought well, Stevie is the best at all that, so I better look to him. So to have worked with him is full circle. Even now, it’s still surreal. That was and is my hero. It’s unexplainable.
You’ve also worked with India. Arie on one of her albums. How did that happen?
That was really my introduction to the world. I was in college at Moorehouse. India and I were living in the same apartment complex and there was a piano in the lobby. I was playing it and she came down (this is before her first album came out so I didn’t know who she was). She started talking about the industry and she started singing “Ribbon In The Sky” and I instantly became a fan. She told me that she had just signed with Motown. We became friends and that’s kinda how it all happened. That started it all for me. I was still in college and her album went on to win a Grammy. So that was a big introduction for me! I don’t even think I fully understood what was happening because it all happened so fast.
Growing up, did you always want to be a performer?
Well, yes and no. I always wanted to be a musician and perform on stage but I was very shy before I started to sing. I would get very nervous to sing infront of people for a long time. My ultimate dream was to play for some big artist, to play the keyboard for a big artist and tour the world and doing that. I thought that was what I was going to do. Then I started to write songs and I felt like the songs didn’t fit anyone else but me so it kind of forced me to become an artist. Then I got more and more comfortable. Yeah, I would get so nervous and shake. I really didn’t want to be performer but I slowly embraced it and kind of became who I am now.
I was about 8 years old when I started playing the piano. I started playing for other people when I was about 14. That’s when I got serious.
What artists have consistently inspired you?
Stevie Wonder of course. Kanye West is someone who I’ve been impressed by. He always has integrity in whatever he puts out there as far as his music is concerned. I’m always inspired by it because he is always ahead. Janelle Monae is a friend of mine who I’ve watched grow and I’m always inspired by. I love her. I listen to a lot of music. Oh, Jazmine Sullivan is one of my all-time favorite singers too.
Who would be your dream duet?
I think from a production stand-point, I would love to work with Pharrell Williams and Kanye West at some point. It would be cool to see what kind of combination and what kind of merge we can come up with together. Not really a duet but I’d love to make music with those guys.
How do you balance all your solo work and then working with Maroon 5? How do you fit everything in your schedule?
It’s hard when you are creative because there is a hard schedule with Maroon 5. It used to be harder but now that Adam’s got The Voice, there are built in taping times that he’s got to do. So we see that on the schedule and I play with that time. Thank God The Voice never stops taping so I always have time. During my last break, I wasn’t really writing at all but this time around, I am working constantly when I have those time gaps. I’m just using all my free time. It keeps me inspired. I love it so it makes it easy.
Have Adam and the other Maroon 5 members always been supportive of your solo career from the very beginning?
They are fully supportive. Adam was actually featured on my “New Orleans” album on “Heavy” so yeah. This is nothing I ever asked for, it just sort of happened.
On our last tour, I actually did double duty, I opened for the band as PJ Morton and then Kelly Clarkson and then we closed with Maroon 5. And they really don’t have to do that. They don’t have to let me open for them. They do it because they support me. I also opened up for them on the European tour. The guys and Adam are fully supportive. We are real friends, we aren’t just band-mates. Those are some of my best friends. The train is definitely not stopping anytime soon with those guys. I have no reason to leave Maroon 5. I love being there. They are great guys. As long as the people want that music, we’ll keep creating it. I don’t see any reason to stop doing either.
So far, what do you think has been your biggest accomplishment?
I used to have bucket lists… play SNL, win a Grammy... I feel like a big accomplishment for me was working with Stevie Wonder. A lot of people don’t get to perform with someone who is responsible for getting them on their journey. So for me, that was kind of like the ultimate. That kind of made me feel like I needed to dream bigger. My dream was to play SNL once and I have played it 3 times now. The options were never on my radar. I’m just so grateful for my life and things that have come up. I’m in a great position and God has looked out for me. I guess if I had to pick one, it would be working with Stevie. It was really huge. I felt accomplished after doing that. Like if I didn’t do anything else, I was good.
Love is a big thing. I think love isn’t as popular as it used to be. I want to keep pushing that. I think love will solve all of the problems of the world. I definitely want people to take away that from the album. And also that being an individual is something that I want to campaign for the rest of my life. I want people to understand that they can be exactly who they are supposed to be. Make the music exactly as they how hear it and feel it and let it be that. Be an individual. I feel like we are in an age where so many people are seeking trends and chasing what’s already out there and what’s already on the radio. But I think its important to instill in everybody to be an individual. If you try to be somebody else, you miss out being something that only you can do. So yeah, those two things, love and being an individual.
PJ Morton Upcoming Tour Dates:
07/09/15 Oklahoma City @ Avenue 101
07/17/15 New Orleans @ Howlin’ Wolf
07/18/15 Chicago @ The Promontory
07/27/15 Washington DC @ Howard Theater
07/29/15 New York City @ Highline Ballroom
07/30/15 Philadelphia –@ World Café Live
08/07/15 Atlanta @ Centerstage
08/20/15 Durham @ Motorco Music Hall
08/21/15 Charlotte @ The Chop Shop
www.pjmortononline.com, www.facebook.com/thepjmorton // www.twitter.com/pjmorton // https://instagram.com/pjmorton