,“I know your eyes in the morning sun ,I feel you touch me in the pouring rain ,And the moment that you wander far from me…”
The lyrics are obviously those to The BeeGees’ “How deep is your love” so naturally I’m singing along but only this time I’m also thinking to myself “Yeah that sounds about right, but wait no, not with this much soul, the bassline, the progression, is this even allowed?”
That pretty much sums up my first encounter with PJ Morton and one can also attest that that reaction to a certain extent sums up PJ and the nature of his music.
So naturally as one does I had to do some digging on this guy, I mean you can not just do justice to a song that needed no justice and expect me to let you go easily. Now, I must admit that I felt embarrassed and aggrieved at myself, how was I only coming to know of this guy in 2018. I mean he is literally the black guy from Maroon 5, it doesn’t get any easier than that.
So now , PJ is a PK whose career has taken him from the church benches to the Young Money studios in route to a solo career Grammy via Maroon 5. Quite a mouthful, right? Add to that his award-winning stint as a songwriter and producer then we can all agree that we deserve a book. Well turns out he has a book as well…
,“…sometimes my mumble is saying something unconsciously that I don’t know I’m saying, so then I listen to the mumble and see kinda what it’s saying…”,
– PJ on his song making process
PJ is highly vocal on his musical influences and powerhouse names such as those of Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and unsurprisingly The BeeGees are never short of mention in that regard. And true to his influences, one can hear bits and parts of them in his music. Such as his trademark riffs which is a trait also synonymous with the aforementioned Stevie or his slick songwriting similar to that of the BeeGees. However, do not get me wrong PJ is in his own right an exceptional artist, I’d even go as far as saying he is the epitome of a modern day soul artist given his relevant lyrical commentary, and frequent use of upbeat sound. PJ’s beyond amazing chord progressions are constantly marveled at by his music peers and his church-based background all but explains this acquired trait.
Educate us: Difference between riffs and runs.
Now true to the blog title I have got to talk about the Grammy win at some point, right? In 2017 PJ decided to move back to his hometown in New Orleans in effort to “go be himself again” in that vain he would go on to record his 1st album at home and subsequent 4th studio album, Gumbo…
“I named it ,Gumbo because the actual dish is a bunch of things mixed in together to make [something] beautiful… It kind of felt like I was dumping a bunch of subject matter together… that sounded like gumbo to me”
“we about to make an album y’all ready?”
These are the first words you hear on Gumbo Unplugged, a 9 track live album and derivative of Gumbo, and man did we get an album! Gumbo unplugged was recorded live in the presence of collaboration artists and musical peers alike. The orchestration of the production is something which PJ himself marvels over. The musical and lyrical content of the songs performed also ceases to amaze ranging from the “rebellious” but yet socially-conscious Religion to the goofy and easy sounding Go Thru Your Phone or closing it all up with the church-esque sound of Everything’s Gonna Be Alright. PJ has since gone on to release his 5th studio album PAUL as well another live album The Piano Album. And oh yes, features from both Gumbo Unplugged and Paul finally got him much deserved Grammy award wins after a long string of nominations with no success, remember the song I referenced at the beginning of the post? yeah, that won him a Grammy too.
To PJ: Thank you for the music!