PJ Morton

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New Orleans’ PJ Morton is an uncommonly versatile keyboardist, songwriter, and producer known for his own R&B, gospel, and pop albums, as well as extensive studio work for other performers. Morton gained notice in the early 2000s, working with artists like Kierra "Kiki" Sheard, DeWayne Woods, and Musiq Soulchild before issuing his own projects. Following Emotions (2005), Perfect Song (2007), Walk Alone (2010), and New Orleans (2013), he reached a high level of acclaim with the Grammy-nominated Gumbo (2017), highlighted by a Grammy-winning duet with Yebba on a cover of Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.” Remarkably, Morton by then had also become a long-term member of Maroon 5, and has earned more accolades with the band’s succession of Top Ten LPs. On his own, Morton has added to his Grammy tally with the JoJo duet “Say So” (2019) and Gospel According to PJ: From the Songbook of PJ Morton (2021). The latter has been followed by Watch the Sun (2022), a deeply reflective full-length with a typically extensive list of notable collaborators.
The son of fellow recording artist Bishop Paul S. Morton and Pastor Dr. Debra Brown Morton, PJ Morton was born in New Orleans in 1981. He played music growing up, and eventually majored in marketing at Morehouse College, graduating in 2003. During this period, he launched his music career, releasing an album with his short-lived group Freestyle Nation and contributing to India.Arie’s Grammy-winning 2002 album Voyage to India. Over the next few years, he released genre-crossing independent albums such as Emotions and Perfect Song while collaborating with Anthony David, Faith Evans, Monica, and Kierra "KiKi" Sheard. He also had a breakthrough success with the gospel hit “Let Go,” written for DeWayne Woods. Morton’s 2010 album Walk Alone included his own version of the song, and he and his father performed the GMA Dove winner for the live release Bishop Morton Celebrates 25 Years of Music.
Along the way, Morton relocated to Los Angeles. In 2010, he joined Maroon 5 as a performing keyboardist and background vocalist, and became a full-fledged member. The work didn’t slow his solo career. He signed to Young Money and released the album New Orleans — featuring guest appearances from Stevie Wonder, Busta Rhymes, and Maroon 5′s Adam Levine — in May 2013. The album’s single “Only One” earned him a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song.
Despite his success, Morton grew dissatisfied with Los Angeles, and moved back to New Orleans, where he founded his own Morton Records label. In 2017, he returned with his fifth solo album, Gumbo, which featured appearances by BJ the Chicago Kid and the Hamiltones, and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best R&B Album. The record’s cover of Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” won Morton and duet partner Yebba the Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance. Morton re-created the album live in 2018 and released it as Gumbo Unplugged, his second consecutive LP nominated for the Best R&B Album Grammy.
Following the subsequent release of Christmas with PJ Morton, Morton continued to put together (and assist with) recordings that appealed to the Recording Academy. Paul, issued in 2019, was up for Best R&B Album, and “Built for Love” and “Say So,” its respective collaborations with Jazmine Sullivan and JoJo, were likewise nominated. The latter took the award for Best R&B Song. While written and produced entirely by Morton, 2020′s Gospel According to PJ: From the Songbook of PJ Morton was just as communal in nature as his other sessions, bolstered by input from his father, the Clark Sisters, Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, and other gospel legends. In 2021, Morton teamed with BJ the Chicago Kid, Kenyon Dixon, and Charlie Bereal for a Grammy-nominated update of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me,” and was sought by Jon Batiste to co-write and appear on “Boy Hood,” a song off Batiste’s Album of the Year-winning We Are. Morton quickly followed up in 2022 with Watch the Sun, and though it led with the introspective “Ready to Love,” the album was studded with stars such as Stevie Wonder (whose ’70s recordings were an evident inspiration for “Ready to Love”), El DeBarge, and Jill Scott. ~ Andy Kellman