How familiar are you with the new surge of soulful independent musicians? These severely talented young artists are so eager to be heard that they often travel from city-to-city, and sometimes abroad, selling the music they create from either the trunks of their cars or the sack on their backs. There are limited, if any, broadcast radio stations that will give their music the time of day, but that seems to be alright. When provided with an opportunity to perform, these artists generally have the ability to draw standing room only crowds.
PJ Morton is no different. His name may not ring out with any definitive familiarity at this time, but you are urged to remember it because in a short time, it is expected that all of that will change. I recently had the opportunity to talk briefly with PJ about his music, influences and his mission through music. Please be aware that this is not the story of PJ's father, the world renowned Bishop Paul S. Morton - nor about PJ's gospel roots. This is the story of a young musician who has evolved and blossomed, creating a sense of self with which he is comfortable.
As most pk's (preachers kids) express, PJ felt pressure growing up in a household where his father was a well known minister. However, wanting to break free and find his niche must have been difficult initially. His first independent release, "Emotions" was well-received in 2005 by many who sought something new and refreshing in soul music. Last year, his follow up album, "Perfect Song," caught some by surprise because the musical formula changed somewhat. The PJ Morton Band, which is comprised of PJ and three other members, released a project that blended rock, pop and r&b to make it a music delight. Comparisons have been made between the two releases and PJ asks that those critical of any part of the work take a deeper look within and feel the music. While refusing to be limited or categorized as a certain type of artist, PJ Morton hopes that his music inspires joy and peace, so that one can feel better about themselves. He sings of real life situations and circumstances that almost anyone can relate to, though it may not be his own personal testimony.
His biggest influence is none other than the original "master blaster" himself, Stevie Wonder. And when he speaks of his idol, the excitement in his voice is apparent. He shared that his third album, with an anticipated release date of Summer 2008, will be heavily impacted by the early sounds of Stevie Wonder (i.e., Innervisions, Music of My Mind). Though PJ was adamant that he has no plans for a gospel project at this time, the single "Let Go, Let God" which he produced and watched ride the Billboard charts from late last year into this year, was sung by gospel artist DeWayne Woods and has been nominated in for "Song of the Year" in the upcoming Stellar Awards. With a following of young and slightly older adults perhaps PJ will one day reconsider the notion of producing a complete gospel project. Until then, be sure to visit www.pjmortononline.com as soon as you finish reading this!
- Detrel Howell
Update: After chatting with PJ, the Stellar Awards aired and as most already know, the award for Song of the Year went to PJ for his production of "Let Go, Let God," which was sung by DeWayne Woods and appeared on the album, "Introducing DeWayne Woods & When Singers Meet."