She Is Focused

March 11, 2010

PJ Morton Talks Secular vs. Sacred

Filed under: Get To Know,Interviews — Felicia @ 12:22 pm

I recently did an interview with producer, singer, songwriter PJ Morton which was featured on RollingOut.com. Our interview was a lot more extensive as I also got background information on his career and some of the artists he’s worked with.

Read my detailed interview with him here:

The long-standing debate over secular versus sacred music and what’s considered acceptable in the church still continues.  Morton is no stranger to this topic because he once faced rejection from the church community over his decision to make the music he enjoyed. The child of gospel music royalty, the Grammy-winning producer, singer-songwriter talks about not limiting his music to one genre, his new album and why he wants his legacy to be about freedom.

For people who aren’t familiar with P.J. Morton, can you give a brief background on your songwriting and production credits?

Well I started in Gospel music when I was 15 and I started to write more and more Gospel music. When I went to College is when I got my mainstream break working with India.Arie on her second record Voyage To India in which I won a Grammy for the album. Then I transitioned and started to work with Jermaine Dupri with Monica, Jagged Edge, LL Cool J. after I worked with J.D. I worked with Musiq Soulchild, Ruben Studdard, Mary Mary. So I had my hands in a few different things over the years.

Which song brought you your first Grammy?

The Voyage To India album and I wrote and produced a song on there called “Interested”.

You also come from a Gospel Music family. Would you say you were thrust into this genre or did you genuinely have a desire to follow in your father’s footsteps and start there?

I always felt lead to talk about love and things outside of just Gospel music. I always felt like Gospel music was somewhat limited, although I did write that music as well, I felt like it was what was around me initially.

And then you eventually transitioned into Jazz and Soul?

Yea more once I left home really.

Who are some artists you listened to growing up that influenced your appreciation for music and songwriting?

Stevie Wonder was a huge influence for me. My mother put me on to the Beatles as a kid, they were a huge influence for me as a songwriter. James Taylor was also a huge influence. Bernie Hathaway.

It’s cool that your mom introduced you to other types of artists outside of Gospel.

What’s cool about my family is that there was always a balance there. For my mother is was always about understanding who she was. The Beatles were popular when she was in college. She would tell me all the stories about when they first came to America and what not. It was never a strict household. 

Tell me a little about your Freestyle Nation.

Freestyle Nation is my first group that I started while I was at Moorehouse [College] and I kind of wanted it to be like Mint Condition but wanted it to focus more on songs that were playing at that point. In the beginning it started as an underground phenomenon, because we would travel all around. We would go to cities and we would never sell CDs but people would know the songs. People were burning them a lot because they couldn’t get the music but we wanted them to have it somehow.

So you currently have 2 solo projects, 1 live album and the album with Freestyle Nation under your belt. How would you describe your music?

Yea 4 albums and I have a 5th coming out in April. I call it Soulful-Pop music. I wanted to be Soulful and touch people in their heart. And I wanted it to be Pop in the sense that I didn’t want to be limited to one group of people or age group. I wanted to be popular amongst all people and I wanted to be able to relate to all different kinds of people. It’s definitely an ode to the past with a lot of live instrumentation.

Why do you think your debut album Emotions was such a great success? 

You know what with that record I didn’t have any preconceived notions. I just was making music that I wanted to make. I wasn’t thinking about the radio and the party element I was just making the music that I felt and the album unselfishly. I didn’t really make it for the people and ultimately I think that translated and it was just a pure genuine thing. And I’m sure that’s why Emotions connected with so many people.

Did you work on that album between other projects that you were doing for other artists or did you have the time to dedicate 100% to it?

I remember I was on tour with Erykah Badu for about 1 ½ – 2 years and as soon as I got off I had spent a lot of money [laughs]. I wanted to just focus on that record. I may have written the song for India during that time I can’t remember, but it was mostly focused on my record.

 You also recently authored your first book. Who was your target audience?

 It’s called Why Can’t I Sing About Love  and I guess the target audience would be anybody whose ever asked that question or have been questioned about the age old argument about secular versus sacred music. It’s an argument that people have had for years and years from the Al Greens and Aretha Franklins or anybody that has ever had that conversation or have been asked that question because I finally deals with the issue head-on.

 You had it pretty easy though because your family was pretty open and didn’t confine you to strictly Gospel music. Did you get any backlash from those outside your family for the type of music you’ve been creating?

 The flack came from my dad’s congregation and from basically over a whole conference of churches. So I got a lot of flack from people outside of the household. As supportive as my parents were, I don’t think they expected me to be an artist doing more than just Gospel. So it was a shock to them initially, but I always had their support. It was just the people outside of home that were telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing.

 Let’s talk about the new album. What’s the title and has it been completed?

The record is complete and ready to go. Its called Walk Alone  and I’m still talking about love and life and still trying to inspire people in their lives. It’s a very musical record. I still have the live strings and the horns. I want it to be clear that I’m a musician. I have a feature with Tweet on there. It’s a Reggae song I did which will probably be the next single and I’m excited about that. We’re shooting the video next week or next month for that song. Tweet is still sounding incredible. She’s been low key lately but still killing it. She’s working on a record as well. I also have a bonus track on there with my father. The song is “Let Go Let God” that I won Song Of The Year for a couple years ago which is on there as well. The album, I’m ready to put it out there.

It sounds like the album is similar to your previous albums with the live instruments and such. Have you grown musically with this new album?

Yea it’s always stretching the creative boundaries. I’d say something that’s different from my previous records is that I do have some more beats combined with live stuff; kinda like Stevie Wonder meets Kanye. Some songs I don’t have live drums, but I’ll have programmed drums on top of the live instruments on some of the songs which is something I’ve done previously. I’m always trying new things and I’ve never done a Reggae song before so that’s a different element.

Tell me about Song Of Solomon and why it was created.  

I created my label S.O.S.  for people like me who when people would tell me when I’d go to labels like a Gospel or Christian label and they would tell me “this isn’t a Gospel record” and then I’d go to the mainstream labels and they’re like “this isn’t Trey Songz or R&B enough”. So there was a lane which I didn’t have an outlet for which is why I turned in work and independently did so much for so long. So I joined forces with Koch which is E-1 now to create my label to support God and who have integrity and would have a sense of morals for their music and how they talk about things. It’s just for those artists to have an outlet.

You’ve been compared to so many notable and respected artists in recent interviews who’ve all made a great impact in music. What do you hope your impact will be?

Freedom is huge for me. Even in what I talk about and how I claim to be a Christian and how I talk about love. I want my legacy to be that. I want people to understand that you can be free to talk about real things. Just because you believe in God doesn’t mean you have to say his name in every single song that you have. You can talk about real things and about the real life that you live. Of course I want to be looked at like I look at my mentors; the Stevies and the Donnies and what not. Music is always first for and always has been. I want to sell as many records as I can but not at the expense of me compromising my music. I don’t want people to ever think I had to comprise the music.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: