PJ Morton Is a Soulful Maestro Balancing Legacy, Maroon 5, and Disney Dreams

From his roots in the Black Church to juggling roles in Maroon 5, PJ Morton shares his journey in music, his recent live album, and his dream of leaving a lasting musical legacy at Disney Parks.

In the world of soul music, PJ Morton is one of the genre’s brightest stars. A son of New Orleans and the Black Church, the acclaimed singer/songwriter/keyboardist honed his skills on Sunday mornings at St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church, where his parents, Bishop Paul and Elder Debra Morton, served as pastors.

In the early 2000s, Morton gained notoriety for his work with Kierra "Kiki" Sheard and Musiq Soulchild before releasing his music.

Throughout his career, Morton has built a notable discography of music that includes LPs such as Walk Alone (2010), New Orleans (2013), Gumbo (2017), Christmas with PJ Morton (2018), Paul (2019), and Gospel According to PJ: From the Songbook of PJ Morton to name a few. Also, the four-time Grammy Award winner is the only independent to receive six consecutive years of Grammy nominations..

While maintaining a thriving career as a solo artist,  he’s been a band member of the Grammy-Award-winning pop group Maroon 5 since 2012, recording enormous hits and playing to sold-out arenas. Without question, Morton proudly represents the soul music tradition and is on a mission to keep it alive. spoke with Morton about recording Watch The Sun Live, splitting time between his band and Maroon 5, and fulfilling his dream of creating music for Disney.

Morton’s Impeccable Cover of “The Sweetest Thing”

Over the summer, Morton released a superb cover of Lauryn Hill’s  “The Sweetest Thing.” Fully displaying that playing live instrumentation and singing is his favorite element, he deploys the sonic influence of New Orleans, stunning vocals, and top-tier musicianship while making the song his own. Interestingly, Morton said the inspiration to cover the classic track came out of the blue while he was on vacation with his wife.

“I was in Cabo, just walking with my wife Courtney, and “The Sweetest Thing” just hit me from out of nowhere. We weren't talking about it. When “The Sweetest Thing” popped into my head,  I heard it with this Afrobeats, high-life sound but when I went to listen to it, I couldn’t find it. I was looking for it on the Mis-Education Of Lauryn Hill and wasn't there. Then I remembered that it was on that Love Jones soundtrack. After I listened to it, we recorded it and it came out just the way I heard it in my head. It's got such a great vibe.”

Morton’s rendition of “The Sweetest Thing” was the lead-up to Watch The Sun Live: The Mansion Sessions, released in August.  His fifth live album commemorates the 1st anniversary of Watch The Sun. To curate the perfect vibe, he invited some family, friends, and artists who were treated to a one-of-a-kind live experience. Sitting behind the keys is where Morton is most comfortable and at his best.

“I like big vibes in intimate spaces. You know I was the first one to bring an orchestra to the Tiny Desk. We had like 20 people up there [Laughs]. Touring is really what we do and live music is really what we love to do,” Morton explained. “When we started playing these songs live and seeing what works, what didn’t work, and what moved the people,  these songs started to create a new energy and became new songs in themselves. I started to know them much better. When I put out the album, we already know that what we were going to do live will be so different from what we did in the studio. I wanted to capture that vibe in different spaces. To make it all happen, we rented a mansion, brought in an orchestra, and a 20-piece band, and I brought in some of my family and friends. I wanted it to be a relaxed environment with family and friends. I wanted to make sure that people see this expression of live music. We're still doing it and still keeping soul music alive. That’s what I love to do.”

“I was gonna do it live in London, and then we're gonna go to Detroit,” he continued. “When we finally got down to the actual plan, we made it all happen in about three weeks. I didn’t want to make it super pretentious, so there were no invites made. I just sent out a mass text and everybody responded.”

Balancing His Solo Work While Being In Maroon 5

Balancing his music career and being a part of Maroon 5, one of the biggest bands in the world, has been quite the juggling act. For Morton, being a solo artist and a group member has been beneficial to expanding the reach of his artistry in numerous ways.

“Sometimes it is a challenge [Laughs]. But I'm so grateful because being in Maroon 5 has allowed me to really invest in my dreams and get the PJ Morton stuff to where it is now so I'm just always grateful. It's like one without the other doesn't necessarily work,” Morton explained. “I'm always rocking out with the band but the bigger I got, the more challenging it got with schedules. Thankfully, we are two well-oiled machines. With Maroon 5, we just finished our residency in Vegas and as soon as we were done, I was back on the road doing festivals throughout September. It keeps me very busy but like I always say, 'These are good problems to have, man', I'm blessed even to have to juggle these two entities."

Another project that Morton has been steadily working on is crafting the musical score for Tiana’s  Bayou Adventure at Disney Parks along with fellow New Orleans native Terence Blanchard. Replacing Splash Mountain, the attraction is near and dear to his heart as a lifelong Disney fan. He sees it as an opportunity to create music for Disney and leave a legacy for music that will last for generations.

“My sister and I have been  Disney fans all our lives and I’m a real nerd of the music [Laughs]. I would change the songs of Little Mermaid in my head and when I was a kid and produce them in my mind,” he recalled. “So working with Disney has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. It was about six or seven years ago that I got a meeting with Pixar, because of a lullaby I wrote for my daughter. And I was like, Man, I'm getting closer to Disney. It's fascinating for me to know that my grandkids are going to hear my music because it will exist for at least 30 years,” Morton said. 

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