Maroon 5 keyboardist PJ Morton returns to his roots with gospel album
PJ Morton is going home.
The Maroon 5 keyboardist and successful solo artist — who grew up in church, but then distanced himself from those roots as he pursued a career in pop and R&B — released his first-ever gospel album in late August.
But he's certainly not going home alone on this "Gospel According to PJ" album. Rather, the 39-year-old Morton is working with an all-star cast of gospel artists, such as Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams and the Clark Sisters, as well as other talents.
It's a project that has been years in the marking — pretty much 39 years in the making, when one thinks about it.
Morton was immersed in gospel music and church teachings from an early age, growing up in New Orleans as the son of two pastors — Bishop Paul S. Morton and Dr. Debra Brown Morton. His father was also a successful gospel artist, known for the singles "Let It Rain" and "I'm Still Standing."
It initially appeared as if Morton might follow in his father's footsteps, as he sang his first solo at church — on the song "Humble Yourself" — at the age of 8 and later started his own gospel band CC (which stood for Christians Combined). And he could feel the pressure to continue down that path, but he decided to go a different direction and pursue a career in secular music.
"Just because I got his name don't mean that I am him," Morton went on to rap in the memorable 2010 solo track "Son of a Preacher Man." "People look at me like I'm supposed to be his twin. We're so different, yet we're still the same. He taught me how to be a man, for that he's to blame.
"For being a man, I learned that I've got to stand on my own, not spend my whole life trying to be his clone."
Morton's career got a turbocharged boost in 2010 when he signed on to play keyboards with the mega-pop-rock act Maroon 5. It started out as tour-only gig, but then Morton was made an official band member in 2012 and has appeared on three of Maroon 5's platinum-plus-selling albums — 2012's "Overexposed," 2014's "V" and 2017's "Red Pill Blues."
Meanwhile, his solo career was also taking off as he signed a deal with Young Money Entertainment and released the major-label debut "New Orleans" in 2013. He has followed with several other efforts, winning Grammy awards for best traditional R&B performance in 2019 (for his cover of the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love") and best R&B song in 2020 (for his duet with JoJo, "Say So.).
He also had some involvement with gospel music over the years, working with Fred Hammond, Heather Headley and others, but has only now decided the time was right to take fans back to church with his own full-length album.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is far from being a solo record. It's probably more helpful to think of Morton operating in a Quincy Jones-style role — writing songs, finding the right voices for those songs — than it is to think of him as a typical solo artist here. He's often working behind the scenes, orchestrating specific songs to their artful culminations while keeping a bird's eye view of the overall project.
And it's definitely an impressive project, featuring such winners as "All in His Plan" — with Mary Mary and Le'Andria Johnson — which is already a major radio hit.
Other highlights include "Here He Comes Again" featuring the amazing Clark Sisters and "Gotta Have You," with Jermaine Dolly, Lenna Byrd Miles and — in a really cool turn of events — Kirk Franklin.
"It sounds so crazy now, but Kirk wanted to sign me years ago, but he wanted me to do gospel music," Morton said in a news release.
In a nice touch, the artist's father — Bishop Paul S. Morton — is featured on a number of "Dad's Interlude" segments on the album. In the first one, which opens the album, the two Mortons celebrate the son's return to gospel music.
"I'm finally doing a gospel album," the younger Morton says.
And his dad's response is simply perfect:
"Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!"
Stories that may interest you
All tickets purchased and gifts made during the event will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Scripps Family Fund for Education and the Arts.