Two years ago PJ Morton – New Orleans native and Maroon 5 keyboardist – left LA to return home. Since his return he has established his own label and release the Grammy-nominated record Gumbo. I talked with Morton about his move home and the success of his recent release.
“I was just at a point in California where I wasn't really being fulfilled. I wasn't inspired. Obviously, I'm in a successful band and we do great and all that is amazing and that is the reason I moved to California in the first place – but now that we have done that and it's awesome and it's locked in – I started to think about my legacy and what I wanted to leave here and what I want to pass on. In my mind all roads started to lead to New Orleans. I felt like the reason I left is the reason I wanted to come back.”
Morton spent time in Atlanta and New York before landing in Los Angeles, but everywhere he went his thoughts turned to home.
“I started to think about all the amazing talent that is in New Orleans and why can't there be a music infrastructure here? The culture of music in New Orleans is very rich and I think it takes, a lot of time it takes a local who understands the city to be a leader and be able to communicate the vision to his own people. I just felt like that was something I could do, and that started to excite me, something that I was missing in, you know, the excitement and wanting, inspired to be something else, and to grow. That's what brought me back home, that's what gave me the vision of Morton Records. Now I've been back home and it's been great.”
One of the things that is excellent about Morton’s work is his ability to blend the personal and the local with the universal. This blend stems from his enjoyment and appreciation for the big as well as the small. When I asked him about the moment he truly felt home he had the most perfectly New Orleans answer, “Probably just a simple, "hey, baby," in the street, you know?”
For his new project Morton was looking to tap back into New Orleans’ famously independent attitude.
“The fact that we don't care what's going on in the rest of the world when we're working on what we're working on. That's the beautiful thing but then also that's the thing that's made us sometimes miss some opportunities to export this beautiful charm to the rest of the world. But I needed that. I needed that "I don't care." As long as it's good, we don't care what it is. We'll be down with it. And that was kinda the spirit that I made this music in and made this record in.”
What stands out about Gumbo is it’s honesty. You get the sense with each track that Morton is saying exactly what he feels and exactly what he intends.
“I can be much more eloquent in a song than just being myself. But ultimately I try to make sure that the music is honest. I am part fiction, part non-fiction. And non-fiction in the sense that I always put myself into it and put my feelings of how I feel, whatever I'm writing about. But I often people-watch and story-watch and try to pull from other people's stories, usually stories I relate to.”
The strength of Morton’s work is that this comes through on the record. These stories both very personal and very human. They are told through a panoply of styles and voices that stew into the gumbo of the title. Keep you fingers crossed that Morton brings back a statue or two from New York in a couple of weeks. His record Gumbo is available now. Check out his Grammy nominated track “First Began” below.
To Do This Week
Tonight Marshmello will be at Mardi Gras World and The Radiators start their three night reunion stand at Tipitinas. Tomorrow The Deep Dark Woods will be at Gasa Gasa. Saturday evening you can catch RAM, The Lost Bayou Ramblers and Cha Wa at Bal Masqué, which will be held at the Sugar Mill. If you’re looking for something to do before the ball, Live From Here (formerly Prairie Home Companion) will be at the Saenger with John Prine, Sylvan Esso, Rory Scovel, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. On Sunday night Amanda Palmer will play Tips and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club will play The House of Blues. Also Sunday you can catch Shooter Jennings at the Howlin’ Wolf. Tuesday Sleep is at the Civic.
To Listen This Week
- Check out this amazing video from First Aid Kit via Youtube
- Car Seat Headrest have released a new version of “Nervous Young Humans” via Youtube
- David Bowie’s 50th birthday concert is up on Youtube. This is a must watch.