PJ Morton on ESSENCE Festival, Loving Music & Staying Fit
Michael Rowe

New Orleans native PJ Morton stopped by the ESSENCE office to share his excitement about performing at the ESSENCE Festival on Saturday, July 6. Along with opening up about his love for the Festival, the singer discussed his experience working as a keyboardist and vocalist for the Maroon 5 band. And because we’re discussing health on the website this week, PJ Morton also dished on how he stays fit.

ESSENCE.com: What can people expect from your upcoming ESSENCE Festival performance?

PJ Morton: It’s going to be a lot of energy on stage. I’m a New Orleans boy, so it will be homecoming for me. I’m going to be happy to be there, ready to party, and I’m bringing my full band with horns and everything.

ESSENCE.com: You’re from New Orleans, so what makes it so special?

PJ Morton: Food, the partying and the music—just all the culture that the city brings. As a kid going to the ESSENCE Festival, it really was about positivity and a good time without any drama. I forgot how much love there is on the streets. I love the love. 

ESSENCE.com: What has New Orleans taught you about the music business?

PJ Morton: New Orleans taught me the integrity of it. No matter how mainstream I get, I’ll stay true to the essence of the music. That’s why in my production no matter how far out I get, no matter how hard the drums are, I sneak in some horns and real melody because that’s just in me.

ESSENCE.com: You’re album comes out May 14. What is in store for your fans?

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PJ Morton: A gumbo. The album is me. It has different contrasts, from pop to R&B. It has that theme of real music and staying true to people who came before me like the Stevie Wonders, Donnie Hathaways, and the Princes. I fully produced and wrote it. There are features from Stevie Wonder, Adam Levine, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne and Tweet. I’m ready for everyone to hear it.

ESSENCE.com: What was it like working with Stevie Wonder on “Only One,” your single?

PJ Morton: I couldn’t ask for more than having Stevie Wonder on my first major label debut album. He’s the first person I looked to when I said I wanted to be an artist because he’s a keyboard player and singer. I want to fill that space he has always filled, not just musically but even with the subject matter that is about positivity and love. 

ESSENCE.com: Where do you find inspiration for your music? 

PJ Morton: Life. You don’t have to go much further. As a songwriter, all I have to do is look around. I also look back to the music that came before me. Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, James Taylor and Al Green all keep me inspired.

ESSENCE.com: You’re on Lil Wayne’s label, Young Money. How supportive has he been?

PJ Morton: They don’t sign you unless they believe. One thing that I pride myself on is how they stay out of the creative process. It’s such a small thing but that’s why the label has been so successful with Nicki Minaj, Drake, Tyga and Lil Wayne. They’ve allowed me to be who I am. I’m happy that they are taking this chance on me and feel fully supported.

ESSENCE.com: This week, our website will focus on health. Can you share a bit about your fitness routine and diet?

PJ Morton: I’m from New Orleans, so I’ve had to unlearn so many things because food is such a big part of our culture. I try to run three miles at least five times a week. I’m also eating better. I try to stay off fried foods, pasta and rice. I try to do my best.