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INTERVIEW

Multi-Grammy Award-winning PJ Morton to tour Africa for inspiration for next ‘special album’

Multi-Grammy Award-winning PJ Morton to tour Africa for inspiration for next ‘special album’
New Orleans-born artist and Maroon 5 keyboardist, PJ Morton will spend the month of October in Africa to perform, mentor and explore African music sounds for his ninth studio album. (Photo: Tyler Roi)

New Orleans born artist and Maroon 5 keyboardist, PJ Morton will spend the month of October in South Africa and the continent to perform, mentor and explore African music sounds for his ninth studio album. He spoke to Daily Maverick.

PJ Morton is finally coming to Africa after waiting for three years to explore the continent and its offerings. The American singer/songwriter was to come to South Africa in 2020 but was deprived of the experience by Covid. The star is now ready to “bring it on” this October and get inspiration for his new album.

“It is going to be my first time coming to South Africa, my first time performing in South Africa, my first time everything. I’m just really excited. I was supposed to come in March 2020 but Covid messed us all up with that, so we’re finally coming three years later but I just can’t wait to bring it on”, Morton told Daily Maverick.

Morton is known for his mesmerising R&B sound but the star has been consuming and playing around with African sounds like Afro beats and Amapiano that he hopes to incorporate into his ninth studio album.

“I actually have an Amapiano remix coming out soon, I like the music. I’ll be in Africa not just for my shows and Idols but I’m going to be in Africa for a whole month working on a new album. Hopefully, I will be inspired by all these sounds that I have been listening to by the different artists and producers to create something new. I would like to see what I  will sound  like mixed with some of the sounds in Africa. I don’t know what is going to happen, I have not written a song yet, I’m waiting until I get there and we are going to capture it all and see what happens. It’s going to be a special album”, said Morton.

Afrobeats take off

African-based Afrobeats and Amapiano music has been dominating the charts, thanks to the rise of social media and TikTok challenges for introducing the genres to a global audience. International artists like Drake, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran have also contributed to popularising the African sound by collaborating with African artists. A sign of its popularity, the most prestigious music awards in the music industry, The Grammys, will introduce a category dedicated to African music, ‘Best African Music Performance’ in 2024 at the 66th Grammy Awards.

Read more in Daily Maverick: How the ’Beats conquered the year of the plague – and the world

South African Xhosa Electronic folk musician, Bongeziwe Mabandla who will host a series of concerts throughout October, appreciates the exposure and recognition the African music industry is receiving especially with new artists emerging.

“I’m happy with the direction music is going, especially with so many new exciting artists. I’m also happy that the whole world including the Grammys are starting to recognise our contribution to music. I feel our music will always be seen as the other in a world that has very little regard or true understanding of Africa but I think it’s important to not always seek validation for our art. I think it would benefit us to value our own first”, said Mabandla.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Afro-folk singer Bongeziwe Mabandla on stage in Amsterdam was a visceral experience

Music through instinct and intrigue

Father of three PJ Morton always believed that music was his “calling”. He grew up in New Orleans playing the keyboard at his father’s church and then finally got his big break when he joined the pop band Maroon Five in 2012 as their keyboardist and also got a chance to work with his role model Stevie Wonder, who is now a close friend. The star shared that his love for music was never about monetary gain but a path that “chose” him.

“I feel like I did not have much of a choice. Music kind of chose me. I could have done anything else. I have a marketing degree, I could have gone into business but music just called me. Music moves me the most. Initially, as a kid, it was something that I was willing to do for free. If I had to, I would have. At 16 I got my first cheque and I was like, ‘Wait…I can do this and make money? Oh, I’m meant for life. I love this anyway, I would have done it for free,’” said Morton.

Morton attributes his success to his family who relentlessly supported him throughout his music journey, admitting that “it was not always up, it was up and down throughout the years but it has all been worth it because I love what I do”.

PJ Morton performing

PJ Morton shares with Daily Maverick that he always felt music was his calling. (Photo: Lisa Marie)

“Thankfully I had parents, especially my father, who grew up the untraditional way…he was a singer himself, my uncles have played on records. They were used to untraditional ways. My mother wanted me to play the piano which was traditional but as far as being creative, it was embraced in my childhood so I did not have to deal with the traditional route, I got their full support”, said Morton.

Morton urges musicians and artists to follow their own instincts and block out the noise of undue influence while exploring their own uniqueness. 

“One thing I wish someone would have told me, because I did not hear it as much, is to follow my own instinct. A lot of people would tell me what they thought but did not tell me to follow my own instinct and a lot of that is what  got me here, actually not listening to what people were saying and following the thing that made me unique.

“If you know that you have something that is connecting even to a few people, follow that. It is not always going to be easy all the time but fight through that, that ultimately gives you longevity”, said Morton.

PJ Morton tour dates

PJ Morton’s dates for his upcoming shows in Cape Town and Johannesburg. (Graphic: Supplied)

The singer will kick off his African voyage in South Africa with two concerts in Cape Town and Johannesburg before exploring the rest of Africa, accompanied by his critically acclaimed live show supported by his 12-piece band including singers and a horn section. 

While in South Africa, the producer, singer and songwriter will mentor the top four Idols SA contestants and take to the Idols stage for a special performance to end the final season. 

“My team reached out first to Idols and the producers and their band are fans of my music and I knew that I wanted to do some television while I was there. We talked about the possibilities and the best fit for me, so I will be mentoring the top four artists and we are doing the finale as well. It’s going to be exciting”, said Morton. DM

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