How Music has Impacted PJ's Life
I read that you describe your music as “soulful pop.” Could you tell us what that means to you?
To be honest, that’s a non-answer answer [Laughing]. I hate being boxed in, and I feel like soul music and pop music are both really non genres although they have each kind of taken on a genre. Soul music to me is anything that you can feel, and I always want that element in my music. Pop music is popular music, and in that sense, it can relate to a bunch of different types of people which is something I always want in my music as well. That is where soulful pop came in.
That is really cool. So where is home? What music reminds you of home?
Home is New Orleans. It is so cool to be able to say that. I grew up in New Orleans east, and I now live in Uptown New Orleans as an adult. The sound of second line bands, brass band music, bounce music, those types of music always make me think of home.
I read that you grew up surrounded by gospel. Tell us a little bit about that.
Yeah, I did. I was a preacher’s kid. My father was a pastor. That is honestly where I not only learned to play music but where I learned to love music. My father is an amazing singer, and our church was always very musical so gospel music was the lowest hanging fruit for me. When I looked around to see what I was going to do musically, the first thing was gospel music. That’s what kind of got me started and lead me into other places, but gospel music is at the core of what got me into music. It also taught me a lot about performance. It has such a call and response type atmosphere. Everything for me came from church.
Who are some of your personal musical influences and why?
Stevie Wonder is a big one for me. Being a key board player who writes songs and sings, there are only a few to look to so Stevie really was someone I related to. The Beatles as songwriters were big influences as well as James Taylor. Definitely Prince too. Prince is just such a performer with so much soul. Those are the “Big 4” for me.
Why do you think music is so important to the people and culture of New Orleans?
New Orleans being the birthplace of American music with jazz music, I think it has always been engrained in this culture. It is synonymous with everything we do. When you think about Mardi Gras, when you think about funerals, when you think about whatever we do here, it is always tied to music. I was actually talking about this with someone the other day. Growing up in Detroit for example, it is likely that you grew up and your father and grandfather worked in automobiles. Here, we pass down the tradition of music. Guys I played in the jazz band with in high school, their father, grandfather, and great grandfather all played music, you know. So we continually pass it down as tradition. It is our signature skill in this culture.
Being from New Orleans, there really is so much truth in that statement. So whenever your name is listed, Maroon 5 is always mentioned as well. Tell us a little bit about your work with them.
I have been in the band almost six years now. I actually came on as a touring member. A friend a mine was the music director, and they wanted another keyboard player/singer so I went right in. It has been amazing. We call it pre-Jagger and post-Jagger times (referring to the popular song ‘Moves Like Jagger’), and I came in right before Jagger. It kind of just blew all the way up after that. Maroon 5 had already been successful, but it was cool to come in and see it grow from there. They are amazing guys, you know, they are like brothers. We are actually about to go to South America and Mexico soon to play some shows for about a month. I am excited because after, we are coming back to New Orleans in September for the first time, for a proper show. We played at Jazz Fest. We played Endymion before, but this time we are bringing our whole stage and entire show. What is even cooler to me is the fact that I just moved back to New Orleans recently, and now we are coming to play here.
That sounds like a lot of fun. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of support from the city and fans. On a more personal note, Allen Toussaint once stated, “Music is everything to me short of breathing. Music also has a role to life you up-not to be escapist-but to take you out of misery.” With that being said, how has music gotten you through tough times in your life?
Music is the most consistent thing in my life. Relationships, friendships, business deals, all of these things can go up and down. Music though has never let me down. I guess that is why I have dedicated my life to it and put all my energy towards it. Music has been there for me, and it is my refuge and sanity. I can definitely relate to what Allen said for sure.
Beautifully said. What projects are you currently working on?
Just moving back to New Orleans recently, my current initiative is Morton Records which is a label I started. The headquarters are going to be here in New Orleans, kind of like a New Orleans Motown in the sense that I am going to focus on New Orleanian talent, developing it, and getting it out to the world. I think there is so much amazing music and talent here, but I want to create an environment where people don’t have to leave the way I had to. In order for me to grow and get to a certain point in my career, I had to leave because there was no industry for me here. If I didn’t play jazz music or if I didn’t want to be playing on Frenchmen all the time, I did not see an avenue here. In order to get into R&B mainstream music and pop music, I had to leave, and now I am trying to create an environment with Morton Records where people can do what they do here in New Orleans. There is nothing better than the creative side of New Orleans, and I just want to bring it out to the world.
I am actually putting out a mixtape in March called Bounce & Soul. I came back to New Orleans, got back into bounce music, and I wanted to do my version of it which is bounce music with a little bit of soul. Lil’ Wayne is on it. Mack Maine, the president of Young Money is on it. Juvenile, Trombone Shorty, 5th Ward Weebie, they are all on it. I just kind of brought all of New Orleans together for this mixtape, and we are having a release party for it at the Howlin’ Wolf in March. This is my sort of coming home moment.
That is awesome. All of those names, we grew up on many of them from grammar school sock hops and now listening to ones like Juvenile sit in with Galactic as well as host his annual Lundi Gras show which I always go to. Those are some really cool collaboration pieces. We’ll definitely come out and support that show. It sounds like fun. So last little zinger, if you had to get up right now and sing karaoke, what would be your song of choice?
My go to is Hey Ya! by Outkast. It gets people going, you can move to it, and it is a good song. It has worked for me so I stick to it.