P.J. Morton makes music and opportunity in New Orleans

P.J. Morton makes music and opportunity in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A musical native New Orleanian hit the big time on a national stage, and now he's bringing some of that magic back to his hometown.

Grammy Award-winner P.J. Morton credits New Orleans and his parents for his talent, his faith and his soul.

"Born and raised in New Orleans. New Orleans boy! East beast you know?" he said proudly.

He talked with FOX 8's Nancy Parker at one of his favorite places in New Orleans, the Parlor Recording Studios.

"My parents Bishop Paul Morton and Debra Morton, that's really where I got my start. In the church," he said.

He said his first musical influence was his father.

"Sons want to be like their dads. Although I didn't want to be a preacher, it was amazing to sing in front of people and captivate people the way he did," he said.

Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Ministry lead by his parents was Paul Jr.'s spiritual and musical foundation. As a child he saw the piano as fun. Home video shows him falling in love with it.

"That was a gift of playing by ear. I could play what I heard. So I rebelled against piano lessons," he said.

His dad said, " Just let him go. Just let him do his thing,"

Doing his thing made him better and better. Before he graduated from St. Augustine High School in 1999, he had become an accomplished member of the jazz band.

"I didn't know how to read music," he said. "My band director was against that, but he saw my gift and eventually broke down and gave me CDs and said 'Learn to play this!'"

The beginning of something big.

He moved to Atlanta and went to Morehouse College. P.J. says that's really where it all took off for him. His second year he moved off campus and met India Arie. He wrote a song for her second album, and she won two Grammy Awards.

"I won my first Grammy as a junior at Morehouse," P.J. said.

He graduated from college and went on tour with Erica Badu. A few years later he got a call about an audition for Maroon Five.

"That was 2010. That changed my whole life," he said.

His 2013 single, "The Only One" was nominated for a Grammy for best R&B song. It featured Stevie Wonder.

"Once you start hitting milestones, you start thinking about purpose," he said.

His purpose is to build a new foundation here in New Orleans. He feels at home here at Parlor Studios, where he recorded his newest album, "Gumbo." But it's under a new label. His own.

"I've come here and started a boutique label called Morton Records. That's my legacy and my goal. I can't wait to start putting out other artists based here in New Orleans. We're calling it Motown in New Orleans," he said.

He never strays far from his roots, like the organ, often an undercurrent of his R&B and soul tracks.

He makes the instrument he taught himself look so easy.

"I feel like I was given a gift to use it," he said. "Music being the universal language, I am able to talk to the world and hopefully the world will change. Positive change."

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