Morton Records to shine light on local talent

Ben Shooter

New Orleans native PJ Morton is perhaps best known for his work with Maroon 5 — his keyboard playing can be heard on hits like “Payphone” and “Sugar.” This year, however, Morton has returned to his roots to create a new project: a record label called Morton Records that will draw from and support the local music scene.

“I’ve always known that home was special and had amazing talent, but we’ve mostly fallen short at having an infrastructure to push that talent to the rest of the world,” Morton said.

The label is currently in the formative stages, but Morton has already released a mixtape of music featuring artists like Mannie Fresh, Trombone Shorty, Lil Wayne and Juvenile. While the mixtape is comprised of mostly bounce and hip-hop, its purpose is to show a distinct New Orleans flavor, rather than a defining sound for the label.

“The label won’t be a bounce music label,” Morton said. “I think a mixtape in its nature is something for fun. It’s not a ‘serious’ body of work. I mixed some of my R&B and soul songs with the New Orleans bounce beat.”

Morton released his mixtape on March 24, distributing it through the PJ’s Coffee franchise. The partnership with PJ’s Coffee is a fitting match for his label, Morton said.

“I grew up riding past PJs as a kid and always thought it had something to do with me and now it does,” Morton said. “We’ve partnered up for them to basically be the distribution chain for the mixtape. It’ll exclusively be available at 45 stores in New Orleans and surrounding areas. They’re a solid brand that represents New Orleans to the fullest, not to mention we share initials.”

Maroon 5 is a massively-known major label pop band, but Morton views his label as something more independent, oriented first and foremost around the New Orleans musical community.

“I’d definitely consider [the label] indie,” Morton said. “A lot of my vision is patterned after Motown. While it eventually became a major [label], the roots and the heyday was when it was an indie [label] because as an indie [label] you can make your own rules. This label will very much be about not following trends.”

Morton seeks not only to bring attention to New Orleans, but also to celebrate the diverse array of sounds New Orleans produces. Never one to be pigeonholed, he refuses to confine the label’s output to a particular style.

“I’m just looking for greatness, even if it’s in a rough form,” Morton said. “I want each artist not to just exist, but to have something that separates them from any other artist, which is rare. That’s why I will take my time.”

Overall, Morton wants to remind listeners that New Orleans is still an important city for music, in both the history of United States music, and the relevant music marketplace today.

“I’d ultimately like for people to not only look at New Orleans musically in a historic sense but understand that it is still one of the music hubs,” Morton said. “I want it to shine a light on New Orleans’ artists as a whole. Not only in the sense that we’re talented but also that we can be successful in the business of music as well.”

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