PJ Morton Review: ‘Say So’ came out because of Melbourne. It went on to win Best R&B Song at the Grammys’ 

PJ Morton Review: ‘Say So’ came out because of Melbourne. It went on to win Best R&B Song at the Grammys’ 

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Words by Staff Writer
Photography by Vyvyan Huynh

Everyone at The Corner Hotel last night witnessed the evolution of PJ Morton as an independent artist to inspiring and invigorating effect.

“Shout out to Bird’s Basement…it wasn’t always like this.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking American Grammy-winning musician, singer, songwriter and record producer PJ Morton has had a fairly consistent rise to stardom. When he auditioned for Maroon 5 back in 2010 (and by all accounts blew them out of the water), it was the same year the American pop group released one of the best-selling singles of all time, ‘Moves Like Jagger’.

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That’s really where Morton’s public history begins, and as Morton has established himself as a solo artist in his own right, there’s been no shortage of critical acclaim.

In 2021, he won his third individual Grammy in two years, taking out Best Gospel Album for Gospel According to PJ: From the Songbook of PJ Morton. He now has a whopping four overall (also winning Best R&B Performance for ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, Best R&B Song for ‘Say So’ in 2020 and then in 2022 for his vocal work on Jon Batiste’s We Are),  

The truth is that Morton was 30 before Maroon 5 and his first record deal, and in fact success has come far from easily for the prodigiously talented, smooth and sophisticatedly soulful artist, who now epitomises the reinvigoration of the New Orleans scene.

“Many times people told me to sing a certain way,” he told the Melbourne audience last night, replete in his best Hunter S. Thompson gear, still fiddling around with the microphone cord, effortlessly engaging the crowd without leaving his seat.

“I was sticking to my guns…I released a maxi-single trying to be vintage and after that maxi single I put out an album called Gumbo. There was no ‘Say So’, I thought ‘Say So’ was the weakest of those songs. This is before JoJo was on it, that’s why I’m telling this story.

“The first time I played here in Melbourne there was a couple that requested it, I had taken it offline, I couldn’t remember the words. For me it just didn’t fit. After that other people started asking for it. ‘Say So’ came out because of Melbourne. It went on to win best RnB song at the Grammys.”

Morton was all you’d expect and more in the 800-odd capacity Corner Hotel last night. He was centimetre-perfect, endearing between tracks, and his backing band – particularly the vocals – were nothing short of sensational. He oozed relaxed vibes, starting ‘First Began’ twice seemingly to just to fuck with the front row: “‘No one makes me feel the way you do’ – I wasn’t there yet my bad – back from the top, just act like the first time I’m doing it – ‘No one makes me feel the way you do” – still rushing, I’m not ready – ‘…I don’t know what I’d do…”

The audience were treated to truly phenomenal artistry, Morton’s sublime vocals and keys followed the support combo of MADAM3EMPRESS – a local vocal sensation – with no less than Billy Davis on keys. It was a treat from start to finish.

The highlight was ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’. It’s a party starter to end a set (ignoring encores) and Morton saved standing up until the final track, but the hand-clapping, hand-waving exit worked, pure and simple, and much like Morton’s career so far, left everyone wanting more.

Visit PJ’s website for the latest ticket, tour and release info.