14th Jun, 2016

The Gospel Guru Interviews PJ Morton and JoJo Martin


The Gospel Guru recently caught up with the live show killer himself PJ Morton. Being no stranger to any of us; Morton made his musical debut in the late 90s/early 00s and the rest, as they say, is history.

TGG also chopped it up with Morton’s artist, JoJo Martin who is poised to release new music soon and gearing up for a stint on the upcoming McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour.

Without further delay get into our candid interview with the fellas below where we discuss Morton Records, today’s music, and so much more.

TGG: PJ, what was the inspiration behind starting your own label, Morton Records?
PJ: Um, well, for me, uh, I just you know, uh, um, Warren Buffet came to my school, I went to Morehouse, he came to my school when I was like a sophomore and he talked about why he invested in certain businesses. Why he invested Coca-Cola, he liked Coke, you know. He- why he invested in Gillette, he actually used Gillette razors. So a lot of times, I don’t create things until I feel like I’m missing- there’s a need for me personally, like it’s a selfish thing initially, and for me, Morton Records, I-I started … because I stayed away from having a label for a long time besides putting out my own music, but like, I felt like … a lot of steps were getting looked over and stepped over. There were no more artist development, there was no more focus, not no more, but very little,
TGG: Right.
PJ: Focused record, where producers really focus and create a body of work. Um, and I saw some artists around me like JoJo, and, you know, and other people around me where I’m like, “Man, they need to be heard!”, and I didn’t see anybody jumping at the chance to really put these things out so, uh, I did it selfishly to put out my friends, initially, um, and um, JoJo was my first signing. Um, and-and then, it is … it is evolved, now. I just moved back to New Orleans in November, and, um …
TGG: Okay.
PJ: Now I want, I want … New Orleans is gonna be the base for the label. Um, and, I-I wanted to be, um, like uh, callin’ it “New Orleans Motown” in the sense, uh, on a few different levels. Uh, the artist development is a huge one, I want to, um, you know … in the studio in the offices that we’re building, there’s gon’ be a rehearsal space, there’s gonna be the studio, and much like those old days where, um, y-you you would would develop from A to Z,
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
PJ: from how you’re dressin’, how you’re talkin’ to the media, how your record sounds, um, et cetera, et cetera. Um, so now it’s evolved to that. We’re building the- we’re building the, um, the actual, physical building, now, in New Orleans, and, um, you know, that’s what we are now, so, uh, my first few- my first couple signings was before I moved back JoJo, and Jackson Ave.
TGG: Okay.
PJ: That was my vision of puttin’ out my friends who I feel like the world needs to know, and now it’s takin’ on this bigger, um, this bigger vision, and uh … I-I’m just really excited, man, because now I feel a-a bigger sense of purpose, and, uh, I’m inspired to put out these incredible artists.
TGG: So, I want to speak on this. The music industry has been undergoing some changes, one of them being shifting toward streaming. How does Morton Records plan to adapt to these changes?
PJ: Right, well, me-me as the founder and CEO, man, I’m a, I’m a music guy, but I’m also a marketing guy.
TGG: Okay.
PJ: I got my degree from Morehouse in marketing,
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
PJ: and I think marketing is, is … the f-future, I mean it’s always been a-a integral part of the industry, but I think marketing partnerships and branding partnerships is the, is the future of how we get music to people,
TGG: Oh, yeah.
PJ: and how, h-ho … you know, d- uh, you know, who JoJo matches up with who we can both benefit from, um, and you know, people spend … companies, corporate companies spend millions of dollars in marketing, you know, why not add a celebrity to it, and add content to it, and add music to it that you can give to your consumers where you’d be normally spendin’ that money, anyway, so I think … Our vision is gonna be heavily based on, um, uh, on branding partnerships, um, and that’s how I feel like I want to give music to people. I feel like, you know, um, the normal distribution of music, um, even the way we talk about distribution deals … it’s hard to talk about what you’re distributing, anymore, I think, you know. I think that-
TGG: Yeah.
PJ: that is slowly fading out, you know. In gospel music, we still have a-a higher, uh, consumption of that, but, I think in general, it’s gone down, and uh, we’ve gotta find those new ways, so, uh, it’s gonna be a lot of branding and marketing things that we’re gonna be doin’, um, but I also feel like, part of the reason consumption of music has gone down is because of the way we have packaged it and the way we have presented it and the way we have created it.
TGG: Yeah.
PJ: I feel like the way … A-A-Adele can be an anomaly and sell a million records in a week is because she actually had a real story, and she had real music t- … and was really singing, so I think, you know, people say, “Man! What happened to the industry?”, but ten years ago, this started when we started sayin’, “Okay, let’s put th-this single works real quick, it’ll be hot for a minute.”, a … you know, so, I think, um … things have to break down before they build up again, so, um, while, while, uh, having a safety net of having the marketing and the branding stuff, I also am optimistic that we’re gonna do some things that aren’t being done because we are fillin’ a void, and I feel like we … w-we may d-do some things that haven’t been done in a long time, as far as sales are concerned, ya know, so.
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
PJ: Uh, uh, I’m optimistic as well as … (laughs) realistic, you know.
TGG: Got you, got you. (laughs)
PJ: Uh, but … but-but … we’re definitely gonna do some-some different things that we haven’t done, uh, seen done, especially in gospel music, for sure.
TGG: So you … you mentioned you’re signings, your artist signings, Jackson Ave, and of course, JoJo Martin. Tell me, what was it about JoJo that made you say, “Hey, I wanna sign this guy.”
PJ: Um, well, It was-it was very natural and very organic, uh, JoJo has been singin’ background with me, for, uh, I don’t know, since he was eighteen, I forget how old he is now, but uh, (laughs)
TGG: (laughs)
PJ: Uh, ah wel-, even before eighteen, because some of the clubs I would play, JoJo couldn’t even get in.
TGG: Wow.
PJ: That’s how young JoJo was, so may-maybe he was eighteen and they were twenty-one and up clubs, but we used to have to sneak him in so he could perform wit’ us on stage, so, it’s been a long time, and I just saw JoJo’s work ethic, his-his loyalty, um, the way, the w- … the way he’s committed to something once he does it and … and his voice, man! I mean, his, his ability … see, you know, I was up there, I always gave my singers shine on stage, but JoJo affects people when he sings, you know. I’ve seen ‘im in different arenas, a-and so we-we-we just started talking about it, I think. On his own, he started to, uh, look at different situations and see if he could … do a deal with different people, and it just didn’t quite work out.
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
PJ: I think a lot of that is just timing, you know. Um, but for me, I was like, “Man, I don’t really wanna do a record label, but let’s … I’ll do it, ‘cuz I wanted out. I w-, I w-, I want … selfishly, “I wanna listen to your record!” You know what I’m sayin’?
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
PJ: “I wanna play your record in-in my car!”, so, um, so, it came the time where I was like, “C’mon, man!” So we, w… He came to LA, I was still livin’ in LA, and we … we did half of his record, um, in a week there in LA, it was …
TGG: Oh, wow.
PJ: really organic I think part of it is … is the producer and the artist we-were close friends, and we spent years together, so, as far as knowin’ what we like, you know, a-a-and what … I didn’t have to learn JoJo, you know? It was kinda like, a very natural thing, and um … so we just went full-speed ahead, so, uh, I- you can kinda credit JoJo for startin’ Morton Records, a little bit! I mean, I’ll take that, I’m not givin’ you, uh … any, uh … any-any percentage of the company for that,
TGG: (laughs)
JoJo: (laughs loudly)
PJ: but, uh … (laughs) but (laughs again), but he kinda, I guess … you know, he r- … he really is the reason why I said, “A’ight, I’ma do it.” I mean, Wade knows this, even after JoJo, so I’m like, “Alright, man. We just gon’ do JoJo. I don’t wanna… I don’t wanna get into this.”, but JoJo really lit the fire for me to say, “Okay, I need to put on my executive hat on, I have a business degree.” I just-I just love music so much that I … sometimes I don’t like to … to contaminate it with the business, but
TGG: Right, Right.
PJ: Um, he kinda l-, he kinda lit that fire for me, and just the, just the pure, um, motivation to, like, get this out made me say, “A’ight, well, I’m turnin’ all the way up, and we-we gon’ get this out.” So, um, that-that was it, for me. Um, it’s just a combination of different things that … that-that w-that made a very natural partnership happen.
TGG: JoJo, tell me, how does it feel to be a part of this New Orleans, Morton Records movement?
JoJo: Man, it’s an amazing feeling, I … um … like PJ said, I’ve been with him for years, I’m thirty-one, now, and it’s been … it’s been, you know, a lot of great times. I’ve learned so much from Jim, you know, I’ve always wanted to work with him, so it’s like, to have this opportunity to be a part of such an amazing movement, um, is great, and yeah, I’ve done a lot of things, I’ve sang with a lot of people, but I think I-I’ve always been patient for … waiting for my time, and not just my time, but my turn, and I thank God that that time is now, because, you know, to have … a lot of people look up to PJ, but, you know, to have this opportunity to work so closely with him and his vision, and-and him to be able to help me tailor my vision for what I see in my career, and-and moving forward in my musical ministry is just awesome, you know. And I thank God that the platform is now there, um, that I could share things that I’ve gone through, things that I’m going through currently, and it’s just a … it’s an … it’s a dream come true, I can say that.
TGG: Wow. Wow. So, tell me, about your music, your forthcoming music, what can we expect from you as an artist? Will we expect more of a gospel sound, more of an … um, R&B-themed sound, inspirational … What can we expect?
JoJo: I would say you can expect more of a R&B, inspirational sound, um, really great lyrics and great production. Um, we were adamant about the things that we wanted to say, and, um, the things that we wanted people to hear, because I think music, uh, especially in gospel music, is going towards a more … um, general, uh … I wouldn’t say heavy-problem sounding music, which is what we’re used to; everybody singing about our problems and then you … you know, rejoicing over that, that’s more, so … inspirational, uplifting … sound in which I view God that way, you know, as an uplifter and not just necessarily a person that send you to Hell when you do wrong, but a person that loves you-
TGG: Right, right.
JoJo: -no matter who you are or what you do, what you’ve been, and what you’ve done, and … pretty much just telling my story through song, and the things that I’ve been through and how God has been there, um, and He’s still there, you know, so it’s a-it’s a … like I said, it’s a … R&B, inspirational … sound, I would say, that kinda … is uplifting.
TGG: Okay.
JoJo: Very uplifting.
TGG: Yeah. JoJo, you’ve mentioned telling your story through your music, and I’m gonna ask PJ about this. PJ, so many people argue that today’s music doesn’t have substance. What’s your take on today’s music?
PJ: Uh, I think while there’s a-an underground, um … substance movement happening, um, there-there’s music that I’m excited about, now, that I can listen to and feel like we’re goin’ in the right direction. I think the music that is popular, um … does lack substance, and that’s no diss. I-I think, I think the people that create it know, they purposely … pull out the substance ‘cuz they, you know … I-I’m in those rooms when they’re asking for these records, and I’m going to these labels when they’re asking for these records, and they’re sayin’, “Nah, that’s a little too serious.”, or, “That’s a little too wordy.”, or, “That’s a little too …”, you know what I mean? So I-I-I don’t think it-I don’t even think it’s a diss. I think people know that they don’t want substance right now, or they think they don’t, but I think we’re turning a corner where it’s like, “Okay. I had an- I’m gettin’ a stomachache from all the candy.” (chuckles) You know what I’m sayin’? “I need-“
TGG: Yeah.
PJ: “I need some, I need some food fo’ real, now.” And, um, so … so, I-I-I-I do want to play a part in that, and listen! I wanna make good music that’s fun and that people can dance to and have a good time to, as well. I don’t they have to, um … I-I don’t think … Y- I don’t believe that you can’t have both,
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
PJ: you know what I mean? The, the music that my parents grew o- grew up on and the music that I grew up on actually said something and actually was enjoyable to listen to. Doesn’t mean it has to be dark and serious, it just means that you c- you-you’re telling a real story in a way that is at a certain level, you know, o-of integrity, you know, in the way that you’re, you know, in the way that you’re presenting it, so, um … You know, I-I do think it lacks some, substance but I think we’re … I think we’re turnin’ a corner.
TGG: Okay, well, PJ, we know, um, you released this song with JoJo entitled, “Your Tears”, and that message … the message of that song really touched a lot of people. Why was that the first record to be released from Morton Records, of course besides your own music, PJ?
PJ: Um, Jo, you wanna talk to that? I know … his mother, and … you know, you’ve been …
TGG: Okay.
JoJo: Yeah, um … it was just a lot of things that I had gone through. I lost my mom. I lost my oldest brother. You know, and then, what he died from, I’m … living with now, and it was just … you know, it was a … strong message to say-
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JoJo: Uh, to the people to that, you know, the stuff that you’re going through is just temporary, you know. It’s nothing that you can’t overcome, that you can’t live with, that you can’t survive through. And it was just a … i-it was a awesome, awesome message you know, when we heard it in the studio, you know, everybody was going crazy just over the beat itself, you know, and it, and it was like, “Wow.” You know, “This is something that could really … this is the direction, you know, this is the, the thing that’ll change it.” and when we put it out, you know, we-we did a video for it and everything, which hasn’t … we haven’t put out it yet, but, you know, the-the song itself, it immediately- I mean, we started getting traction like crazy on SoundCloud, and-
TGG: Yeah.
JoJo: People just wanted to be able to have the song, and it was just … even ’till this day, just the other day, I still … get messages about it that it’s-it’s touchin’ their lives, even though it’s such a short song. You know, just the message itself, and when I did my photo shoot a couple of weeks ago, I played it and there was some people in there, and they just kept playin’ it over and over and over. And, you know, it just … it-it’s an in-, an infectious type of song, um,
TGG: Yeah.
JoJo: considering where everybody is. Instead of saying, “This is my problem.”, it’s saying, you know, “This is-, let’s get over this, let’s move forward. This is just a temporary thing.” And so, I think a lot of people have attached themselves to it for that, for that reason, that uplifting … uh,
JoJo: tone in the song, and so that-that’s … that was a great statement.
TGG: Hmm.
PJ: And for me, for me that’s a song that I seen … I had seen my dad sing my whole life. Right?
TGG: Mmm. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
PJ: And like, seen him sing it at funerals, and seen it … I’ve seen it change atmospheres, like from the beginning of it. Like from the… before he sang a-a word, you know? And so, to be able to redo it a-and a today’s way, and … I guess is a prime example of being able to say somethin’ and turn up at the same time,
TGG: Right.
PJ: You know, it’s like-it’s like, I felt like that was a good first step, even like before we even started wit’ all the real singles and all of that, it’s like, “Nah, let’s just say dis and show them where we’re going, because this is what we want to represent” Good fun, good music, but also sayin’ something.” You know, and, um …
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
PJ: So, we couldn’t … connecting, not forgetting about the past, this is a-a sample of my father, who, you know, who sang this song thirty years ago. Uh, so I just felt like it was a good … uh, representation of what’s to come and what we’re trying to say.
TGG: Okay, we’re wrapping up here, but I wanna know. You just mentioned what’s to come. Who’s gonna be the first artist to release something from Morton records?
PJ: Yeah, that’s gonna be brother … brother JoJo Martin is gonna be the first one to drop somethin’. Uh, we’re, we’re, gearing up, right now, to … to, um … to present his first single and JoJo’s gonna be on the road. I don’t know how much we could talk about Wade as far as … what he’s gon’ be doin’ on the road and stuff, but … um … and you ca-you can chime in, but, um, we’re about to present him- kinda me and JoJo at the same time are gonna … uh … be puttin’ stuff out separately. Um, we’re just kinda, I kinda took my time building everything and making sure that we had the stuff where we could keep the momentum going once we’ve started. Uh, so JoJo’s gonna come and I’ma come shortly after that, and um … but I think as far as full album is concerned, um … JoJo is definitely- JoJo’s album is comin’ first, so. We’re excited, we have it mostly done, and uh … I feel like people are gonna love it, man, it’s like really good music, good quality music! Uh, and, uh, I-I’m excited to give it to people and see what, see what they think.
TGG: JoJo, before we wrap up here, I would like for you to shed some light on your background and your story, as far as … uh, the sickness you’re dealing with, if you don’t mind.
JoJo: Yeah, I’m cool with that, for sure. So, um … pretty much … I have a genetic kidney disease called FSGS, it’s a long, medical name. You could look it up in … if you need to, but it’s called FSGS,
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JoJo: and, um, it’s a kidney disease that pretty much, as a child, i-it just lays dormant in your body, and then as you get older, it, it … comes to life, it just … kills the kidneys completely, and so, um, my oldest brother, he had it, and by the time they kind of found out, um … they were trying to rush to get him a kidney transplant, so I was going to donate, and I’m from California, originally, so I was livin’ in Colorado, I was gonna … fly to California and-and donate it. The night before I could fly out, he died, and so, um … I now have it. I have five brothers, so it jumped from him to me, I’m the last boy.
TGG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
JoJo: Um, and so, it’s been, you know, a struggle for the last few years. I’ve been on dialysis for three years, now, and I’m still waiting on a transplant. And, uh, so I’ve just started a foundation, uh, called the JoJo Martin Foundation, where we’re basically trying to help young, black men with kidney disease, because, uh, the medications and the food that you need, and-and your living conditions, everything has to be a certain way because it’s such a hard disease on the body, and, you know, I’ve had prescriptions, I got one now that’s $2,000 that the insurance company isn’t covering that we’re … so, you know, I understand the struggle and how hard it is, you know, and uh-um, and so … I have been trying to, uh, you know … just live through this, and sing my way through this, and … and tell my story everywhere I can, and to … you know, show people that, you know, a lot of people are complaining about a lotta things, but you know, it …
I’m at a point now, you know, where it’s … it’s almost … it’s not impossible to walk, it’s just hard, it’s, um … it’s painful every day, you know. All of this things that are happening to me as it relates to my kidneys, um, and I believe a transplant coming. I’m on the transplant list, um, Atlanta transplant list waiting time is four years, so I’ve been on there for three, so, and they just revamped the way the list is all around the world, so, um … The doctor was sayin’ that I’ve probably been moved up to the-to a higher level on that list, because they had a lot of the older patients at the top ‘cuz they were older and desperately in need, but now they’ve … reversed that and they’ve put them lower and put the younger, uh … recipients higher, um, so that we could, you know, live longer and, and have a chance, so, um … That’s pretty much … you know, I’m just pushin’. Pushin’ through it, and, and this opportunity is great, you know we thought about, um … waiting. You know, that’s why it’s been so long, we thought about waiting until I got a transplant, but it … it’s just the right time, you know what I’m sayin’? I-I-
TGG: Yeah. Yeah.
JoJo: I can’t let nothin’, you know, hold me back, I’ve gotta push on, so that’s … “Run On” is so important, you know, people don’t really understand how important this song is not just to my situation, but to everybody’s situation no matter what it is, everybody has a l-little something that they can run on from, you know, and keep pushin’ from, you know what I’m sayin’, so this is … this is why this song is just … i-it’s the most important song in my life right now, um, not just for my situation, but for what I see in everybody else, and the opportunity to encourage and inspire everybody else, not just through my story, but through the song, and uh … I believe that, uh, perseverance is key, and that’s what that song is about.
TGG: Wow, amazing. Amazing, man. Kudos to you, JoJo, man. I really respect the fact that you are … very transparent about your story, and I believe a lot of people will gravitate to you and your music, just because of that.


JoJo Martin Tour dates:


July 23– Kierra Sheard’s Bridges Tour, Detroit, MI


July 30– Kierra Sheard’s Bridges Tour, Chicago, IL


August 12– McDonald’s Gospel Tour, St Louis, MO


August 26– Kierra Sheard’s Bridges Tour, Cleveland,OH


Sept 3– Kierra Sheard’s Bridges Tour, Atlanta, GA


Sept 10– Kierra Sheard’s Bridges Tour, Washington, DC


Sept 24– Kierra Sheard’s Bridges Tour, Philadelphia


Oct 1– Kierra Sheard’s Bridges Tour, New York


Oct 22– Kierra Sheard’s Bridges Tour, Charlotte, NC

About Guru

DeVante Arbet successfully garnered the title of The Gospel Guru; being widely sought out as the ‘in-the-know’ guy when it comes to the Gospel music industry. After years of honing his passion for Gospel music from an early age ‘the guru’ became a brand.

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