48° Good Morning
48° Good Morning

PJ Morton talks new album ‘Gumbo,’ Maroon 5 and more

PJ Morton performs in New York City at

PJ Morton performs in New York City at the Apollo Theater June 3. Photo Credit: THE PURPLE AGENCY

PJ Morton has something to prove. Known primarily for his role as keyboardist and backup vocalist for the mega-band Maroon 5, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is hitting the road behind his latest solo album, “Gumbo.”

amNewYork spoke with Morton ahead of his performance at the Apollo Theater on Saturday about past success, the influence of his hometown of New Orleans and Maroon 5.

You were a junior in college when you won your first Grammy, for penning the India.Arie song “Interested.” How did that even come about?

My sophomore year I had moved off campus and India.Arie and I lived in the same apartment on campus. We’d become friends and I said “India, I have this song.” She loved it and put it on the album. It got nominated for two Grammys and she won them both. It allowed me to be a Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer, right there my junior year in college.

Did you get to go to the ceremony?

It was kind of crazy and I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t even get to go [laughs].

How did you hook up with Maroon 5?

I was on tour in 2010 for one of my solo records and I got the call they were looking for a keyboard player/ singer. I actually canceled the last few dates of my tour and flew to LA. and auditioned for the guys. It was my first audition ever in life. And it was the first time they ever auditioned someone since they’d been in a band together since they were 12 years old, so it was new for both of us. We both clicked and it felt really natural. The rest is history. I’ve been in the band seven years now.

What has that done to help get your name out there as a musician yourself?

It definitely gave me more visibility. And the band has always been so receptive to me as an artist. I’ve done double duty on tours where I open up, Kelly Clarkson goes on then I go and change and close with Maroon 5.

Take me through your new album “Gumbo” — a nod to your hometown of New Orleans.

I named it “Gumbo” because the actual dish is a bunch of things mixed in together to make [something] beautiful. I wanted to grow as a songwriter and talk about more things ... about where we are in the world today, the tension, how divided we are as a country. It kind of felt like I was dumping a bunch of subject matter together and I made it in New Orleans so that sounded like gumbo to me.

What will it feel like when you set foot on stage at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater?

Oh man, that venue ... so much history was made there, from James Brown on, and you can feel that in the walls. I can’t wait to pull on that energy of the past and continue it.

IF YOU GO: PJ Morton performs at the Apollo Theater on June 3, 10 p.m., sold out, 253 W. 125th St.,

Entertainment photos & videos