Christian Berishaj is JMSN: a R&B, experimental lyricist, musician, producer and director currently based in LA. His style-bending lyrics and production have gained our interest, so we got the chance to chat with him about his new self-titled JMSN (The Blue Album), his US tour and upcoming projects. To sum it up, he’s been a busy guy. Listen to the recording and/or read the transcription below.
Radio UTD: We’re obviously going to talk about your tour and the new album, but just to start things off why don’t you talk about your beginnings in your music career.
JMSN: I started super, super young and started recording music, messing around with stuff, and it turned into something I wanted to do full time. All the time. It’s just my love for it.
Radio: What sort of influences or impetuses were there that made you really gravitate toward production?
JMSN: Life was the biggest influence. As far as artists go, I liked people like Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, and R Kelly. Anything that was going on around me. It was pretty much everything. Music just amazed me in general. I was just fascinated by it; curious about it; I wanted to pursue it, whatever that meant. So the time after that was figuring it out anyway I could. I seemed to have figured it out for the time being and I continue to try and learn and figure it out as I go.
Radio: You’ve tossed between a couple of genres and aliases in your past. What reasoning did you have to keep altering your style and image?
JMSN: I feel like a lot of the early stuff was me trying to figure it out. You go through a lot of stuff and there are a lot of influences around you telling you what you should do. JMSN was my final stage of me trying not to stop listening to all the outside influence and start listening to myself. That’s how JMSN was born. All the other stuff there was a lot of things happening and a lot of things influencing me to do stuff that maybe I didn’t want to do.
Radio: I definitely hear that in the music. It’s a sort of finessed thing, and of course it’s pretty emotional music. Do you think that’s why you wanted to get to this emotional state?
JMSN: I didn’t think about what kind of music I wanted to make. I just wanted to make music and not have any outside influences and not worry about making that hit song. What was ‘cool’ right now or what was relevant. I didn’t want to chase relevancy. The people that chase that have no idea what’s going on. Not to say I do know what’s going on, but you’re not going to get it but chasing something that already works. It’s better to do your own thing and try to get better at that.
Radio: You have a lot of releases under JMSN, or at least several. What sort of continuum are you trying to establish with these things you’ve made. Is there a flow to these releases? And maybe what are they leading to?
JMSN: There’s definitely a flow which is what’s going on in my life. It’s sort of like a soundtrack to my life. It’s like how I’m feeling at the time is what comes out on the record. I feel that’s the cohesiveness behind it all.
Radio: You’ve mentioned the continuation between them, but do notice any differences?
JMSN: Yeah, there’s definitely differences: musically as well as lyrically. I’m in a different place and mind set when I make a new record.
Radio: Could you expand on the feelings you were going through, such as on Priscilla or the new record The Blue Album?
JMSN: Pretty much the feelings are summed up in the lyrics for the albums. They are pretty self-explanatory of what I was going through at the time. Priscilla was about “Priscilla” and a whole bunch of other stuff. Pllajë was kind of at a plateau, which pllajë means plateau in Albanian. My life was just at a plateau; my career and shit. I was just waiting for something to happen. I was very stagnant. Then Blue Album: the blue was for this kind of slowing. I felt okay with where I am mentally, like I’ve taken a step to be a little happier mentally with where I am. It’s kind of a continuation from Pllajë by me being unsatisfied where I was, and Blue was mentally a step after Pllajë. It was me realizing the only reason I was unsatisfied was because I decided in my mind that I’m unsatisfied; me realizing you make what you are. You make your emotions. You decide if you happy or sad.
Radio: Just by chance, do you have a favorite track that’s close to your mind and heart?
JMSN: For sure. Definitely would be “My Way.” I thought that when I made that I thought this album has come together. I’m like, “I have an intro.” Whenever I make an intro I say “okay, I can hear the album.” Before that I’m just making songs, and some of them I can hear them being on the album, but only until you have that intro track you can tell that this is what that album is.
Radio: I can say it resonates throughout the whole album, I think. It’s pretty good.
JMSN: For sure. Thank you.
Radio: But now, you’re on this massive tour and I’m sure it’s not easy at some points. In your views, what’s the most troubling part of all that?
JMSN: I don’t think there is a troubling part of all that. This is my dream come true. This is what I wanted to do all my life.
Radio: What does it feel like performing in so many places? What are you trying to evoke in everyone listening?
JMSN: I’m not trying to have anyone feel any type of way, but I hope they come away with something from the show. It would have to be freedom; Freedom to be who you are. It’s corny but it’s true. Freedom is what I promote. Freedom to be you, do what you want to do and decide if you’re happy or sad, like I was saying. You decide everything in your life. You put yourself where you want to be and I hope that translates when I play that you can do whatever you want to do. There’s nobody holding you back from doing anything. I feel that’s my purpose of ever playing music and being an artist. People need to know it.
Radio: I definitely want to talk about your production and your musical process with a bit more detail. I understand you play a lot if not all of your instruments in your works. What prompted you to learn everything?
JMSN: Necessity. It was like, “I have to learn this because no one is going to do it for me.” I’ve got to figure it out.
Radio: Did you learn all your instruments at the same time?
JMSN: Well, I feel like I got a guitar when I was 10 years old, and started learning chords, maybe, so I could play Nirvana and Green Day songs or some shit. After that at 12 I go a pro tools recording rig. It was just was just when they made it affordable, so I just started recording. So, I just never really stopped. Making shitty beats, you know?
Radio: I’m sure it has become easier over the years and you’re more comfortable with your taste.
JMSN: Yeah. You’d be surprised how fast I do things on a program now for doing it over 15 years now. I better be.
Radio: Off of that, because you do most of your work, maybe not by yourself, but do you have anyone listening in where you ask for feedback?
JMSN: I always have friends over to see if they like songs. It’s mostly closer to the end where I’m trying to get rid of songs. I’ll have 30 songs to choose from that I’ve cut down from 50 recording for an album. I get people in and ask “what sort of songs do you like?” and see what songs they like. And maybe there are songs that nobody likes but I don’t care because it’s the album and it makes sense on the album. The other songs I’m trying to figure out what direction they are on the album. They’re written by me, so there’s nothing out of place with those songs. It’s just trying to see what direction I want to go with on something, what is going to make it cohesive and what are people going to enjoy to listen to, as well. I also want there to be an idea behind the album. Like I said when I cut 30 out of 50 songs that I recorded those 20 might have nothing to do with what I want on the album. When I cut them down initially I have to be like, “Okay, these all have to do with what I’m trying to say, now which of these are the best?” Because I’m no trying to put out 30 songs, I’m trying to put out maybe 10, and then it ends up being 12 or 14 because I can’t let go of a couple. It’s a process.
Radio: I wanted to go into your collaborations a little bit, because these are some of my favorite, to be honest. For example: your track with Astronatica or Kastle.
JMSN: Oh yeah. They’re great people. I mean, anytime I work with someone there’s a reason why I work with them. Because they’re good people and I enjoy they as people as well as artists.
Radio: How do you get to networking with them?
JMSN: Different ways. I guess just reaching out; hitting them up on Twitter or something.
Radio: The internet. It’s powerful.
JMSN: That’s always an easy way yeah. It’s mostly, they send me a track then I take a crack at it in my studio and then we’ll meet up later when it’s all finished and we’re happy with the product. I would imagine if we did a song and neither of us were happy about it we wouldn’t want to meet up and talk about it. Haha.
Radio: Now, about your videos. It’s like the whole package, really. You know, you have your music; your imagine; the video; all by JMSN. What is it like to make all of that and how do you feel with the entire product.
JMSN: I always feel like it could be better. But, that’s just me trying to be better all the time. I don’t do it because I want to per se. It’s not something I want to pursue. It’s, again, sort of out of necessity. I enjoy being involved in video stuff but mostly I direct because I can’t find anyone I can trust to do it for me. And I’m hoping that’ll change in the future.
Radio: Back to your music: you have a distinct R&B feel to your tracks. Do you have any comments on that? Is this more on the continuation of JMSN or is this the JMSN sound that you’re trying to convey to everybody?
JMSN: I’m kind of just exploring. I guess it’s just me. It’s not trying to be anything other than what I’m just doing. I feel like I’m comfortable with what I do now. You’re going to hear some R&B influences a lot throughout stuff, because that’s just who I am. I love R&B. Then you’re going to hear alternative rock influence; you’re going to hear pop influences; you’re going to hear -whatever else. A country influence! Who knows?
Radio: To finish things up, what seems to be on the horizon for JMSN?
JMSN: Well, we’ve got a lot of videos coming out. I think we’ve release 3, so far. There’s still 11 more. We’re getting ready to do that. We’re getting ready to tour. We’re going to Europe to tour there. Just, continuing to do stuff. I’m already working on new songs. Keeping it going.
Radio: We’re looking forward to those new videos, whenever those will be released, and glad that they are coming out. Are there any other projects coming out from you?
JMSN: Yeah, White Room Records is putting out a couple of new artists. I’ve got this girl, Alcordo, who we’re working on a record with, who I produced. And Pearl is coming is coming out with a second album that we’re putting out on White Room. So there are a couple things. And, JMSN’s new record after all that. So, we’ll have a lot of shit.
You can check out JMSN’s upcoming show dates on his website, and listen to his new album.