An Interview with JMSN

Photo credit: Ashleigh Reddy
Photo credit: Ashleigh Reddy

Before his sold out show at U Street Music Hall this past Friday, Christian Berishaj, known to most as  JMSN, chatted with us about his career, covering a song by Nirvana, and his baller dance moves.

How has this tour been?

Very unexpected how the turnout’s been. It’s really been great.

This show sold out!

Yeah, we found out earlier in the morning that it sold out. It’s exciting.

When and how did you first start making music?

I first started very young, playing piano and then moved on to guitar because I thought it was cooler. And then tried making songs on my guitar at a very young age, probably like 10 or 11, and just never stopped.

You grew up in Detroit, how did that influence your musical career?

I think that it influenced me in the way that it gave me the strength to, you know, work hard and earn it and know that nothing is handed to you. Detroit is a very hard place in that way. That stuck with me, being the underdog, and having to earn stuff and nothing’s given to you and you can’t expect anything to be given to you. I think that shaped myself as well as my music. It’s a big part of it.

Before you settled on JMSN, you were making music under a couple of different monikers, how did you go from all of your previous projects to the current one?

It was like an epiphany, an awakening inside of me. It was a very important part in my life and for my music. It was a boiling point where I was just fed up with who I thought I should be, and who people were telling me I should be. That mattered to me and I just woke up, you know? This is what I want to do and this is what matters to me. Why am I doing anything else besides this? I shouldn’t be. So I started doing what I’m doing now, which is just making music that I want to make and for no other reason other than because I love it. I’m not trying to feed my ego. There’s no doing it for fame, just doing it because I want to be doing it and it’s what I love to be doing.

Which I think is important for a musician because if you’re doing it because you want to be doing it, I feel like the music is more genuine in that sense.

Yeah, for sure. It translates and people aren’t dumb. They notice that for sure.

You’ve collaborated before with Kaytranada and Kastle and Sango. How did those come about?

Most of the time through Twitter, just being like “hey I really like your stuff.” Sango I actually met through a friend. The other ones was just because I was a fan of their stuff and hit them up. I was like “I really like your stuff, if you need any vocals from me or anything just let me do that” and people seem to enjoy how timely I get stuff back to them and enjoy [the work] itself.

It’s really interesting because a lot of them are beatmakers and in that type of music a lot of vocals come from samples, so it’s cool having original vocals.

In terms of collaborations, most recently you’ve been working with Ab-Soul on Unit 6; can you talk more about that?

Yeah, we finished it a while ago and maybe one day we’ll release it but just not right now.

Recently, you released a cover of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” for Pigeons and Planes. I was just wondering why you chose that particular song?

I think it’s because I didn’t think anyone else would pick it and I wanted to be the one that did that. I love that song and it’s so in your face, and I love that about stuff. I’m not afraid to do that because when it comes to art, the more in your face it is, the better. I just wanted to be the one who did that song.

And you are! It’s a beautiful cover.

Thank you, thank you.

Is there anyone else you’d love to collaborate with in the future?

Man, that’s a good question. I mean, there’s plenty of people I would love to work with. I mean, I still haven’t made a song with Prince or R. Kelly. It’d be cool to have Michael McDonald on a song. Or the Bee Gees. We’ll figure out a way to do it.

I watched your Boogie Basics video; can people that go to your shows expect any of those dance moves?

Yeah! They might come out, especially when we play that song. Something comes out; I don’t know if it’s those exact moves, but sometimes.

The first time I watched it, I was like “that’s probably what I look like on the dance floor.”

Yeah, I chugged a coffee and was hyped off that, tweaking.

Any plans to release a longer tutorial video?

Maybe, maybe! We were thinking about doing a part two, but I’ve gotta find the right outfit.

Maybe chug two coffees instead of one?

Then I’ll really be going in. That’d be crazy.

– Lotanna Obodozie

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