Sleeper DIY crooner JMSN returns home next week

I’d like to buy a vowel

JMSN's thoroughly addictive, highly modern sound rests somewhere in between Jay Kay and the Weeknd. The multi-talented singer and songwriter (born Christian Berishaj) has been thriving for several years, creating his own personal brand of self-described "hippy R&B." Metro Times caught up with the Eastpointe native to talk new music, Detroit, and the rigors of touring.

Metro Times: Let's go back a little bit. You were playing several instruments and experimenting in Pro Tools as a preteen. What drove that passion?

JMSN: I wanted to make music, so I had to figure out how to do it any way I could.

MT: You were able to land a record deal during the last era in which an artist could physically mail demo tapes or call record executives on the phone. What do you find most memorable from that time period?

JMSN: I mean, you can still do that now. But it's email and SoundCloud links. [Laughs.] The most memorable thing was how naive I was as a kid and thinking I made it and had it all figured out.

MT: You were signed to both Atlantic and Universal Motown for brief periods of time. What did you like and dislike about being signed to a large record label?

JMSN: I liked the experience. I learned a whole lot. I disliked how hard it was to get anything done and out with them, because there are so many different people that have to approve to do anything.

MT: The record business has changed so much. The large labels you were once signed to have given up power to smaller boutique-type labels like White Room, which you started yourself. What were the challenges in starting your own label, and how has the experience been?

JMSN: The challenge is finding artists with like-mindedness and passion. But it's nice when you do. The experience is too new to say how it's been — it's in the baby stages. It's certainly great to be in control of your own destiny.

MT: You're from Eastpointe, correct? How much time did you spend on Detroit's music scene? What aspects of Detroit influence your music?

JMSN: Yes, that is correct. I spent my high school years playing shows. Detroit influenced me as a person, so therefore it bled into my music. It's about more than just the music though, I believe it teaches you that it's your life, not just a thing you're doing.

MT: You've collaborated with Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs, and Ab-Soul, to name a few. How was it working with those guys? What Detroit artists have you collaborated with? What other artists, Detroit or not, do you plan to collaborate with?

JMSN: It's great. They're all great people and easy to work with. I've worked with 14KT — he's a Michigan native. I would still love to collaborate with R. Kelly at some point, when it's the right thing.

MT: Let's talk music. How have you grown since your album Priscilla?

JMSN: In every aspect. Producing, singing, mixing, songwriting, guitar playing, and just overall in life. And I'm still growing every day.

MT: Your newest album, It Is, got very good reviews. Do you purposefully incorporate a '90s R&B vibe? Are you working on a new album?

JMSN: I do not purposefully do that, no. I didn't even know it had those vibes on this record. I'm almost done with the new album, which will be out in the upcoming year.

MT: You've just come off a 43-city tour. What was that like? Any memorable stories you would like to share?

JMSN: Very draining. Just a lot of the same thing every day! Haha.

MT: Detroit was once the mothership of R&B music and has had a hip-hop renaissance over the 15 years. Where do you see the future of Detroit music?

JMSN: That's a good question. Not sure, maybe techno will come back.

JMSN plays the Magic Stick on Nov. 18; Doors at 7 p.m.; 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; $10.

About The Author

Kahn Santori Davison

Kahn Santori Davison is from Detroit, Michigan. He's a husband and father of four and a self-described, "Kid who loves rap music." He's been featured on Hip-Hop Evolution and Hip-Hop Uncovered. He's also a Cave Canem fellow, author of the poetry book Blaze (Willow Books), a recipient of a 2015 Kresge Literary...
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