Don’t ever call someone with multiple personalities crazy. After all, they might just be a goddamn genius. Case in point: musician Christian Berishaj. In a career spanning over a decade, Berishaj has performed under the names Snowhite, Christian TV, and—as of late—JMSN. Each moniker heralded a new identity for the Detroit native, both personally and sonically, showcasing the evolutionary timeline of an of artist in constant motion.
With a sound touted as “somewhere between Jay Kay and The Weeknd,” Berishaj seamlessly blends R&B, soul, and lush instrumentals into a product like no other. Hailing from the cold city of Detroit, the artist sought escape from a tumultuous family life in his music, composing and creating beats at a young age. His hard work and dedication eventually led to landing a record deal with Atlantic at eighteen. With the release of his most recent album It Is, as well as a live recording from North Hollywood, Berishaj sounds more mature than he has in past albums, and yet has retained a boldness that can only come from someone so . . . well, crazy isn’t the right word.
You got involved in music fairly early in your life—your father got you your first guitar in your early teens. Why did you take to music the way you did?
I was twelve when he got the guitar for me, actually. I just always loved and have been involved in music. Before guitar, my mom had me take piano lessons, but I didn’t think it was very cool to be honest. So I said to my parents, “I want to play guitar.” And I finally got one from my dad when I was twelve. It was cool too, because I pretty started making music then.
You really hit the ground running then.
Yeah, I mean it wasn’t good music. But I had a guitar and I just wanted to write songs. Later, I found Pro Tools so I got on that and began recording stuff. Again, it wasn’t great, but it was the start of getting things done.
Who were some of your earliest influences back then?
Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Prince. Pretty much the whole bunch. Michael Jackson and R. Kelly too.
How has your sound changed since your first album—both as JMSN with Priscilla and when you first signed on with Atlantic?
For both answers, it was just me evolving as a person and evolving as an artist. Just getting to the point for me to perform as JMSN took a lot of evolution and learning. As I’ve become JMSN, I’m still growing and becoming better at what I do, whether that’s singing, guitar playing, songwriting, producing, whatever. I’m always evolving.
You’ve also performed under several monikers along with JMSN over the years—SnoWhite, Christian TV—why the changes? What led you to be where you are with JMSN?
I was influenced by a lot of outside stuff, and I was just trying to figure it all out. I was trying different things. Then I finally realized that I’m just going to do what I started doing before I got sidetracked and explore within rather than without.
It’s still Christian at the end of the day though.
For sure. My life was different when I took on those other personas.
You just released a live album recently, Live at North Hollywood. What led to the decision to debut a live album rather than a traditional one?
I wanted to do a live album for a long time. And I finally figured, why should I wait to do it? It was always about resources and getting people together to practices, and I finally got to the point where we could do it. I want to do more in the future too.
You also had a screening of the show. Tell me a little bit about that process.
Yeah, that was amazing. I do want to get into making them more cinematic and tell more of a story rather than just making it song after song. Just seeing it on the big screen inspires you to make it even better for next time. It was cool.
Your latest non-live album, It Is, is a lot more soul focused than your previous works. What influenced this direction?
Life. Wanting to just explore different things and going deeper into certain folds of emotion. I feel like I just do what feels right nowadays, and that felt right. The new album I’m working on is another step in a different direction but it’s all molding me into what I’m going to be the next time. It’s all steps.
Can you describe what you’re currently working on now?
I actually just turned it into mastering like an hour ago so I’ve been working on it pretty tirelessly. I’m excited for it to come out because it’s a whole new me again. It’s even more in the direction I want to go so I’m going to keep going.
What sort of direction is that going to be?
I feel like I’m moving towards a genre-less sound. I mean, there’s a lot of blues and there’s a lot of funk and there’s a lot of country and a lot of R&B. But it’s all mixed together. It was fun and freeing to make.
What’s a piece of advice that you would give someone starting out?
I would tell them to keep going. Make sure you’re doing stuff and putting stuff out. There’s a lot of people who are scared to put stuff out because their scared and they want it to be perfect but people just want to grow with you and see you evolve. It gives them more ownership over their stuff.
I remember seeing some of my favorite artists and growing with them album after album. I felt like I was a part of their story and journey. Fans get to see this growth and experience how amazing it is. So that’s how I want to approach it when I make music, mistakes and all. It’s what makes a person a person. It’s all about just being you, and that involves not always being great. We’re human after all.
Here’s my favorite question I like to ask, and I’m wondering what you have to say about it: What is your most played song right now on Spotify?
“Where Is The Love” by Donny Hathaway. It’s a good one.
Solid. What can we expect from your performance at Voyager?
Oh, we’re practicing for it, for sure. We’re just going go up there and play, and I’m going to leave it all out on the dance floor. [laughs]