When Christian Berishaj writes music, he disconnects. The iPhone is turned off, the e-mail and texts and phone calls reach an electronic dead end, and the Los Angeles-via-Detroit artist seeks out space.
For now, that space is the North Hollywood apartment he rents, yet another place of his own he's carved out during his six years in L.A., where he writes and tracks demos as JMSN. He can't afford a getaway in the mountains at the moment, but his sights are set on reclaiming some of that natural openness for his himself. He ponders the eventuality of it, a brief moment during our interview when he doesn't cap a statement with a laugh. "When I get to that point, I'll have to figure out where I want that space," he says.
Berishaj has no time for bullshit, and he will tell you so. Having undergone a series of musical iterations -- first as multi-instrumentalist Love Arcade, which signed to Columbia Records, then later under the moniker Christian TV, which signed with Universal Motown -- he struck out on his own and formed his own independent record label, White Room Records. It's the venture through which Berishaj released his most recent and highly lauded self-titled LP, known to Berishaj and his fans as "The Blue Album."
White Room Records' creation was as much a curation platform for Berishaj as it was a knee-jerk reaction to major label politics. Even now, three years after the label's conception, Berishaj sticks to his guns. He would much rather retain his ability to be a tastemaker than succumb to the wishes of a faceless A&R person.
"Now, it's easy for me to say no to that type of stuff," Berishaj says. "I've been through it and I know that that's not what I want. You could flash me however much money you want, and it's not going to make a difference. That's not who I am or what I stand for. It's not what I want to do."
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With that independence, Berishaj built his own wheelhouse. As JMSN, Berishaj has been labeled as R&B, featuring atmospheric, aerated vocals and layers of hall reverb that draw immediate comparisons to the likes of The Weeknd and How to Dress Well. Music critics and fans alike simply labeled the first JMSN record, Priscilla, as "dark," created in a drugged-out vein that could be just at home in a truck stop strip club's champagne room as a low-lit bedroom.
"It was a combination of so many things, just happening and growing up and disappointment and responsibility," he says of that time in his life. "There's so many different things that all built up into that sound. I can't just name one thing. I know that the breakup with Priscilla might have been a triggering of 'Let me write about all the shit that's going on.'"
"The Blue Album" marks a significant departure from that forlorn time in Berishaj's life, with his music now leaning toward Timbaland-influenced down-the-line pop. The critical acclaim the record has garnered is deserved, but more than anything, it marks a milestone for Berishaj, a chapter of his life that might shine a little brighter than those preceding or following it.
"Life in general, it kind of conditions you to make the kind of music you make; it's never a conscious decision," Berishaj says. "I know that some of my stuff now is not as dark as it used to be, just because I'm in a different place. And later it might even be more darker. It's kind of just a mind state, not a conscious choice you make to do that."
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