JMSN Leaves High-Profile Collaborations Behind and Is Ready for His Closeup

The alt-R&B artist talks 'Whatever Makes U Happy' and how his past with Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs and Kaytranada informed his musical present and future
JMSN Leaves High-Profile Collaborations Behind and Is Ready for His Closeup
Photo: Chad Crews
Hailing from Eastpointe, MI, chances are you're hip to the musical output from the alternative R&B artist known as JMSN (pronounced Jameson) — whether you realize it or not.
 
Now in his early 30s, JMSN (born Christian Berishaj) has had an attention-grabbing journey within the music industry, from being signed to Atlantic Records with "powerpop" group Love Arcade, signed to Universal Motown as Christian TV, to working with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Freddie Gibbs and Montreal's Kaytranada.
 
As a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer, his latest record, Whatever Makes U Happy contains the joie de vivre that has marked his career to date. With his album (on his independent White Room Records) dropping this week, Exclaim! connected with JMSN and learned several interesting facts about the making of Whatever Makes U Happy.
 
1. JMSN's notable work on Kendrick Lamar's breakout 2012 record Good Kid, m.A.A.d city (he is the featured singer on "Kill My Vibe," "Sing About Me," "Art of Peer Pressure" and "Real") in addition to an appearance on Kaytranada's 2013 Kaytra Todo album (on the song "All We Do") helped to shape his musical identity.
 
"It was amazing. It's cool to be part of some stuff that's not yours. I was a fan of both the artists before I got to work with them, so it was good to get that experience. It's good to just be immersed in all that. It's nice to take all that and get influenced in a positive way by seeing people do what they do and what their process is. How hard they work inspires you to work hard as well. It's just very inspiring to be around that type of situation."
 
2. Growing up in the Detroit area helped to inform his eclectic sound.
 
"I grew up in the Kid Rock / White Stripes / Eminem era, so that's influenced me as an artist. Those three artists, not even that they were musically the same, they just did what was true to them and inspired me to do the same. I always wanted to do what I enjoyed. That was what I enjoyed, [along with] Whitney Houston and Phil Collins. Stuff like that on the radio would always be my favourite stuff and I wanted to do stuff like that. I finally got enough confidence to do it. And now I'm just getting started. And James Ingram is the shit."
 
3. The album took six months to create.
 
"It was probably about six months to get it done. It's been less than a year since the last album, so I got it done pretty fast. Now I'm working on another one. Once I've got time between tours is the best time to do it. It probably takes me the longest to mix stuff because I'm not very good at it. I mean not very good technically, because I don't really know what I'm doing so it takes me a little bit longer than someone who knows. So I have to play around with stuff for it to sound how I want it. Production is getting a little me easier for me as I've done it for so long. I try to mix along the way and get the best product I can."
 
4. Presently known for his dark take on blues and R&B, the new album lightens things up a bit.
 
"It's the gist of the whole thing: Just doing whatever makes you happy. It's just about accepting that this is what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life so I better do what I like to do, rather than doing what I think people will like. I think that I was just that musically I was in a more positive place but personally I'm always still trying to figure it all out. I don't think that will ever change. Or maybe it will."
 
5. His quirky sense of humour, style, and love of the late '80s/early '90s video aesthetic — check out his "Boogie Basics" dance tutorial along with his starring turn as a creeper stalking actress-singer Alexa Demie in his latest "Where Do You Go" video — helped to shape his approach to making music and shooting/editing his own videos. It all fits into his DIY, fearless approach to creation.
 
"Yeah and I also edit the videos as well in After Effects. I get YouTube videos tutorials. I don't really even know what I'm doing. I'm just hopped up on coffee and you know, getting crazy."
 
6. He is currently working with upstart Toronto soul artist Kristina Alcordo, aka Alcordo, who is slated to release new music this year.
 
"I just found her on the internet and just loved her voice. I reached out to her and asked if she wanted to make a record and we did it. She's going to work on her stuff after my album and try to get people to hear that as well."
 
7. After having had experience working with major labels, he's enjoying being independent.
 
"If I missed being on a major label I'd be on a major label. The advantages of being independent outweigh the advantages of being on a major. It's a constant battle, you don't just get there overnight. It's still something that's in your mind. Ultimately you have to grow up and realize that this is what you do, so you better enjoy it. If you're not enjoying it then there's no point in doing it. I'm a lot more focused now. I know what my skill set is and what I need to get better at. I can navigate easier I guess you can say. I kind of learned how a lot of stuff worked and [am] still learning how it works. It's always changing. It kind of pedigreed me into learning that this is the business and if you want to keep doing it you have to have that business mindset, especially if you are going to do it independently."