It’s 3 a.m. in Amsterdam. Christian Berishaj, better known as JMSN, just stepped off stage after the second show of his 10-stop European tour. It’s been a long road since his humble beginnings in Detroit. From his early days in the pop-punk band Love Arcade to his brief electropop phase as Christian TV, Berishaj has taken on many different musical forms before reaching his current incarnation as JMSN. His new self-titled album is the culmination of his search to become even more himself. Here we caught up with the crooner to discuss his creative process, pre-show traditions and surprising success.
The new album deals with themes of addiction, regret and uncertainty. How much of it is personal?
Making pain into triumph into love. It’s definitely super personal and I feel like I try to get even more personal. It’s something that I’m working on. Everyday I work on becoming more transparent. I’m very proud of this record because it had dark content in a good way.
It feels uplifting though. It’s like sad-happy.
That’s funny because a lot of people don’t really read into it that way because they don’t think about the lyrics.
Is this record a good representation of you now?
I’m always digging deeper to try to figure it all out, which I know I’m never gonna do. It’s about trying to make sense of this things we call a life. It’s about learning from mistakes. From what I found about life, everything works the same and if you can simplify things enough, it will probably make life a little easier. I’ve been trying to simplify and I’ve been trying to write about that simplification… that getting-rid-of-the-bullshit time of my life..
There’s a sense of urgency about the album, like we only have so much time and you just have to do what you can because all of this could end.
I’m so glad that you hear that. [Laughs]. My whole motto is you need to do what you want to do no matter how much it costs, no matter the sacrifice. I feel like that’s what I’m preaching and that’s what I’m living. Some of my favorite artists of all time are always the underdogs. One thing they touched on, but I don’t know if they dug deep enough, is that you can do it too. You can do it. You just have do it. There’s a lot of sacrifice, there’s a lot of pain, but there’s also a lot of pleasure.
Do you get very technical about your music?
Oh, hell yeah. I have to. Nobody’s gonna do it for me. I’m always recording music. Once I get to a point where I’m done and I have the songs written, then I put my producer hat on. Now I gotta figure out what are the players I need and how are we recording this. … Are we putting a drumset in my studio or are we going to another studio? After all that’s done, I’m mixing as I go. Then I sit back and mix everything and I take stuff out. There’s so many layers to it.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
The main ritual that I can think of that always happens is that I piss a lot. I seriously piss about 10 times in the last 10 minutes before we go on. Besides that, I just like it to be very calm and there not to be a lot of people in the dressing room or backstage.
Do you do anything to get yourself centered?
I approach each situation individually. If somebody doesn’t speak English, I’m going to have to figure it out. I had spent a month or two in Paris before and they really don’t speak English and they let you know that they don’t speak English. That was one of the [darkest] times in my life. I couldn’t talk to anybody and I wasn’t with my band at that point. I was producing somebody else’s record and he spoke English, but nobody else did so I couldn’t really go out. It was kind of like boot camp. I would go to record and then go back to the hotel and not have any communication with anybody.
You’re touring all over the world now. Do you ever get surprised by your success?
Those [moments] hit me once in a great while, but not very often. I’ll step out and think, “Holy shit, how did I get here? How did this happen and how are we here right now?” And those are intense moments, but it doesn’t last long and then I realize that it doesn’t really matter. Nothing matters but what’s going on right now. You make your own reality.
JMSN plays Beauty Bar at 9 p.m. April 26, TheBeautyBar.com.