There’s something so laid back and nonchalant about JMSN that it’s almost enviable – or maybe that’s just because we’re backstage before his gig at London’s Jazz Café, and there’s not that much to not be laid-back about.
Since JMSN released his third album, ‘It Is’ back in May, he’s been pretty busy touring across the world, establishing his independent label ‘White Room Records’, and creating new material. Tonight, he’s 3000+ miles from his native Detroit to sing his heart out to a sold out crowd, who are eagerly awaiting a night of heartfelt lyrics, with a slice of blues, yet gushing with soul.
‘It Is’ is one of those genre-bending projects. Sitting in the realm of expressive soul, JMSN laments on relationships and throes of passion, while it’s carefully set against a backdrop of raw instrumentation. While backstage, JMSN reminisces on how the project came together: “This one came together in a different way. Some things were maybe from a voice note of an idea, a guitar part, to a chorus part. Then it slowly turned into something fuller, then into a record. Then you’re making more songs, and you realise stuff is linked and it becomes an album… I guess that’s when you realise you’ve got something”.
Everything will constantly be a different version of me, because I’m a different version of me now
JMSN hasn’t always been JMSN. Born Christian Berishaj, the artist and man we now know as JMSN has had careers and shared music under a variety of monikers, from Love Arcade, Christian TV, JMSN and more recently as Pearl, JMSN is under a constant state of reinvention and evolution: “The name change was like a fresh start for me – like when I cut my hair – it was a fresh start, a new beginning, like a spiritual thing…Starting over, I feel like we all do it – why do we have new year’s resolutions? Because you can feel stagnant, stuck in a rut, you want to be inspired by switching it up”.
From name and hair changes aside, one thing with JMSN has remained constant; he just makes good music, and that state of self-reassessment and variation is probably one of the reasons why his music and fans are so varied: “I’m constantly evolving into other stuff, the things I’m making now doesn‘t sound like my old stuff too much. Everything will constantly be a different version of me, because I’m a different version of me now”.
JMSN’s latest project has been released under the name ‘Pearl’ – and it’s basically just an outlet “where new concepts are explored, both sonic and emotional”. Released via his White Room Records independent record label, the hub is dedicated to good music: “It was just something I wanted to do and I wanted to do it my way, I have so much to give on the music front, any artist that works with or is put out via White Room Records – will gain a lot because I have a lot to give, I just want to be helpful and an outlet really, that’s why I set it up… I didn’t want to follow anyone else’s rules – I just wanted to build something of my own that feels better… And helping others, rather than helping someone else who doesn’t believe in you”.
Bending the rules is one things JMSN is certainly good at, and during his live set I could see why. With LA based singer Alexa Demie opening up, warming up the crowd performing a string of tracks including her feature on the Pearl project ‘Turnin’ Tricks’ and ‘A Girl Like Me’, it set the mood right for a night of sensual R&B and good live music.
When I asked JMSN earlier what I could expect to see at a JMSN show he replied: “a guitar and bass players… And a lot of JMSN songs”, but he failed to mention those insane falsettos and uniquely gracious dance moves. Paired with his drummer Andrew and bassist Taki, JMSN took to the stage in his slightly 70s-esque swag, with his band jamming to the intro of ‘It Is’. With the level of funk set to rise, JMSN performed tracks from the likes of ‘Power’, the reggae infused ‘Hypnotised’, ‘Fuck U’ and more, each met with the crowd reacting – and singing along – word for word.
What’s beautiful about watching JMSN is the freedom he gives off; he dances like no one is watching, grabs his guitar for bursts of solo jams and literally talks to the audience as himself – no stage performance aura – just JMSN. Performing the guitar led ballad ‘Cruel Intentions’ as his penultimate song, before coming out for an encore performance of his 2014 ethereal track ‘Bout It’ – again met with the crowd grooving along – JMSN was fully in his element, everyone was.
Live At The Jazz Cafe in London
With a new 100% JMSN project entitled, ‘Whatever Makes You Happy’, set for release next year, it’s clear JMSN is free, but that process of self-reinvention, and progression won’t dissipate, and that’s not a bad thing: “I’m in a good place.. It’s all about finding a happy place – yes – there’s still urgency, but I want to get better in all aspects, singing, the guitar… Better at business with White Room Records… You know, to be honest, just get better as a person in general – and not to be shitty”.
JMSN’s latest live album ‘Live North Hollywood’ may just give you a taster of something you need in your life. Catch him perform one more night in London at The Hoxton, on Weds 2nd November, tickets are available here.