JMSN to seduce Hi-Ho Lounge with live set

Alec Schwartzman, Print Arcade Editor

Christian Berishaj is a shapeshifter. The Albanian-American singer-songwriter and producer has gone by a number of names: Christian TV, Snowhite and, now, JMSN. The enigmatic performer is set to hit the stage at 9 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Hi-Ho Lounge.

“It’s our first headlining tour so we get to play a lot longer,” Berishaj said. “I also get to connect more with the fans, which is very important to me.”

Beginning his career with music rooted in electronic pop-rock with a quasi-boy-band aesthetic, Berishaj secured a record deal as an 18-year-old. Performing under his previous monikers, he gained a moderate following with Atlantic and, later, Motown Records. Since then, he has split from the big record companies. Changing his performing alias to JMSN, Berishaj started his own label: White Room Records.

“I have complete artistic freedom to do what I want and need to do,” Berishaj said. “That’s all I really want as an artist. To have the freedom to create and be artistic.”

The artist released his debut as JMSN in 2012 titled “†Priscilla†,” followed by a shorter extended play, “†Pllajë†.” Berishaj’s third release under this moniker is self-titled and marks the closing of a trilogy. “†Priscilla†” featured songs centered around the titular girl. “†Pllajë†,” meaning “plateau” in Albanian, represents a middling, stagnant period. Finally, the self-titled “JMSN (Blue Album)” focuses on the artist himself. While the music made under his new guise cuts deep, exploring personal and existential issues, Berishaj’s performance name came from a simple place.

“I love Jameson, the whiskey,” Berishaj said. “I didn’t want to get sued by them so I took out the vowels.”

This newest release marks a further development in sound for the sultry singer. Steeping in inspiration from ’90s R&B from artists like Brian McKnight, Berishaj’s swooning ballads swing over bass-heavy, jazzy production. The opening tracks of the album bring to mind the sound of early millennium Justin Timberlake, if it somehow found a smoky, dimly lit lounge. While critics have compared JMSN to other up-and-coming R&B musicians, Berishaj’s music has been incredibly versatile over time and hard to categorize fully. In fact, the singer does not like restricting his music to a specific genre at all.

“I would describe my music as free,” Berishaj said. “It’s free to be whatever it wants to be. No limits to it.”

Fans have found Berishaj’s long hair and beard reminiscent of Renaissance Christ paintings with more sex appeal. And despite being known as religious and having many Christian-themed tattoos, he claims the aesthetic is unintentional. Like his appearance, Berishaj’s music comes naturally, playing a part of something bigger than himself.

“My music comes from somewhere,” Berishaj said. “I am not sure where, but I am just the messenger.”