STORY BY SARAH LEBLANC
At the heart of Iowa, Des Moines hosts a vast and varied live music scene. Commonly found at bars and outdoor concerts, independent and local talent gather to share their songs and souls with the city. One such soul, Christian Berishaj, known by his stage pseudonym JMSN, lent his voice to a crowd gathered at Vaudeville Mews in downtown Des Moines on the night of Aug. 26.
Tyler French, a friend of the band from Burlington, Iowa, attended the show among a small crowd to hear Berishaj perform for an hour.
“I don’t think the people knew what to expect. But I think once they started playing they were blown away,” French said. “(They) stayed enthralled the whole show.”
Currently on tour, Berishaj’s music serves as a reflection of his personality aiming to captivate audiences with varied rhythmic and soul undertones.
“(JMSN was) born out of hip California R&B and Detroit yacht rock; I think it is something new with great hooks and soul,” French said. “I believe that the music he produces is exactly what he wants to reflect.”
An independent artist from Detroit making a name for himself through R&B and soul music, Berishaj is motivated by a constant goal of making each song and album better than the last.
“I just want to keep (making music) and see how far I can take it because it’s a journey,” Berishaj said.
Though largely unknown, Berishaj has collaborated with bigger-name artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Tyga and J.Cole and views these opportunities as a chance to challenge himself and work on improving his music.
“Collaborations are practicing your craft; you’re honing in on your craft,” Berishaj said. “You grow by just doing it – by having other people challenge you.”
Berishaj’s tour manager Adam Miltenberger, also a native Iowan from Danville, has known the singer since 2009 and noted his progression from when he met the group over 5 years ago.
“I knew there was something special about (Berishaj’s music), and I wanted to be a part of the project in any way I could,” Miltenberger said. “As he’s worked on his songwriting and production over the years, you can tell he’s really started to find his voice.”
With the knowledge that he wanted to dedicate his life to music since he was young, Berishaj hopes audiences take away core values from his performances.
“What I want to people to take away is honesty,” Berishaj said. “Be honest to yourself and do what you truly want to do.”
For inspiration, Berishaj turns to Prince and R. Kelly as models of uncensored melodies.
“It’s about the song in the end; that’s the most important thing,” Berishaj said. “Don’t feel bad about saying what you have to say; in hindsight it’s just going to benefit the song by being honest.”
With one of his songs, Alone, boasting over 800,000 views, Berishaj credits this success to his ability to translate the energy he gets from finishing a song to the video, which culminates in a feeling of fullness.
“I’m trying to make a piece of art you would like to watch yourself,” Berishaj said.
For Berishaj, however, finishing a song does not mean he’s reached his goal. Part of his drive consists of creating songs that constantly transcend those that came before.
“As long as it keeps paying off and filling my soul, I’ll keep doing it,” Berishaj said.
Unwilling to follow a path of security, Berishaj refuses to live anything less than the life he dreamed of since he was young. Independent both personally and professionally, Berishaj’s status as a largely self-made yet still successful artist stands as a testament to his ability to follow his passions despite the possible risks.
“Some people enjoy just existing and living life, but I have a passion for music, not just living, and this is my life.”