Former Air Dubai Singer Jon Shockness Debuts Kid Astronaut

Jon Shockness is an ex-member and co-founder of noteworthy Denver-based hip-hop act Air Dubai. He performed with the group for the final time on August 14, a year after he decided to go his separate way. In August 2014, Air Dubai was part of the Warped Tour, something Shockness had, until then, felt would be the fulfillment of some kind of dream as a musician. But he found himself undergoing an existential crisis about what it meant to be on that tour, and he knew he had to make a change.

“This last year has been about finding out what that is, and I'm so much happier now. I'm doing this all by myself. I said 'Peace out' to one of the biggest Denver bands, but I felt like I needed to make that step to find my own way.”

So Shockness started writing songs that would make up his new EP as Kid Astronaut: Moon Theory. And for Shockness, getting from Air Dubai to where he has been creatively for the past several months is not just about writing music. He has taken a holistic approach to reinventing his creativity, his philosophical outlook and, to some extent, his life, down to a fusion of physical activity and a stirring of his heart and imagination.

“I'm a huge bike rider, and I definitely want my music to very much be about Denver,” says Shockness. “I zone out and ride around and capture the feeling of every neighborhood. I love being out in nature and being inspired by the world. Now I'm able to see that there are no missteps and there's nothing I can do wrong if I'm being authentic. So now I feel better about all the moves. Even if things are slow, I know I'm supposed to be there.”

Shockness grew up in the Park Hill area and currently resides near City Park. Living in the middle of the city allows him to extensively explore Denver by bike and take in its moods, its sounds, smells, sights and overall spirit. While doing so, Shockness has cultivated an intuitive, Zen-like approach to his life and art.
“I was talking to a friend the other day, and I said that our moment right now is all we have, so I'm very direct about the things I want to create,” says Shockness. “A part of that is a longing for life to happen naturally. Another is that I'm not going to tell myself something that holds me back from the creative process. I know that the universe works first in your mind before anything else. Lately, I've been trying to draw more, act more and write poetry. I try not to stop myself. I've seen young kids that do everything, and it's just that easy. Mindless creativity, being able to play like a kid — that's when you start to get into a rhythm and create something cool.”

Moon Theory capitalizes on Shockness's considerable and diverse talent, though fans of his previous work with Air Dubai will find much to love with Kid Astronaut. It isn't just hip-hop or R&B, and with the new EP, Shockness reveals a talent for synthesizing styles to suit the demands of a given song.

“For the first song, 'Elevate,' I had something completely different, and every time I sang that song, my throat would be on fire. I rewrote the song,” explains Shockness. “So something was telling me to take this project in a different direction. From that moment, a lot of it has been about creating authenticity and being natural and trying to find my voice as an artist. I never felt like I could do that in Air Dubai. Now that I've been working on the album, I've been picking up on various influences. I'm very inspired by Stevie Wonder's stuff, his layers. You can listen to his music and hear new stuff every time. It's been a vulnerable process, but I think that creates the best art. When I listen to Stevie Wonder and Miles Davis I hear vulnerability, and that's the kind of stuff that lasts.”

Shockness is offering Moon Theory as a free download from the Kid Astronaut Soundcloud page starting on August 22. He is also now working on a full-length album that will incorporate even more of what Shockness is opening himself to learning lately — which is a state of mind that he welcomes with open arms.

“My whole life, I was put into situations that I had to force myself into,” notes Shockness. “Especially as a man, I think we're told we have to have this aggressive aspect. I think that's where Moon Theory came from. For me, the moon is about creation and the process it takes to the moment of completion, and it's not necessarily something that can be forced. It's going to be created; you just kind of have to make the steps. Sometimes that step is sitting still and listening. Every day I ask for communication with the universe around me, and every day it shows me it's there. I read the Alchemist recently, and it's been kind of my bible for the journey I'm on. The EP is just the introduction to all of this.”
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.