“I’ve kind of learned to be my own God.” As the words left the lips of Jon Shockness, I realized they were exactly what I was waiting to hear. They felt like an answer neither of us thought we were ready to ask ourselves — but an answer nonetheless, to spirituality, happiness and living your truth. It’s as simple as putting your faith wholeheartedly into yourself — something Shockness has done that has revolutionized the way he operates as an artist and as a spirit.
From the jump, it should be made clear that Shockness (also known as Kid Astronaut/one half of HVN, the band/former member of Air Dubai) is one of the most humble people you’ll ever meet. While talk of considering oneself a god can lead us to Yeezy-like, egotistical assumptions, he carries himself in the opposite fashion. A quick conversation with him will assure you he’s one of the nicest dudes around. There’s still this reservation and timidness in him, though, that I was eager to break through when we sat down for an interview.
By trade, Shockness is a tarot reader. We wanted to know more about how both tarot worked and how the practice affected Shockness’ music, so we asked for a reading in addition to the interview. After shuffling the tarot cards, I pulled 10 from a stack and handed them back to Shockness. He then laid them out in a position called the Celtic Cross and walked me through each card and what it likely represented in my life. It was clarifying, freeing and eerily accurate — simultaneously offering advice and letting me know I was right where I should be.
That feeling of being right where we need to be was a theme in the time spent with Shockness. He explained to me that he was introduced to Tarot and spirituality about two years ago. “I was kind of at a breaking point as a personality,” he recalled, which led him to tarot, yoga and finding “different tools and different ways of uncovering the human spirit, or more personally [his] spirit.” He describes said spirit as “superfluid, super present.”
This discovery of spirituality and mindfulness has led Shockness to what seems to be a more authentic version of himself. He explained that it has, and still is, helping to “coax him out of [his] shell” and do so as a process. In terms of music, it’s helped him determine “how to better navigate [his] own emotional state” about what’s happening with his art. Shockness explained to me that there have been a lot of holdups and complications with his music that he didn’t anticipate, but instead of getting frustrated he redirects that energy to something productive.
After his music came up a few times, he finally broke through some of those reservations and opened up — “My relationship with music has been very different because it’s kind of been this large part of me that has at a lot of times been a burden, to be honest. Because I’ve always worried. How am I going to be successful? When I’m going to do this or that? Am I going to be on this tour?” he said. “I remember a lot of my physical stress being from this thing that, when I sit down at home and play, I feel so serene.” Shockness went on to explain his hesitancy to play at big shows or festivals for that reason. “I want to give the feeling of me at home, making music because that’s when I feel like it’s at its best.”
Shockness saying this was reminiscent of the Tiny Library Concert where he recently performed. In many ways, it had that exact feeling he was describing — the feeling of home. As a member of the audience, you could truly feel it, too. In those kinds of spaces, Shockness, or Kid Astronaut, or whoever he may be on that stage seems to be more at peace. “I kind of forget that I’m an artist. I forget that I have to play up to that role when I’m playing,” he said. “And then people can have whatever experience that they need to have in that space. I just trust that we’re co-creating that moment and I’m just going to do my part. That feels really peaceful to me.”
Shockness is operating from a place that few people do — self-trust. In being mindful, he’s determined what serves his happiness and what doesn’t, and it’s something he’s unwilling to compromise. This came up in the discussion of his goals with music — “I want to give people something that’s really well-thought out and really dope, but I don’t want it to be at the expense of my happiness.” It comes through in his love for tarot, too. “I’m passionate about it, so being able to give it to somebody else, that’s the kind of thing I want to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “I’d rather spend my day doing tarot readings than I would working somewhere that I don’t want to be. I’m building a life doing fulfilling things.”
“I don’t want Kid Astronaut to be stressful. I don’t want anything I do to have that energy or weight to it,” he said. This requires work, though, that his spirituality has helped with, but it’s still a process. “I have to be very intentional because when I wake up, I’m anxious. I have so much anxiety,” he said. “It’s been a challenge, yo. It’s been fucking draining. Like, why do I have this? It feels like something is just always trying to get me. But on the other side of that, there’s always faith and trusting the process. Trusting myself, and allowing myself to even have those moments.”
Shockness’s ability to make light and opportunity out of difficulty is what carries the beauty in being around him. It’s just easy — his energy allows you to feel like things are truly in their place, and we don’t really realize how rare that feeling is until it’s actually present. His presence makes you want to be a better person and better creator in the same way that he has, and he assured me it’s possible. “I think that everyone has the tools within them. Everyone has intuition, everyone has that inner voice, but it’s about learning to listen to it,” he said. “Trusting it, even when it goes against all [your] knowledge, all conventional knowledge, but there’s something your heart is telling you.”
After listening back through the interview with Shockness, feeling oddly whole and serene, a song called “Caretaker” came on next. Maybe it was the talk of spirituality and intuition, or the necessity of self-trust and belief in signs, but it felt fitting. The song “An Oldie-but-Goodie” by The Social Experiment (with milky vocals courtesy of D.R.A.M.) isn’t necessarily relevant lyrically, but the name itself felt like a sign: be your own caretaker. Be your own god. And while it low-key sounds ridiculous as hell on paper, an hour in the same room as Shockness will make you feel like it’s not only a possibility, it’s an opportunity for greatness.
All photography by Austin Cope unless otherwise noted.