Jon Muq – Runaway

NASHVILLE – This week’s Nashville Pick is Jon Muq and his song “Runuway“ from his Flying Away album. Runaway has a ska/reggae feel to it that is mesmerizing.

From the vibrant streets of Kampala, Uganda, to the bustling live music scene of Austin, Texas, Jon Muq’s journey as a singer-songwriter is a testament to the power of fate, resilience, and the universal language of music. Born in the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Jon’s early life was marked by challenges, including food scarcity and the complexities of living in a developing nation. Yet, it was here, amidst the hardships, that Jon’s deep connection to music began to take root, ultimately guiding him across continents to a burgeoning career in the United States.

Jon’s musical voyage started in his childhood when the enchanting sounds of his school’s brass band captivated his young mind. He didn’t just listen; he followed the music, learning to play the bugle and joining the choir, driven by the melodies that echoed through his school’s corridors. His passion for music grew as he discovered his cousin’s CD of “We Are The World,” a track that became his daily anthem. Jon meticulously learned every note and imitated icons like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Lionel Richie, mastering the art of singing in English through these sessions.

The transformative power of music was evident early on when Jon turned a favor for a friend into his first songwriting venture. Tasked with writing a love letter to mend a breaking relationship, the outcome was not only successful in rekindling the young couple’s love but also in inspiring Jon’s first song, “Always As One,” which remains a staple in his performances today.

Language, too, plays a crucial role in Jon’s narrative. Fluent in seven languages, including several rare tribal dialects alongside English and Luganda, Jon leverages his linguistic skills to connect deeply with a diverse audience, enriching his musical expression and storytelling.

Jon’s career took a pivotal turn through busking. Singing under the cover of night in Kampala, he maintained an air of mystery, a hidden gem in the urban landscape. His life changed when he stumbled upon two musicians rehearsing with a guitar, an encounter that led to his first local hotel gig and more street performances, this time for the homeless children of Kampala, sharing not just music but hope.

The serendipitous recording of one of his busking sessions earned him a spot on a Norwegian Cruise Liner, a gig that not only expanded his musical repertoire but also facilitated his travel abroad through the acquisition of a passport and visa. However, his destination was not without its confusions; intended for Houston, Texas, Jon found himself stranded in Austin due to a layover misunderstanding. It was here that a local family, witnessing his predicament, extended a hand of kindness, offering him a place to stay as the world grappled with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, loneliness and isolation became Jon’s unwelcome companions, much like for many around the globe. He found solace in his music and his guitar, which bore a face he had drawn to counter his solitude. These moments of introspection fueled his creativity, leading to a unique blend of afropop, folk, and soul that characterizes his music today.

Jon’s big break came when his deliberate efforts to share his music online caught the attention of acclaimed producer Dan Auerbach. This partnership culminated in a debut album that not only showcases Jon’s eclectic musical style but also his profound storytelling ability. Even before the album’s release, Jon had already shared stages with luminaries like Billy Joel, Mavis Staples, Norah Jones, and Corinne Bailey Rae, and performed at prestigious venues like SXSW and the Folk Alliance.

In a recent show of support and connection to his roots, a video of children from Jon’s hometown dancing to his latest single “Shake Shake” went viral, amassing millions of views and bringing his journey full circle—from the streets of Kampala to international acclaim.

As Jon prepares for upcoming showcases in cities like DC, NYC, and Philadelphia, Jon reflects on his journey with a simple philosophy: “When I arrived in America, I was very lost… I was just following instinct… I always thought, if I can communicate with people through music, it will make me feel like I am not alone.” This belief, deeply embedded in his approach to life and music, continues to resonate with his growing audience, making Jon Muq a distinctive voice in today’s Nashville music scene.

US TOUR DATES

May 18-19 – Opelika, AL – Songwriter Fest
May 24 – Oklahoma City, OK – Scissortail Park
May 31 – Austin, TX – Waterloo Records in-store
June 2 – Pittsburgh, PA – Three Rivers Festival
June 6 – Houston, TX – McGonigel’s Mucky Duck
June 7 – Austin, TX – 04 Center
June 13 – Bergen, Norway – Bergenfest
June 15 – Utrecht, NL – Tivoli/Vredenburg ^
June 16 – Antwerpen, BE – – Queen Elisabeth Hall ^
June 18 – Paris, FR – Casino de Paris ^
June 20 – Barcelona, ES – – Forum Karlin ^
June 24-25 London, UK Union Chapel ^
July 5 – Marshfield, MA – Levitate Festival
July 6-7 – Orillia, ON Canada – Mariposa Fest
July 10 – Ottawa, ON – Ottawa Blues Fest
July 13-14 – Winnipeg, MB – Folk Fest
July 25 – Glasgow, UK – Glad Cafe
July 26 – London, UK – Omeara
July 28 – Cambridge, UK – Cambridge Folk Festival
Aug 24 – Tonder, DK – Tonder Festival
Aug 26 – Gothenburg, SE – Debaser/Bar Brooklyn
Aug 27 – Stockholm, SE – Pustervik (Upstairs)
Aug 29 – Oslo, NO – Salt Pyramidian stage
Aug 31 – Birmingham, UK – Moseley Folk Fest
Sept 6 – Washington, D.C. – Kennedy Center
Sept 8 – Evanston, IL – Folk Fest
Sept 17 – Tulsa, OK – BOK Center *
Sept 18 – Austin, TX Moody Center *
Sept 20 – Dallas, TX American Airlines Center *
Sept 21 – Houston, TX Toyota Center *
Sept 24 – Denver, CO Ball Arena *
Sept 26 – Phoenix, AZ Footprint Center *
Sept 27 – Los Angeles, CA – Kia Forum *
Sept 28 – Palm Springs, CA – Acrisure Arena *
Sept 29 – Mountain View, CA – Shoreline Amphitheatre *
Oct 2 – Portland, OR – Moda Center *
Oct 3 – Seattle, WA – Climate Pledge Arena *
Oct 6 – San Francisco, CA – Hardly Strictly Fest
Oct 12 – Austin, TX – ACL Fest / BMI stage

* w/The Black Keys
^ w/Mavis Staples

Flying Away (Listen Here)

Runaway
One You Love
Shake Shake
Lucky Love
Bend
Love, Love, Love
Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying
Butterflies
Hello Sunshine
Dark Door
Flying Away From Home
Riding

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About Michael Castello

Michael is a singer/songwriter, producer, director, engineer and owner of Nashville.com. Michael has been in the music and film industry for 40 years and learned songwriting from Tin Pan Alley great Lou Stallman.

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