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This singer’s video tribute to Tampa reconnects a socially distanced city

Jeremy Gloff’s ‘Tampa’ features a quarantined cast of dozens, including Mayor Jane Castor.
Jeremy Gloff's album"The Box" came out in 2019. It included the song "Tampa," which has become a local YouTube hit.
Jeremy Gloff's album"The Box" came out in 2019. It included the song "Tampa," which has become a local YouTube hit. [ Christopher Wharton ]
Published May 27, 2020

When Jeremy Gloff started writing songs for his latest album, he didn’t know he’d end up with one called Tampa. He didn’t know there’d be a pandemic months later, forcing him to film a video in quarantine. And he had no idea that video would become one of the most popular things he’s made.

“I just kind of tossed off the Tampa song," Gloff said. “I didn’t expect this to be the song that got a lot of plays.”

But the video, featuring cameos from dozens of friends, musicians and even Mayor Jane Castor, has racked up 9,000 views in three weeks. Tampa, fittingly, has become a bit of a local hit for the prolific scene advocate who made it.

The song is an earnest yet catchy ode to Gloff’s adopted port of call, but it was an afterthought on his November album The Box. After the death of his father and stepfather in 2017, he started writing songs on an inherited guitar, writing and mixing songs at home, including personal ones about his hometown of Fredonia, N.Y., and Atlanta, another city where he once lived.

That’s when he realized he couldn’t write about those cities without writing a song about Tampa, too. So he summed up all his civic pride and started writing:

Might not be the best city in the world

It’s the place that I call home

Might not have the best galleries

Win polls in magazines

If you put down Tampa, Florida

You’re my enemy

Over the years, Gloff has gotten to know a lot of people in Tampa Bay’s creative community, hosting open mics, writing advice columns and releasing nearly two dozen albums. When he’s not making music, he works at the nonprofit Feeding Tampa Bay. So when his plans to film a local video were put on ice due to the coronavirus, and he asked friends to send him footage of their own lives in quarantine, he was overwhelmed with responses.

There are a few local notables in the clip, including Mel’s Hot Dogs owner Mel Sohn and WMNF-FM 88.5 music director Lee “Flee” Courtney. One response that Gloff didn’t expect, though, was Castor. He’d put out a call on Facebook to see if any friends could connect them, and sure enough, someone did.

“Mayor Castor actually texted me," he said. “It was 9 at night, and I’m in my boxers eating takeout, when I got a text from Mayor Castor saying that she loved the concept and would be in my video. I was so excited.”

While some restaurants have resumed hosting live music, Gloff plans to wait a week or two to get back on stage, just to err on the side of caution. So it’ll be a while before he can once again play Tampa live.

But he is thankful it’s brought a few thousand people together this month, even if only on YouTube.

“I know some people emailed me and said, ‘I watched the video six times, and saw someone different I know every single time,’” he said. “It was fun for people to see who they knew. And it was comforting to recognize these people and places that are Tampa.”