For Christian spoken-word artist Jason McGriff, finding a Tampa-area open mic where he felt comfortable performing proved difficult.
Every event he attended featured poetry laden with expletives.
Discouraged, McGriff decided to start his own family-friendly open mic.
Four years later, McGriff's Open Praise Tampa continues to attract Christian musicians, gospel performers and poets to the stage.
The next Open Praise will take place Aug. 25 at the Inkwell Centre, 2905 N 50th St., Tampa. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. for sign-up. The show begins at 9 p.m. Cost to attend is $10.
I spoke to McGriff about creating art and keeping it clean.
For more information, visit Open Praise Tampa on Facebook.
You started out doing traditional spoken word. How did your faith change your art?
I started doing open mics in 2009. The first poem I did bombed. I mean, it was a good poem but I didn't know how to deliver it. But I kept going back. I have been doing spoken word ever since then but between 2011 and 2012, I got saved. I had a lot of things happen. My mom died from cancer. I almost got a DUI. A lot of things made me change and then my poems changed to more faith-based. I still wanted to go to open mics but there weren't any clean ones. If it was clean, it wasn't Christian. I prayed about it and it's been fun.
You host a few events each year. What type of locations do you prefer? Do you host at churches?
We've had them at three or four places, but no, never in churches. Then it would become churchy and that's not what the Holy Spirit told me to do. If we stay out of the churches we inspire and reach more people. We have some people come that aren't necessarily Christian but looking for something clean. It's a lot of fun. We have food. We usually have about 120 people come. I think the most was 170. We have about six to 10 on the open mic and then we close the mic. We have a feature performer.
Who is the feature performer for Aug. 25?
Motown Gospel artist Royce Lovett.
What is your advice to potential performers?
If it is Christian, make sure you heard it from the Holy Spirit when you wrote it. Give it your all. Minister the piece.
What advice would you give to new artists in general?
Get out there to open mics and do your thing. That's how people see you and discover you. Don't just use social media. You've got to do your thing on the mic.