How Does A Christian Artist Perform in Non-Christian Venues?

Jastin Artis talks about how he, as a Christian artist, performs in non-Christian venues. He also shares some of the struggles he has faced as a ‘clean’ hip hop artist.

ABOUT JASTIN ARTIS

Jastin is a black creative, speaker, A&R director, sync creative, audio director, voice over actor, spoken word/recording artist, music producer, and digital web content producer.

A Gold-certified engineer who is bilingual in “producer” and “c-suite” lingo, he has over a decade of progressive experience in the music industry. He is an industry dot-connector and celebrated creative with a reputation for utilizing creativity and a “whatever it takes” attitude to lead big ideas from development to execution.

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COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to our Cartne video titled How Does a Christian Artist Play non-Christian Venues? Our guest today is Jastin Artis.

Beautiful people. What’s going on? I am Jastin Artis. I am from the D.C. Metro area or Washington, D.C. metro area. And I’m an artist, producer, engineer, and lover of music and fans of music. I’m glad to be here.

You’re a hip hop artist, but your music is Christian based, right?

Yes, it is. Yes, it is. Yes, it is. And I know many have talked about that and knowing what the difference is. Oh, you know, when you are a lover of God, you do just only Christian music, can you not? What is secular music like all these different terms and sides that you may have to be on but yes, I grew up as a fan of hip hop, but I’m pretty eclectic as well.

I’m a band geek, so shout out to all my band geeks. You know, that’s how it started. And yeah, I just mean, I think classical music has definitely helped me understand music. And I think that is where you just start to dove into stuff. And I just fell in love with hip hop. And then very much, you know, my relationship with God.

I recognized some things early. Vinnie about the supernatural and just recognizing energy and all these different things. And then you just decide to do the walk. I think to me ultimately that’s what being a Christian or whichever faith that you choose to, you know, to believe in is what it’s about, you know? How would you say your morals?

And I think when you come out to music, you know, I think that’s really what it comes down to. Are you I don’t want to say that focus is your focus, just Christian music, you know, which, you know, for me just means God is present in lyrics, the content, the focus, the concept, like every aspect of it. Is that what it is on the other side, which is where I think I fit more to, is I’m an artist who is Christian, but I have made the choice to, you know, keep my music clean.

Which was a choice even before I found my relationship with God, mainly because I wanted to not worry about editing, and I wanted to have more space. So I have to be honest, you know? And then, of course, you know, I think what I was asked to do by God in this sense, and what I guess I accepted was, are you able to do this differently?

Are you able to be in spaces that most Christian artists listeners will not be in? You know, there is truth to that. If you’re wondering about those watching, you know, you’ve got to know your vices. You got to know where to be, where not to be. And so for me, my first gig, as a Christian hip hop artist, was at a bar, you know, so people were drinking, you know, I mean, cursing.

I mean, you know, the whole nine yards. It’s a bar. It is what it is. My first song was called Sin Like, you know what I mean? However, the way I think that we can kind of dissect this in terms of specifics, for me, it was in my opinion the type of Christian hip hop artist that is pointing the finger.

Am I like, how am I presenting God in my music? And I think that’s where I differ. And most cases. And so in a bar setting, the first song I do is called Sin. I was talking about my sin. I wasn’t directing like Vinny, you over there at the bar stopped drinking and it was nothing like that. I just talked about what I dealt with, the challenges of being Christian and and really following this walk and often that oftentimes that feels lonely but I and the funny thing is and I’ll end here because I’m just kind of going back to this moment is I had people come up to me who are drunk as I don’t know what, but you could feel that they understood what I was doing and, you know, the message that I was trying to present. And so I think that is a big difference. I think just like with all music, you have to decide what your voice is, what you want to do and how you want to do it. And so when we talk about being a Christian artist, or an artist who is Christian, you still have to decide how you are going to present God.

Some people don’t want to say God in their music at all because they kind of know the constraints of that. But if you do, then ideally you fit in this full scope of, you know, Christian music.

So do you ever get any pushback being a hip hop artist? It’s not a very common match.

Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. The interesting thing for me, Vinnie, is the pushback that I’ve experienced over, let’s see, about 12 years now, I’ve been full time as an artist and longer in the industry itself.

I go to say a church or a Christian setting, and they’re looking at me like, OK, there’s this black guy who’s rapping and he has a guitar. I don’t know what he’s going to do. And so, I mean, I started out merging, playing guitar and poetry together, and so I, I can sing a bit better now, but, you know, I’m no usher or anyone or so it’s you.

You come into the setting and obviously you get the eyes of curiosity. And then when I open my mouth to a song that, wow, like, I had no idea that what I call a hip hop renaissance is merging this hip hop and gospel, me playing guitar and spoken word together that these things could merge together and so well, but then I can go to a hip hop scene.

I remember distinctly there’s another event I was looking to book with a booking agent, and she wanted me to come out and do a set, and it was at a bar, you know, and of course, you’re at a bar. You’ve no idea who’s in the audience. Kind of people, Christian know, Christian, whatever. And I had like a five song set, I believe.

And so I distinctly remember doing the song called Tag This, which is a reference to Tag and everything for God’s Glory. And it was a very rock hip hop, you know, very minimal track with the with the with or for the song and shout outs from Leslie for the, for the being, the catalyst for the song. And I had the whole place rocking Vinnie, the whole place rocking.

And so it is very you know, I get the same looks. So they’re very similar because yet again, the hip hop crowd is like, OK, it’s a black guy. He’s rapping but wait, his flow isn’t like everyone. Wait, he’s not cursing. It’s not derogatory. He’s not, you know, all of these things that hip hop is known for and he’s playing guitar.

Wait, what? I like if I see somebody playing guitar, it should be rock, it should be country, it should be jazz, you know, blues like. And so ironically, I get the same looks, but I think some for different reasons, some are the same. And I think that’s where we go back to understanding what it is that you do practice and do it well because you’re going to get it.

I’m 12 years in and I still get the same looks. And, you know, obviously at this point I kind of look for it. I, you know, it makes me laugh. It makes me, you know, curious about what the feedback is going to be. And so to end on this end of it, I’ve gotten the hip hop crowd like, Oh, you really talented like, you know, I’ve never really heard hip hop like this on the Christian side.

It’s like, wow, I’ve never heard God present it in this way, you know, so for me, I take that in stride. I embrace it. Either way, it’s love. But at the end of the day, it’s like I want to present God in a different way. I know that’s what I do, and I move forward in that, whether you like it or not, we all know music is subjective, regardless of what the content.

So you just kind of go with it. But it is very, you know, I’m not going to lie. There are times where I’m like, you know, if I’m playing guitar, I’m like, I don’t know if they’re getting it inside. I’m freaking out. But on our side, you know, you got to be cool. So it’s a tough one to be challenged with sometimes.

Are there booking agents for your kind of act?

Yes. Yes. In my experience, I have seen this scale. You know, you have more entities you know, that are Christian based that are you know, that is very part of their business plan, business model. And so you can’t find it again, just like anything you’ve got to research. You still got to check people out. You know, obviously, I guess on the side of non-Christian, you know, people who talk a good game, you know, and you find out, you know, they say they Christian, they say they believe in God, they say they have morals, they say they follow the book and you don’t see that.

You know, so regardless, you have to really be sure to discern. I think that’s a key thing in anything, but especially in our industry. You have to discern who you’re working with. People talk real quick, talk real fast. You know, presentation now with social media you know, just because people have websites and say they’re Christian and it’s a Christian booking agent and I do this and I’ve worked with, you know, such and such and such, you know, do your research.

I think really engaging to make sure that it’s the booking agent or whomever you’re working with is really right for you does help. But also, you know, there’s no guarantees. You know what I mean? You got to discern, make healthy assessments and then go for it, you know, and do your part. You know, sometimes things happen and you find out they’re not as Christian as you thought, you know, or you find out that you’re getting booked for a Christian event and it is not a Christian event.

And, you know, I think in that regard, too, you have to understand, OK, if something like that happens, am I going to leave the event because it was supposed to be Christian, but it’s not? Or are you focused on, OK, I served the Lord. I came here to do what I came here to do. And maybe one person is saved in this environment because you were there.

And so all of these questions, you know, you have to think about even after you have assessed in the desert, like, OK, they’re right. I think I’ll go for it. And then you find out later, you know, what the situations are. And so, yeah, there’s more and more Christian faith based entities of the music industry. However, I think at least in my experience, it’s still challenging to find.

It really is. And I think you asked this question, but even as a Christian, artist versus an artist who is Christian, it works in the same way with the other roles in the industry. You know, a lot of people believe in God, but they don’t display that in their role or in their business plan or their motto.

So you have a lot of that.

What kinds of venues are you most successful in?

I think this is a 5050. I know because I believe in God that I can always fit a Christian venue like without a shadow of a doubt. The way you use that work, that will work, that I know will work, or, you know, the churches or a church event, you know, whatever. But I did early on that church wasn’t it wasn’t the end goal or even the start goal for me.

Like I said, my first show was at a bar and I had a conversation with my pastor at the time, you know, like, look, I’m ready. You know, I don’t really have a vice with this. She gave me the approval. She said she couldn’t be there because it was her vice, you know, but after having that experience and realizing wow, it really doesn’t matter.

The building, you know, it’s about the person, it’s about the artist. Just like, you know, regardless of what people believe we all know we believe in something. And obviously that starts with ourselves. So if you believe what you’re performing, it translates, you know, and so it was amazing to me that I quickly found out that churches wasn’t going to be my what’s the word my go to, you know, so I given my, I guess, background with poetry and spoken word I’m a teacher.

I’ve been involved in mental health. I can be in any setting. You know, I’ve done graduate college graduations before. I’ve done the library. So for me, it’s anywhere, one that people are looking for artists like me and willing to pay clearly. Right. And of course, you work up to that. Let me you know, let me just say that.

But no one wants to turn down any money. Any money especially right now. Gas is high, right? But yeah, anywhere, you know, from the classrooms, I’m trying to think of some really bizarre places. Right before COVID Vinny, I performed at a nursing home. So to me, I am very grateful and thankful that given my style, you know, looking at me is hip hop.

But once you see and listen and you understand that the content is different and it can fit any setting, really, as long as, you know, things are tailored and understood in that way.

Do you get requests to play for free because you’re a Christian artist?

Oh, Vinnie, I get asked all the time to play for free because I’m a Christian artist. It is. Well, in the beginning, you know, checking back 12 years ago, you’re like, yes, right. Because you’re just trying to get the experience. You’re trying to get your music out as the years progressed, you know, it’s really about prayer. You know, I think regardless of me personally, no matter how good, how high God wants to take me, if I feel that I want to do something for free, I’ll do it for free.

But what I understood again, guys, this is my experience, right? But I’m pretty sure many can empathize and sympathize. I have learned that it’s because you are so-called Christian and church life. All this that you just do for free. You know, now what’s crazy is like, you know, there’s offerings towards the pastor, a minister that speaks at the event.

But the same event that I’m opening up and you know, because I’m a minister, I’m a musician, you know, I played in praise and worship for seven years. I believe I know what it’s like to change the atmosphere. Right. And so how is it that you want me to come do this for free? But, you know, the minister or Pastor Apostle Bishop they’re getting paid.

You know, there’s some type of offering and even some significant accommodations. Right. And so it is definitely for a while there was a season that I was very frustrated about this. Another thing that I noticed was because I was a Christian artist that you could call me last minute. You know, you’ve had your event planned for months.

Right. And so I don’t mean like the event has been planned for months. They schedule someone and then they you know, the person dropped out for whatever reason. I mean, there have been times where I knew about the event and I knew they didn’t have anyone. And then they reach out to me a week, two weeks before and in addition to well, we can’t pay you anything, but we would really love to have you talented.

We saw you in such and such, and it’s like, come on, man. Like, you know, so it’s definitely a difficult one. But I think for me, you know, when you put in the work, you put in your 10000 hours, it really is a gut check, a spirit check where if God wants me there, regardless of when I’m getting paid, I will do it.

You know, I still my, you know, fight a little bit. I might be, you know, a bit emotional, but in the times that I have done anything free, typically it leads to something else that’s pay, you know, or another opportunity.

So do you have any words of wisdom for people who are struggling with this same issue?

Yes. Well, hopefully there are some diamond nuggets in a lot of what we’ve just talked about. But I would just say, you know, stay focused and understand what it is that you want to do as an answer. And even as an artist, my goal with artists is still to help them figure out their voice. And that voice is not just if you are a rapper seeing, but also knowing what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do.

As they say, know your why and be strong about it. Be firm about it. That does mean that there’s going to be known. That does mean that it may feel like people are overlooking you, passing you by. That means you work more on the content in the music that you’re making. Because the thing is, I’m noticing, Vinnie, a lot of artists feel this way, but when the time comes, they’re not ready.

And so you have to be ready because you know, as I say, be careful what you ask for. I understand that. You know, when you pray, God will give it to you. It may not be in the time that you want. It may not even be in the way that you want. But oftentimes it does come and you don’t want it to come and not be ready.

So I definitely want to point that out. What else? You know, find somebody to be accountable to, you know, reach out to me. And Vinny’s definitely open, but, you know, reach out to people that, you know, will hold you accountable, that, you know, fall in line in the same, you know, spiritual morals and all these things because, you know, we all got to check ourselves, you know, we’re human.

We all are trying to, you know, get to work, see our family, travel, all these things. And if you’re trying to be professional in this you’re going to have those ups and downs, you know, so you want to make sure that, you know, you’re being honest with yourself. People around you are being honest with you. And it’s good to have those thoughts.

Sometimes you just have to get it out. You got to vent. Right. And so praying straight to God, obviously, but also having great people around you what else? Obviously, maybe I feel like I don’t have to say this, but I should say this. But, you know, stay in a world, you know, get fed however you get fed best.

And obviously that always starts, you know, just with the Bible. Right. But I also know and things that I’ve learned you can get fed in. So many ways, you know, I know with COVID, things have shifted. People are going to church just at home. But there’s I know there’s a lot of great content, you know, out there for you to you know, that may not be so-called read the scripture and so forth or praise music before things get started.

But it still gets your mind going. It still gives you thinking about you and what your music is about. And, you know, oftentimes for me, I take that same content, go to the world and, you know, so, you know, don’t be afraid to kind of get yourself involved in other areas that can still feed you in a spiritual way and it can still give you insight to then go back to the word of, you know, go back into prayer.

So those types of things. Yeah. I mean, I think those are enough right at this point, you know, you guys have to contact me directly, right?

That concludes our video titled How Does a Christian Artist Play non-Christian Venues? We want to thank Jastin Artis for sharing his valuable experience with us.

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