AWOL, a Platform that Opens its Mics and Opportunities for Rising Artists

If you really believe in your art, even if you find yourself in your own lane, stay there. There enough people doing the same thing.


If you are visiting Atlanta and looking for a place to kick back and laugh with locals and view some amazing talent, Apache Cafe is just the place for you! Their strong spirits, coffee bar, and entertaining weekly events keep inquisitive lovers of art swinging their door open. However, it is their overwhelming support of local entrepreneurship that builds their large and growing following.

Although there are plenty of engaging events hosted at the cafe, this week I attended their monthly open mic event AWOL (Art WithOut Limitation) and got way more than I bargained for. In my last article, the focus was mainly on painters, drawers, and creators of the physical kind.  This week I took a trip to midtown ATL and discovered an open mic in a quaint cafe that held the energy to fill a stadium.IMG_3500

The First Impression

To give a little background, I had heard about the cafe months ago from an acquaintance who sang their praises. Working on becoming the goal driven woman of my dreams, I had been urging myself to make a visit, so when I needed a place to interview live artists I knew that I had to give this place a try.

The first thing that I noticed as I walked into the dimly lit cafe was the art on the walls. I swooned over lively and colorful paintings (which I would later discover were created by local and traveling artists) hanging proudly from Apache’s exposed brick walls. With goosebumps, I scanned an audience sprinkled with young and seasoned patrons alike laughing and conversing as the host of the night Grey assisted the band in their set up.

Grey and the band warming up before the show.

The host was hilarious and throughout the night I found myself amazed as artist after artist displayed their talent. Pianists to rappers, flutists to poets, everyone was given an opportunity to display the best of themselves. When the performances came to a close, I grabbed my iPhone and interviewed the artists kind enough to spare a moment for me.

The Interviews

My first interview was John William a Morehouse College alum and Atlanta school district band director. John is a flutist that performs hip-hop and r&b music. As he mentions in his interview he found his calling at a young age. Today through dedication and perseverance he has transformed his passion into a facet of not only monetary gain but an avenue to give back to his community through his teaching.

John and I during the interview.

ME: You mentioned on stage that you were featured in the Super Fly soundtrack.

JW: Yes, I was in the first song on the soundtrack entitled “If You Want it” sung by Sleepy Brown and Scar, it was produced by DJ Burn One and DJ Funky.

ME: What was your inspiration to start playing the flute?

JW: I started playing in third grade back in ’93. I did not know what the flute was at first, I wanted to play the trumpet in the beginning but my older brother had started playing it first. The flute was shiny and I wanted to chose the next closest thing. I started and stuck with it. My parents were not ones to let me quit.

ME: Ok, so you started playing the flute in third grade, did you continue throughout middle school and high school?

JW: Definitely, elementary school, middle school, and high school. I was blessed with the ear, (meaning he can pick up music by just listening.) and I have to thank God for that. I can also read music. I went to Fredrick Douglas Highschool here in Atlanta and I graduated from Morehouse with a degree in music performance with a minor in P – 12 education. Now I’m a teacher here in Atlanta, a band director.

ME: When did you know you wanted to switch from reading and playing what you were learning in class to teaching yourself music?

JW: It comes with the experiences of meeting other people. Meeting them and learning what they liked to listen to. In order to make myself more marketable and advertise myself more, I had to expand my horizons in regards to what I know. Whatever the genre, I like to say that I can dabble in it. My mentor played the flute as well and my ability to play by ear really started in the church. Learning hymns and picking them up by ear.

ME: Do you have any advice for new musicians?

JW: Absolutely, If you really believe in your art, even if you find yourself in your own lane, stay there. There enough people doing the same thing. We’re in an era now where we are looking for something new. So if you are different then appreciate that uniqueness, hold on to it, embrace it and use that to catapult your career to where you want to be.

In Conclusion

The AWOL event is hosted at Apache Cafe every third Tuesday of the month and they open their mics for any type of artists to gain clout. For this reason, each artist is reminded to give any form of social media before leaving the stage. Some of the performers are seasoned and well into their craft like John, but some are fairly new. Either way, the amount of support given to each performer is truly outstanding. So if you are a growing artist looking to gain genuine followers or just a lover of art, you’ll know where to find me on the third Tuesday of next month.

Photo Credit: Ms. Deo

olivia willis

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