As a co-producer of Islamorada's annual Baygrass Bluegrass Festival, local singer/songwriter Robby McClung is passionate about generating more interest in that musical genre and about bringing performers from around the world to continue to grow the cultural and arts community of the Florida Keys.
A child of divorced parents, McClung grew up living in both Islamorada and West Virginia. After traveling the country for years, he landed back in the Keys in 2008 and settled down with his wife Wendy.
McClung and Wendy, who hails from Toronto, met while she was in the Keys on vacation. They have two sons together, two-year old Cade and six-month-old Hartford. While still focused on adjusting to parenthood, they look forward to traveling and spending more time on the water with their boys in the future.
It was in the Keys that McClung realized music was his true passion.
"Most of my friends were musicians, and I had always been into it," he said. "I was working 16-hour days and I would see my friends coming home at 5, always in a good mood after playing music — and that was when I realized that I wanted to feel the way they did."
The popular performer's professional career blossomed after years of practice and hard work. He describes his music as "old time, bluegrass, country and Americana with a funky island twist," and plays regularly at venues including Islamorada's innovative oo-tray eatery.
McClung had been playing shows around town when the director of Islamorada Community Entertainment approached him about getting involved in the Baygrass Bluegrass Music Festival. He was immediately intrigued about promoting such an inspiring musical event.
Set in January each year, Baygrass Bluegrass attracts hundreds of people and brings contemporary artists from around the country to play Appalachian-style music. Musicians perform on two stages including the ICE Amphitheater's appealing outdoor stage backed by Florida Bay's turquoise waters, and the festival draws an audience that blends visitors and locals.
"I love seeing people from all over the country come to the festival and enjoy it, but I also love seeing the locals enjoy it," McClung said. "In other places, arts events are usually geared too much towards the locals and there are not a lot of events that bring people from all over together, so the festival is exciting because people come from all over to be here and see it."
McClung has used his platform to bring a personal flair to the festival. He has incorporated music from his childhood in the mountains of West Virginia as well as his love of craft beer. His involvement with the Florida Keys Brewing Co., where he plays periodic shows and is in charge of booking musical performances, inevitably led to a craft beer influence on the musical event.
McClung has a deep appreciation for the tight-knit community and the overwhelming support he has received in the Keys. His love of the Upper Keys community, along with his love of musical expression, keeps him enthusiastic about continuing to expand and enhance the Keys' cultural scene — and especially the flourishing arts and cultural vibe that has helped transform Islamorada in recent years.
"There has been a renaissance of art and culture in Islamorada, and I enjoy seeing new things that weren't around when I was a child," said McClung. "I love seeing Islamorada as a whole just blossom."
McClung plays regularly in Islamorada, and describes his music as "old time, bluegrass, country and Americana with a funky island twist."
McClung and wife Wendy, with two-year old Cade and six-month-old Hartford.
The popular performer has incorporated music from his childhood in the mountains of West Virginia.