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Exploring Kelly McGuire's Island Life and Music

By S. Mathur

Who wouldn't like to make a living doing what they love best? To celebrate their birthdays with all of Belize? To use their talents to help the less fortunate? Singer/Songwriter Kelly McGuire of Redfish Island Records has achieved all of this and more, but reflects on his career with a simple sense of gratitude. After many years as a social performer singing other people's songs, he began recording his own. His first CD, Redfish Island, was a runaway bestseller in 2000 and he hasn't slowed down since.

McGuire always loved music, but as a kid was too shy to speak, let alone sing in front of his classmates. Luckily, as he tells it, Camelot changed all that.

"I've always loved playing music- from the accordion when I was really young, then discovering my dad's guitar hanging in the closet that he had put up to raise a family and be an engineer. My interest in it rekindled his passion for playing guitar and he nurtured my early progress. However, I was very shy and did not sing in front of people. I began to have a dream of being a performer and finally confronted my stage fright when I got the part of King Arthur in Camelot for the High School musical."

Jimmy Buffet's "escapism" was a strong influence on his songwriting, he says, "...some of the first things I wrote about were boats, sailing, oceans, beaches, etc. Jimmy Buffett's music about sailing away to the islands had stayed with me." Why do people love "island music" so much? Labels like indie-country and trop-rock struggle to describe the style, and influences like reggae, country and indie are discernible. Most important, it manages to capture the soothing everything's-going-to-be-all-right vibe of the seaside, in formats that you can play anywhere.

Does he really celebrate his birthdays with Belize? Yes, says McGuire: "Every year, I go to San Pedro Belize on the island to do my "Birthday in Belize Bash", where I do concerts and we take groups of fans out to the reef sailing, etc? We also raise money for several local charities during the shows there. Many of the "House concerts" that I do all over the country are hosted by fans that met me in Belize! Everyone likes to think about the beach to relax!" Whether he sings for a small group of 30 people at a house concert, or for thousands, McGuire is always glad to have a conversation with his audience through his music.

Some of the charities that benefit from McGuire's concerts are the Galveston Bay Foundation in Texas and the Red Cross in Belize. While his songs and CDs routinely hit the top 50 lists and win awards, McGuire himself is modest about his achievements, considering them a blessing: "After 12 years of building a fan base, I'm very blessed to be able to tour all across the US and in Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Belize. My trips to Belize have inspired a lot of songs that are fan favorites."

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