One of the best parts about living in or visiting the Florida Keys is the ubiquity of live music. Our islands feature a plethora of great local talent playing a variety of music. While I have played a huge amount of cover tunes, I always continued writing and recording my own songs. Many years back, I made a conscious decision to play a lot more of my original music at my gigs here in the Keys. I’m not getting any younger, and if I don’t play them…

This decision has had a major upside. People come to my shows and expect to hear my songs — and I get a lot of requests for my music! Locals and visitors alike have their own favorites, and it’s really inspirational to think that my music has touched other people’s lives. And it’s good to play music that isn’t heard in every other joint throughout the island chain.

There is a demand for original music. Key West and Key Largo both host their own songwriter festivals, and their events are well attended. Both of these festivals, however, import talent from Nashville; local songwriters often play second fiddle to the visiting writers.

We have a lot of really good songwriters right here in the Keys. Hopefully, my words will inspire our local talent to share more of their originals with audiences at each performance. And most of the writers I’ll mention have CDs for sale, a streaming presence on one or more of the various outlets like Apple Music or Spotify, or both. There’s some really good homegrown music right here, and I hope you’ll get a chance to check some of it out.

Adrienne Z – Adrienne has written and recorded a lot of songs, and I listen to her Chameleons CD (album/collection of streams) quite a bit. For the record, I perform gigs with Adrienne a couple of times a month, and I’m always happy to accompany her on her songs — especially “Chameleons” and “Blue Day.” Each of us brings something to the other’s music, and I love her playing on my songs as well.

Brian Roberts – Brian gigs his a$$ off each week, and he has written (or co-written) some very cool tunes. One of these, “Angels of Mercy,” is a co-write with our friend David Crawford. It’s a heartfelt tribute to nurses and the contributions they make to all of our lives. His 2005 CD “At the Time” features some cool compositions as well, including the title cut and “42 Bridges.”

David Feder – David is a very talented guitarist who took his Latin influences and combined them with his classical and jazz background, creating his own genre of Flamenco-infused folk music. His songs have been featured on NPR and PBS programs, and David has performed at numerous festivals around the world. David is truly a local musical treasure. To find out more, visit

Cory Young – Cory plays a lot of his songs at his shows. This is fitting, because more than a few of them celebrate the island life we cherish and embrace every day. (If you’re not cherishing and embracing the island life, what’s wrong with you?) Cory has an interesting story, and is very talented when it comes to telling that story through song. Check out Cory’s music online!

Ty Thurman – Ty also writes about island life, and has released a few albums’ worth of his musings. Ty and Cory both spent years in Nashville, and have performed together more than a few times. Ty performs both solo and with his band, and his 2018 Beachballs CD had several songs place in the Trop Rock Top 20. Find out more at

Ericson Holt – Ericson’s new album 99 Degrees won him several awards at the recent Key West Music Awards, including Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Best Blues Act. Ericson is a talented keyboardist and guitarist, and his three CDs are populated with characters struggling to realize the American Dream — combining his rock, blues and Americana influences to create a sound that’s truly Ericson’s own. To find out more, visit

These are just a few of our local musicians who create their own music; many more are worthy of mention here as well. Sure, it might be fun to have a sing-along with “Wagon Wheel” or “Country Roads” — but it’s incredibly rewarding to hear local songwriters performing their own works to appreciative audiences. 

– John’s Perpetual Island Tour stops every Monday at Boondocks, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Key Colony Inn, and Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing. Check out John’s music anywhere you stream or download your music! Or point your browser to:

Very few towns or cities could ever claim that their Mayor was a smokin' hot guitar player. The island city of Marathon in the Florida Keys is one of those towns. While politics is a temporary call to service, music is a life sentence. John Bartus, a more-than-four-decade full-time professional musician, singer, and songwriter, continues to raise the bar with his groundbreaking solo acoustic show. It’s easy to catch John on one of his more than 200 shows a year throughout the Keys on his Perpetual Island Tour. His CD releases include After The Storm, Keys Disease 10th Anniversary Remaster, and Live From the Florida Keys Vol. 2. John’s music is available wherever you download or stream your music.