by Shayne Benowitz

Grammy nominated singer songwriter piano man James Slater recently rocked out the Commotion on the Ocean to a packed boat! Fury Girl had a minute to chat with James to learn more about his recent Grammy nomination, his favorite artists, and what he loves about the waters of Key West. Check it out!

James Slater on the Commotion.

James Slater on the Commotion.

Your song “High Cost of Living” was nominated for the Best Country Song Grammy this year. Tell me a little about it.

It’s a great song, recorded by Jamey Johnson, very, very different. It came out earlier this year and it was a hit. It’s pretty exciting. We’re up against artists like Taylor Swift. It’s really cutting lyrics, more like an old Johnny Cash song than what you hear today.

How do you find inspiration to write songs for other artists?

I never really write for other artists. I make an album a year. I just write my own thing, collaborate with artists on my own songs. I draw inspiration from all the traveling I do and then I just go to the piano to write songs. Martina McBride’s “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” [nominated for a 2005 Grammy] for instance, I wrote for my niece.

As an artist, do you consider yourself more a singer or a songwriter?

I am a singer songwriter piano man in the style of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elton John, or Ben Folds.

What genre do you most closely identify with? What genre do you enjoy working in?

I’m a hybrid. Kind of pop country with a little bit of Latin/Mexican flare. I grew up in the Panama Canal, even farther south than Key West!

Who were your influences early on as a young musician?

Billy Joel, Randy Newman, Santana, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles. Piano playing guys.

What do you like about living in Nashville’s thriving music scene?

It’s pretty close to Key West! It’s all about the song here. In the last few years I’ve been to Miami, New York, London, LA. Nashville is a town for songwriters. Bon Jovi, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, they all come here to write and record.

I loved your “Key West Address” song. You seem to really capture island life. What do you love about Key West?

The ghosts of Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, all these characters down here make me want to write. I love the warm, tropical weather. And it’s half way between Nashville and Panama! I just love the vibe and the characters.

How did you enjoy performing on a boat?

Being close to the ocean is always a good thing! People get crazy when they get on the water. You need the water to start fire!

Shayne Benowitz is a Fury crewmember and freelance writer. For more travel stories and a daily dose of what’s cool around the globe visit her Wanderlust Website at

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Last Updated 03/18/2024