James T. Slater, the songwriter behind such hits as the Grammy-nominated Jamey Johnson’s “The High Cost of Living” and Martina McBride’s “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” is releasing a collection of his own, Famous In Key West (Shrimp Boat Studio Sessions).
Slater is a BMG songwriter of Bolivian American descent. He’s had songs cut by artists such as Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Chris Young and many more. Some of his recent successes include Keith Urban‘s No. 1 hit “God Whispered Your Name” and Luke Combs‘ rising “Joe.”
For his new collection, Slater reached back into his early influences to make music like that he grew up on: piano tunes.
“I started the piano when I was nine. My heroes have always been piano players: Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Elton John and Billy Joel. I can play all that stuff—I love classical pianists and boogie-woogie pianists,” Slater tells MusicRow. “I’ve lived in Nashville for 20 years now. When I came to town, I always thought I wanted to be the Randy Newman of Nashville.”
Slater’s new album gets its name from his experience over the years at the BMI Key West Songwriter Festival, which kicks off its 27th year tomorrow (May 3). Slater has found the annual gathering to be a great source of inspiration.
“I got invited to the Key West Songwriters Festival when I first moved here and I’ve been going for 20 years. I just love Key West. I love that Hemingway lived there as well as Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Jeff Walker and Tennessee Williams.”
Slater was able to record the album at Buffett’s private studio, Shrimp Boat Sounds, which finds him in good company of artists that have been allowed to record there, including George Strait, who has recorded several albums there.
“I always went by and wondered what it would be like to record in there,” he says. “All of a sudden, I start writing songs for artists like Kenny Chesney and Old Dominion, and getting my own following in Key West, and I ended up meeting some people that run the place and they [invited me] to cut a piano record there.”
So, with an invitation to record at Buffett’s Key West oasis, Slater went in over Christmas to record his 12-track project.
As for the tunes on the album, Slater has recorded some unheard originals as well as his own versions of “God Moves The Pen,” which McGraw cut on his 2020 Here on Earth album, and “Guys Named Captain,” which Chesney included on his 2020 Here and Now album. The latter song means a lot to him, as it was inspired by his father.
“My dad passed away six years ago now. That’s who I wrote ‘Guys Named Captain’ for,” Slater says. “It was basically a postcard to my dad, who was a ocean-loving, boat-loving, Key West-loving, mandolin-playing psychiatrist.”
Slater will play some songs from his new album in Key West this week, as well as his beloved hits. Click here to see the full schedule for the Key West Songwriter Festival.
Famous In Key West (Shrimp Boat Studio Sessions) Track List:
1. Famous In Key West
2. Petronia Blues
4. Mermaids Are Real
5. Guys Named Captain
6. God Moves The Pen
7. That’s Why God Made Mexico
8. When You Are Young
9. Smugglers Town
10. Heartbreak Superstar
11. My Life In Black And White
12. Rainy Day In Key West
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