James OttoJames Otto misses being in the 'mafia.'

The singer was a member of the renegade Muzik Mafia in Nashville, a group of musicians headed by Big & Rich who played now-legendary shows at clubs around town for years until most of its members became too famous or too busy (or both) to continue the tradition.

James says he misses those early days sometimes, but sees the tradition living on in the newer artists who are currently breaking through with an outlaw bent. "I really don't see the Mafia guys much," James tells The Boot. "Jon Nicholson came out and wrote this year with me, and Shannon Lawson too. But John Rich is working on a ton of things, as he always is, Gretchen Wilson's working on her new label and project and I'm excited for her, and I just saw Big Kenny recently. But doing Mafia shows, that's pretty much stopped."

James says playing those shows was one of the best things about his earliest years in Music (or, in this case, Muzik) City. "We felt like we were something unique and different and making an impact on Nashville. So I miss it sometimes. It did a lot for me and I'm thankful for it and my friends and their success. Mafia spawned a movement of sorts where people started working for one another and trying to help one another -- Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser are part of a group that did that very same thing -- so the concept, it lives on, which is awesome. I love that."

James shared the 2009 CMA Song of the Year trophy for co-writing 'In Color' with Jamey Johnson and Lee Thomas Miller.