Story Behind the Song: Jamey Johnson, ‘High Cost of Living’
In the spring of 2009, Jamey Johnson dropped "High Cost of Living" as a single, the second from his The Lonesome Song album. Johnson co-wrote the tune with James Slater, and although the track never reached the top of the charts -- it peaked at No. 34 -- it hit home with plenty of fans because it speaks so candidly about the perils of addiction.
Below, Slater talks with The Boot about how "High Cost of Living" came to be.
I had that title, "The High Cost of Living Ain't Nothing Like the Cost of Living High," for about a year and a half. Jamey and I had become friends at the time. I thought, "That's the guy I gotta write it with;" I thought maybe he had a little experience in that. So I called him one day, and thankfully, it was right before he was about to start making his album.
He came over to the house. It took us about two sessions to write it. He took it home and came back, and I'll never forget the day he came back: He goes, "Man, I gotta show you something." He said, "I put this part in the third verse about cocaine and a whore." And he said, "There goes our No. 1 single!"
I said, "You know, Jamey, I just trust you. Let's just run with it and make it real." And in hindsight that was the best thing that could have happened, because maybe it wasn't a No. 1 single, but I'll tell you, we've gotten so many great letters and press about that song, and it is real, and it really hits people right.
I think it's nice to have certain songs that are just "right there." So many people have come up and said to me, "Wow, that was me 10 years ago," or, "That was me four years ago." So I'm real happy with that song.
When you get together with Jamey, you don't know what you're gonna get! He's a bright guy, he's smart, he's different -- and that's what I embrace. I grew up in Central America ... I'm not your typical songwriter, my past is a little different, so I really embrace anything different. And Jamey Johnson's the real thing. So, "High Cost of Living" was awesome to write!
This story was originally written by Laurie Hollabaugh, and revised by Angela Stefano.