Rosanne Cash was born in 1955 to her father, singer, Johnny Cash and Vivian Liberto. Her parents separated in the early 60s and Rosanne was raised by her mom in California. After high school, she joined her father on the road.
Rosanne wasn’t sure that she wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps. Celebrity has been a constant companion in her life, a companion she’s been wary of…
She traveled and worked as a secretary before testing out the waters of her own music career by writing songs. But Rosanne didn’t want to be the star singing them.
In 1978 she recorded her first album, “Rosanne Cash.” She said it took her another 10 years (and a number of hits) before she started to feel comfortable in her own shoes.
Being comfortable, or more likely throwing caution to the wind, brought her critical success in 2006 when she released “Black Cadillac.”
On this album, the reluctantly public artist opened up to her muse and to her fans in an effort to deal with grief after the loss of her mother, stepmother (June Carter Cash), stepsister and father.
Me: Early on, you were considering being a songwriter for other people as opposed to writing for yourself. Why was that?
Rosanne: The idea of being a performer didn’t appeal to me that much. I just didn’t need that much attention (laughs). But it became very satisfying to perform my own songs. I am happy that it turned out the way that it did.
Me: Do you think, because of the fame in your life when you were growing up and then the fame in your adult life, that there have been a lot of misconceptions about you?
Rosanne: Misconceptions? Yes. Misconceptions are definitively equated with fame. They are sort of the same thing. If you are famous you are going to be misinterpreted. But I don’t care. I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t do it because of what the public thinks. I do it because I am a working artist.
Me: Do you think your fans have a more accurate perception of you?
Rosanne: I don’t know. I don’t know what other people think. It’s not my business.
Me: You have opened up a lot of personal issues on your album “Black Cadillac.” Was that hard to do?
Rosanne: It wasn’t hard to write the songs. They are not a diary. Nobody knows what the actual truth was but me. I certainly didn’t employ a fact checker to come in at the end of the songs and make sure that every detail was true. There is poetic license taken. But having said that, of course there are documented details from my life. I had a moment of clutching before the record came out, thinking did I really want to put this out? But I think that is the best kind of art. It’s personal, but it’s also universal. I am certainly not the first person to experience these things.
Me: How does it feel to perform the songs?
Rosanne: It feels great. It changes depending on where I am and what the audience brings to it. But there is a lot of liberation in performing these songs. And they are songs –there’s music. It’s not as if I am getting up and reading from a diary.
Me: Now that the record has been out a while, what do you think of it?
Rosanne: I think it’s my best work. As soon as the first track starts, it’s in your face, but it’s also very skillful.
Me: It’s delicate and aggressive at the same time?
Rosanne: That is a good way to put it. I feel that way too. It’s a combination of gentleness and aggression.
Me: You’ve said that some of the songs on the album wouldn’t let you sleep. Which songs were those?
Rosanne: Probably the earliest ones, “World Unseen,” “God is in the Roses,” “I Was Watching You.” Those songs were obsessions while I was writing them.
Me: You also said that some of the songs “couldn’t go back to the ether.” That’s a great image. It reminded me of how Paul McCartney said “Yesterday” came to him.
Rosanne: He dreamed it…
Me: Yes, is that how songs come to you?
Rosanne: Yeah, the best ones. Some of them I could patch together with just my skill and experience of 30 years as a songwriter. But the best ones come from somewhere else. You feel like you are a vehicle for the songs. Sometimes I think that what Heaven is, is a place with more beautiful music than we could ever compose. We just catch a glimpse of the edge of it in our peripheral vision and that is the song that we write. There is always that perfect song that I can’t get to, that I can’t write, that I want so badly.
Me: If that is Heaven, then what would hell be?
Rosanne: (Laughing) We create that everyday. Don’t we?
Me: Is there a favorite part of the writing process for you?
Rosanne: When it’s done… that moment when I know it’s going to work and I have broken through the wall. That is my favorite part.
Me: Has your relationship to music changed over the last 30 years?
Rosanne: Yes, it’s gotten better, deeper… like somebody that I have been married to and have learned to know better, but who still constantly surprises me. I love it more than ever.
Me: What’s on the horizon for you?
Rosanne: I am finishing another book and then I am going to start recording again in the next few months, I imagine.
Me: What is the book about?
Rosanne: It’s nonfiction. I hesitate to say memoir, but it kind of is…