An Interview with Rosanne Cash
Grammy-winning songwriter Roseanne Cash will be making a rare appearance in Lake Jackson on Friday when she performs at The Clarion at Brazosport College. The eldest daughter of country music icon, Johnny Cash, Roseanne will be performing a variety of songs spanning her long and distinguished career.
A friend of Brazosport College, Forrest Hartman, recently interviewed Roseanne and discussed a handful of topics, including her new album, the current tour, some of the songs in her set list and much more. Below is a transcript of that interview.
Forrest Hartman: For an artist who has so much popular material, it must be difficult to decide on a set list. On the current tour, are you playing mostly material from “The River & the Thread” or are delivering a cross-section of tunes from throughout your career? Can you write a little about how you developed the set list?
Rosanne Cash: I am performing all of “The River and The Thread”, and choosing songs from my older catalog to add to the show. I always perform Seven Year Ache. I went years without performing “Blue Moon with Heartache” and now I’m performing it again. I do some songs from The List, because people want to hear them— a lot of people seem to be very attached to that record. The other songs— I switch up. I don’t have a method, just instinct to balance the show and draw from different eras.
FH: It seems like many musical artists have a great deal of success early, then spend the rest of their careers trying to recreate that. This hasn’t happened to you. You have received glowing reviews throughout your career, and some writers are heralding “The River & the Thread” as your finest work yet. How does that make you feel? Did you know you had something really special by the time you finished the album?
RC: I knew it was a special record when we finished it, but of course, you never know whether other people will recognize it or feel about it as you do. It was very gratifying to see the response. I have always had an innate fear of parodying myself, of copying my successful work. It has been like a mantra to me for 35 years— be fresh, go deeper, find something new, DON’T copy yourself. I saw how deadly that could be, and how you could lose yourself, become a parody, by doing carbon copies of your work.
FH: I understand you did a lot of travelling around the south while working on the new album. What was the most profound experience you had while doing that, and how is it reflected in the album?
RC: LOTS of profound experiences. A lifetime’s worth. From visiting the house we lived in when I was born, to my father’s boyhood home in the Sunken Lands of Arkansas, and really feeling how hard my grandmother’s life was, to William Faulkner’s house in Oxford, Mississippi, Dockery Farms where all the great blues musicians picked cotton and played the blues, to Robert Johnson’s grave, to the Tallahatchie Bridge … these were life-changing experiences. And they felt deeply familiar and resonant. That was the best revelation.
FH: You and your husband are joined by an amazing collection of talent on “The River & the Thread.” How did you go about assembling the guest artists and determining who would perform on the different songs?
RC: Our criteria was that the guest had to be from the South, or connected to the South in a deep way. It was fun putting the puzzle of guests together. On “When The Master Calls The Roll,” because Rodney and I co-wrote the lyrics, it was natural to ask him to sing. We were in Tennessee and planned to go to his studio to record his part, and found out that Kris K was also in Tennessee. We asked him to come over and sing. Rodney said, ‘hey, you know, Tony Joe and Prine live nearby,’ and we asked them to come. The greatest moment was seeing all those gentlemen greet each other in the studio that morning. Tony Joe and Kris hadn’t seen each other in years. They were all like brothers. It was beautiful.
FH: Along with all of your success in music, you are an accomplished writer – both in fiction and non-fiction. How important do you find writing books and short stories. Does this art form offer you a creative outlet that music and songwriting don’t?
RC: It’s all from the same pool. Writing prose is, I admit, more taxing, but it lets me expand on themes, let go of rhyme, find subtler ‘melodies’, and use language in a different way. I do think I’ve become a better lyricist by writing prose. But I don’t separate the two. I’m a writer, period.
- - - - - -
Roseanne Cash will step onto the Clarion stage at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 5. For ticket information, call the Clarion Box Office at 979.230.3156 or visit www.brazosport.edu/clarion.