Rosanne Cash is the daughter of the one and only Johnny Cash, a legend of country music. She’s also a songwriter, a bestselling performer and a chart-topping success in her own right. Her latest album is ‘The List,’ a compilation of songs her father held up as examples of “must know” music.
She’s also the author of a new memoir, “Composed,” published this week.
Look for the full interview on the NewsHour in the coming days. For now, here’s a preview of Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with Rosanne Cash, plus a video of her performing her classic hit, “Seven Year Ache,” in our studios:
Editor’s Note: Rosanne Cash’s guitar was kindly provided by Foxes Music, Falls Church, Virginia.
A transcript is after the jump.
JEFFREY BROWN: One of the sections I liked was when you were talking about learning to record, the sort of hands-on business of making a record.
ROSANNE CASH: Well, in the analog era.
JEFFREY BROWN: Before digital.
ROSANNE CASH: Late 70’s. It was almost like a sculptural art where you used magnetic tape that had oxides on it that would fall off if you wound the tape too much, and then you made a mother vinyl that you pressed your records from. And do you know when I made “Seven Year Ache” we mastered three days after John Lennon died, and so I had the engineers scratch “Goodbye John” in the run-out groove of the record. So the first pressing of that record has the message in it. Whenever someone brings that vinyl record to me to sign, I look for it. I’ve found it three times.
JEFFREY BROWN: But you describe that with such vivid detail. It clearly made an impression on you. You really wanted to get into the dirty work, so to speak, of that side of making music.
ROSANNE CASH: I took engineering manuals home at night. I felt like I was a painter. Like it was my canvas and I was going to put colors on it and oils, and I wanted to know about the canvas as well, and it felt very kinesthetic, you know. It was something that you worked with your hands, knobs and tape and air, and boy, the learning curve got very steep about with the advent of digital recording.
JEFFREY BROWN: You’re a celebrated songwriter yourself, and you’ve certainly been around some greats. Have you figured out what makes a great song, what makes something work or not work?
ROSANNE CASH: Well, a skill set, number one. You’ve got to know your way around a rhyme scheme and how to marry melody into a lyric and all of those very hands-on kind of watchmaker intensity skills, the focus of that detail work. But there is also something mystical at the center of it, as in any creative art.
JEFFREY BROWN: Mystical, huh?
ROSANNE CASH: Yeah, that you don’t know where it comes from and that you are part of something larger than yourself. I know one songwriter who says when he writes a good song he says, well, I had my catcher’s mitt on for that one. I got that one.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do you know when it happens?
ROSANNE CASH: Yeah, and some of them are just out there and you can available to them.
JEFFREY BROWN: You made this album, “The List,” from your list. I’m wondering now if you’re developing your own list?
ROSANNE CASH: I am.
JEFFREY BROWN: You are?
ROSANNE CASH: I have a daughter who is a musician and she asked me for a list, so I’m working on it. There would be a convergence with my list and my dad’s list, but you know, I’m going to have to have the Beatles and Neil Young.
JEFFREY BROWN: A little bit more than your father, take it beyond your father’s.
ROSANNE CASH: Well, I grew up in a different era.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Rosanne Cash, nice to talk to you.
ROSANNE CASH: Thank you.