Singer and songwriter Rosanne Cash‘s fourteen albums have charted eleven number-one singles. The genesis of her new album, The List, dates back to a day in 1973 when her father, Johnny Cash, discovered some gaps in her knowledge of American roots music. He spent the rest of the day making a list on a legal pad, and at the top he put “100 Essential Country Songs” handed it to her and said, “This is your education.”
Three-dozen years later, Roseanne has selected twelve songs from the list presented to her by her father to record her first album of covers. She approached each composition—from Jimmie Rodgers’ “Miss the Mississippi and You” to Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country”—in search of its particular essence. She is currently on tour and I look forward to her concert at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on June 29.
Rosanne is also the author of the short story collection, Bodies of Water, and the children’s book, Penelope Jane: A Fairy’s Tale. Her new book, Composed: A Memoir, will be published by Viking on August 10. She lives in New York City with her husband, John Leventhal, and her children.
Gina: Why did you decide to write your memoir now? What was the process of writing it like for you?
Rosanne: I’ve been writing it for a decade, so ‘now’ is relative! Things kept happening, I was making records, raising children and a lot of Life went on. The process was …SLOW. And it was a great organizing principle for me. Many, many times I have not understood my own life until I wrote about it. I get to see the connections, past and future, the patterns, the depth of the relationships.
Gina: As the mother of a 15-year-old daughter, I’m thinking a lot these days about the notion of mothers ceding, or not, the spotlight. Do you have any thoughts on this issue having raised three daughters? How to support our girls and revel in their budding beauty and potential, while hanging on to our own sense of self as powerful, sexual beings?
Rosanne: It was jarring to me when they were teens…to see your daughter come into her own as a woman. I felt faded at first…then realized slowly that power, sexuality, and beauty are NOT age dependent! Youth and beauty are wonderful, but age plus authenticity equals another kind of beauty, and requires a life well lived.
Rosanne: It’s kind of how my mind works. Short bursts. A little manic. It’s a perfect medium for me, sadly.
Gina: Off the top of your head, how many songs can you name about pie? And which one is your favorite?
Rosanne: Well. There are songs that have pie IN them (“Ode to Billie Joe”) and then songs with Pie in the title (“American Pie”, “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch”) but songs SOLELY about pie? That will require some thought. And what an odd question, congratulations.
Gina: I was fishing for “Country Pie,” which I recently stumbled upon doing research for my Pie Contest in a Box. Here’s a great clip of your dad with Mama Cass.