Rosanne Cash, the first-born child of the late great U.S. musician Johnny Cash, grew up watching, listening and thinking music, eventually choosing it as her own path in life.
Her legendary father inspired her and influenced her. But he also posed an obstacle to her early attempts at creativity. Upset about always being compared to him, early on she moved to Europe in hopes that a degree of anonymity would enable her to grow as an artist. Almost immediately, Rosanne produced a string of hit records of her own, in addition to a Grammy award, proof that the fruit doesn’t far fall from the tree.
But music wasn’t her only calling. An accomplished author, Rosanne has published short stories and a memoir, Composed, in which she details her 2008 brain surgery and recovery that made her feel music more keenly than before. That renewed connection to her father’s artistic legacy – she no longer minds being known as the Man in Black’s daughter – has inspired a new album, scheduled out in the new year, and increased touring dates.
She’s coming to to the Luminato Festival in Toronto this month and to the Flato Markham Theatre in Markham, Ont., next February. At 58, Rosanne is creating still. She’s even rediscovered sewing, as revealed in the following interview, conducted recently from her home in New York, touching on life with and without Johnny, and the romance of keeping music all in the family.
You are an abundantly creative person: musician, songwriter and author. You’ve also studied acting. What is creativity to you and how and why do you create?
I would feel dead if I didn’t create. I would feel kind of small and dark and stiff and disconnected from life and the entire universe. But it could be any kind of creativity. If you are an accountant, you are creative, or a bank teller, and you approach it creatively. If you are a chef. I don’t think it is just restricted to artists or musicians or writers. There is a creative way to approach life, I think, to reach out and find raw material making something out of nothing and moulding energy. … It’s also what I really believe is God, and that source of art and music and creativity is what I define as God. And it’s not just writing and music, too. You know I sew?
No I didn’t know that; tell me about it.
I have a sewing circle, with several girlfriends and it seems kind of silly to talk about it.
No I don’t think so. I was thinking of starting one myself.
Oh, it’s so great. It’s giggles and love, creatively speaking. We sit and we talk and we sew it’s just so great to have that. It’s like being part of a tribe.
Is that in New York?
And how many women are in your group?
Five, sometimes not everyone can come.
Is it something you learned as a girl?
Well, I did learn it in Home Ec., and then as a teenager I did embroidery and then I gave it up. Forever. You know, for 40 years. And I just started doing it again, a couple of years ago, because I made a friend, Natalie, who owns this company, Alabama Chanin, and [she makes] hand-stitched clothes, beautiful hand-stitched, hand-beaded clothes, and she gave me a sewing lesson and I started sewing one of her kits, to make her skirts and tops. I am kind of obsessed with her and her clothes, and then I made these other friends who are also obsessed and that’s what we do together.
Well, you know what? We can bring this right back to our theme, because I know from my research on you that you started out doing wardrobe for your father, Johnny Cash. Is that not true?
Well (laughs) it’s kind of been in the press all these years and, truthfully, it was just me and my stepsister washing my dad’s pants and shorts in a bath tub after a show.
I know. And he would put us down in his tax file as laundresses, and write us off.
Yeah, the truth is now out.
Yeah, Globe and Mail exclusive. Okay so moving right along. Is the fountainhead of creativity the same for each category of the arts to which you are connected?