Rosanne Cash says she’s ‘terrified’ about US election: ‘My country doesn’t make any sense to me right now’

Exclusive: Daughter of Johnny Cash shared her thoughts on modern country music, posthumous releases, and the looming US presidential election while performing at Black Deer festival in Sussex

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 19 June 2024 06:00 BST
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Rosanne Cash says the thought of Donald Trump becoming president for a second time “terrifies” her, ahead of the presidential election in November.

The revered musician, who is the eldest daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian Liberto, spoke about the political climate in the US while appearing at the Black Deer festival of country and Americana in Eridge Park, Sussex over the weekend.

Cash, 69, told The Independent that she was “really angry” after Trump’s win at the 2016 election, recalling how her daughter, Carrie Cowell, called her crying and said she felt as though she “didn’t matter”.

It was a phone call that helped to inspire Cash’s 2018 album, She Remembers Everything, the Grammy-nominated record that saw her hailed as “one of the most ambitious and literary songwriters of her generation” by Rolling Stone magazine.

“It’s just gotten worse and worse,” Cash said of the time since Trump was president. “It frightens me – I have little granddaughters. I’m terrified. My country doesn’t make any sense to me right now, I’m only hoping we can pull ourselves out.”

Elsewhere in the conversation, Cash revealed that she is working with her husband and longtime collaborator, John Leventhal, on what will be her 15th album.

Rosanne Cash with her husband and collaborator John Leventhal
Rosanne Cash with her husband and collaborator John Leventhal (Getty)

“I’m not young anymore, and time is really precious, and I just think about everything I was inspired by, and who’s still around, and just how precious that is,” she said.

“The flip side is I’m really excited to do what I have left to do.”

“My last [album] was complicated,” she continued. “I felt a real need to do it like that, whether it sold or not, and now I want to do something that’s really stripped down and simple. John and I have had a lot of conversations about that.”

She praised the Black Deer audience for their warm welcome, stating: “The Brits are music people in general, they’re open to anything and they’re not particularly territorial about genre, as far as what they love.

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“So mixing it up with some folk, country, rock… they respond. They’re real music listeners.”

She appeared, however, to be unmoved by the so-called country boom, in which pop stars such as Beyoncé, Zayn Malik and Lana Del Rey have dipped their toes into Nashville.

“It doesn’t interest me that much,” she said, going on to praise country and bluegrass artists such as Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Darius Rucker, and Molly Tuttle.

Cash said she wasn’t particularly interested in pop stars venturing into country music
Cash said she wasn’t particularly interested in pop stars venturing into country music (AP)

“But bro country?” she asked, referring to the more pop-leaning vein of country music frequently derided for its lyrics about beer, pick-up trucks, women, and whiskey.

“To me, it’s assaulting. The sound is assaulting because it’s very anthemic and in your face… and also, some of it is toxic,” Cash said.

She was similarly jaded about much modern songwriting, telling the audience on stage that “you don’t hear those kinds of narratives” present in one of her favourite covers, “Long Black Veil” anymore. The song, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin, was first recorded by Lefty Frizell in 1959.

“I don’t necessarily ascribe [to it] if it doesn’t have the discipline and the skill of real songwriting, you know what I mean?” she told The Independent.

“Poetic license is really important, no one is fact-checking your song at the end of it – you can go wherever you want.”

Rosanne Cash with her father, the late Johnny Cash
Rosanne Cash with her father, the late Johnny Cash (Beth Gwinn)

In December, Cash attended the 90th birthday celebration of country outlaw Willie Nelson and performed with fellow former Highwayman, Kris Kristofferson. “The last two guys standing,” she said of the moment. “It was so moving.”

Asked how she continues to find those creative reserves, Cash suggested it was “in my nature to be very curious”.

“I feel this urgency of age to get out what I have left in me,” she continued.

Her remarks come ahead of a new posthumous album by her late father, titled Songwriter, scheduled for release on 28 June.

“I would trust [posthumous releases] if it was in the hands of my children, because they know me, they’re sensitive to me and they know what I would love,” she said.

“But I don’t feel the need to have a posthumous career. I really don’t. I feel like I’m on the earth, I should do what I do. Yes, if some of my songs last a really long time, then I would be honoured.”

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