In the past year, Rosanne Cash has published two intensely personal pieces of art: her memoir, Composed, which came out last week, and The List, an album of classic country music songs that her father, Johnny Cash, introduced her to when she was a teenager. On the way up to Cape Cod earlier this summer, the singer, songwriter, and author discussed writing, music, and what her dad would think if he saw what she's up to now.
What made you decide to write Composed?
It's an accidental memoir, really, because I started writing essays and I wrote this essay called "The Ties that Bind," and it was chosen for Best Music Writing 2000.
And my editor at Viking, Rick Kot, said that piece is the beginning of a memoir. And I said, "I'm too young to write a memoir." And he said, "Well think about writing several volumes." So that's really how it began.
How did you feel about the fact that your family's story has been told by other people—your mother and father both wrote memoirs, and there was the movie Walk the Line. Did you feel you needed to set the record straight?
No, I never had any need to set the record straight because there's too many records. There's like 8,000 versions of the story, and I didn't want to attempt to write them according to my own perceptions. I thought that my memories were valid, and I'm a writer, and like I said I kind of grew into this choice to write a memoir. But I didn't have any need or any impulse to settle any scores. There's just not much dignity in that for me. I just don't care enough. I don't care enough what other people think.
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Is there anything in Composed that your father would be surprised to know about?