In Rosanne Cash’s memoir, Composed, she writes, “Someone once told me to perform to the six percent of the audience who are poets.” I happen to be a poet. Though I’ve not had the privilege of seeing her in concert, while reading her New York Times-bestselling book, I felt as if she were telling tales directly to me.
Cash’s stories are relayed with the same magical imagery that can be found in this Grammy winner’s songs. Her voice is one of experience and reflection, filled with the hindsight to see mistakes she has made and the wisdom to recognize the value of learning through error. She is witty, poetic and compassionate.
The paperback edition of Composed publishes on Monday, August 1. In coordination, Malaprop’s Bookstore has organized an event at Diana Wortham Theatre on August 2. Asheville musician and WNCW radio host Laura Blackley will interview Cash, with a question-and-answer session to follow.
Cash graciously agreed to an e-mail interview.
Xpress: You've taken on so many different passions in your life, from writing lyrics, prose, essays and children's literature to creating music from every angle, down to mixing it yourself. Is there one creative aspect which you would like to pursue more than the others, or one which comes to you more easily than the rest?
I consider myself a songwriter first. Everything — recording, prose, performance — comes from that. Songwriting is the center of the wheel. I would like to write another book, but I'm obsessed with writing some new songs.
Your autobiography was written in quite an unusual way, not chronologically or thematically. I felt that each section was designed like an album. Stories came through like individual tracks with a binding continuity of emotion or topic. I truly enjoyed that you fast-forwarded to resolutions at the end of each chapter. Was this your intention, or do you think your mind just speaks in that way due to your many years making albums?
I did have an idea in mind that it was like an album. I remember talking about that with my editor a few times. But it's a chicken-and-egg-situation — do I write prose like that because of decades of songwriting and making records, or is this how I'm built? Probably both.
I was inspired by MFK Fisher, and the way she wrote about food, but was [also] writing about her life, and the fact that she wrote episodically, in several volumes. I also have a sense of non-linear time that interests me more, as a writer, than linear time, and that's how I wanted to write the book.
I don't think there is resolution to everything, however. That would bore me, and also — it just doesn't happen that way.
You've spoken of items in your memoir that were lost: your guitar from your father, and a copy of your album Seven Year Ache with the inscription "Goodbye John," for example. Do you believe that mentioning these in your memoir may help you to find them?
Haaa … Maybe. I was definitely hoping the guitar would come back. And Hank deVito did give me his copy of Seven Year Ache after he read the book, so I guess my manipulations partly worked!
Do you plan to write another memoir or autobiography in the future, or do you feel you've already said as much as you'd like to about your life?
No, I'd like to write another. 56 years, 250-page book — no. I have a lot more to say.
You seem to enjoy Twitter and often find yourself in "Twitter jail" for excessive tweeting. What do you enjoy most about interacting with your online community?
I have 'met' some really interesting people on Twitter: a professor of philosophy and quantum mechanics, Michael McKean, librarians, authors, Mike Scott (a musician who I admire) and lots of music people. You wouldn't think it, but I've had really interesting conversations.
Also, as my friend Mike Doughty says, Twitter is like boot camp for songwriters. Make it great, and fit it into 140 characters. Also, I love doing my Jane Austen persona. It's a challenge to speak in her voice and just so much fun.
— Follow Barbie Angell on Twitter @barbieangell.
who: Rosanne Cash
what: On-stage interview and booksigning for Composed
where: Diana Wortham Theatre
when: Tuesday, August 2 (7 p.m. $23 tickets include a copy of the book. Tickets available only at Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe and http://www.malaprops.com)