With a best-selling memoir and an album that never seemed to stop resonating with fans, Rosanne Cash celebrated the end of 2010 with a long break full of restful sleep.
This year seems no better, though. She's up for a Grammy Award for "The List," her tribute to her iconic father, Johnny Cash; she's writing songs with Rhett Miller of the Old 97's, Joe Henry and by herself in anticipation of a new album; and she'll join Henry and Billy Bragg in the studio in March for another new project.
She's also planning to tour this year and is taking notes for a follow-up to her highly regarded memoir, "Composed," which earned spots on the "best of" lists of Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and Amazon.com.
"So I still have a lot of work ahead of me," Cash said. "I'm looking for more sleep. Maybe in 2012."
AP: Did the enduring success of "The List," your recording of your father's list to you of must-listen-to songs, catch you off-guard?
Cash: It did. I'm certainly not a big radio artist. In fact, it's hard to garner a lot of radio play for anybody working in my genre at my age. So I knew I couldn't count on that. So then it's, how do I sell this record without a lot of radio play, and it was a challenge for the marketing team to figure out how to present it. But there was a great back story to it and people were interested, and there was more interest in "The List" than I expected. I thought, "Oh, this will be a quiet thing and some people will appreciate it." It did very well, and it was satisfying to me, but I have to admit truthfully, it was a little jarring that I felt like my biggest success in a long time are songs that I didn't write. It shook me a little bit.
AP: Have you made plans to release the entire list to the public?
Cash: No, I haven't and I'm not ready to. So much of my dad has been co-opted by the public and this was such a personal thing to me. And I'm just not ready to post it on the Internet or something, you know what I mean? I want to hang on to it for a little while. ... Eventually it should be archived properly, but right now it's mine.
AP: Do you plan to cull another album from the list?
Cash: Yeah, I think so. There's certainly a wealth of material and it makes sense. People ask me about that all the time. So I think I would.
AP: Your memoir was very well received. Do your writing ideas come from the same place as your songwriting ideas?
Cash: Oh, sure. And if I were a painter it would come from the same place, or a ballet dancer. I think that creative impulse can have a lot of different mediums.
AP: Do you feel a need to write books?
Cash: I feel a need to write. It's like the young dancer who said to Martha Graham, "Should I be a dancer?" And Martha Graham said, "If you have to ask, the answer's no." So, you know, that's who I am. That's who I am on the planet.
AP: Is it easier to share personal things because you've done it for decades in song?
Cash: That was a different experience as far as revelation or the feeling of revelation, anyway, because in songs, even though people think my songs are all confessional, they're not really. I know where I took poetic license. And there was certainly no fact checker at the end of the songs. But writing in the book I did feel a responsibility to the facts as I remember them. And then there was that moment it was done, it was going to galleys, and I kind of clutched: "Oh, my god, what am I doing?" But I think every memoirist must have that feeling.
The Grammy Awards will air live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday (8 p.m. EST).
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