John Carter Cash on his father’s music

Eva Mackevic

As the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra reimagines classic Johnny Cash songs on their upcoming album, we speak to Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, about his father’s music and legacy

 

Reader’s Digest: How did the inspiration for this album come about? 

John Carter Cash: My father always had a great respect for symphonic music. He knew music, all kinds of music, not just country and Gospel. He introduced me to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra when I was young and made a good number of appearances with symphonies throughout his life. When I heard the concept of my father being paired with the RPO, I was very excited. I knew it was something he would support and believe in. 

RD: Tell us a bit about the song selection on this album—why did these specific ones end up being included? 

JCC: The songs were chosen very carefully based on the strength of his voice and the potential for accompaniment with the orchestra. Also, we wanted to present some songs that were more stripped back in original production that made sense with accompaniment. 

RD: Why the RPO specifically?

JCC: Of all the symphony orchestra is in the world, the one I remember my father speaking of the most is the RPO. It was serendipitous that this project came about, because my father loved and appreciated the music they made for decades. 

RD: Is there anything new that you discovered about your father’s music through these interpretations by the RPO?

JCC: Not so much a discovery, but a definite reminder of the depth and variety of my father’s tone, strength as a vocalist and his inimitable command.

RD: What do you think your father’s reaction to this reimagination would have been?

JCC: Dad was always willing to take risks. He recorded hard rock songs, alternative rock songs, and Gospel songs side-by-side. One of his greatest dreams was to record with a string section in a cathedral. I believe he would’ve love to see this project come about. He recorded various things with symphonies throughout his life, and this project coming into reality is right in line with his choices creatively through his life as an entertainer. 

RD: Your father was very fond of the UK—how did that fondness manifest itself?

JCC: Dad loved the United Kingdom. He loved the people, the history, and the spirit of the nation. In all of our years travelling on the road they were a few that passed that we did not go to the UK. Dad didn’t have to go to Great Britain, but he chose to return every year because of his appeciation for the people and the joy he found there in performing.

RD: How do you think your father’s music has aged and where does it stand with younger listeners in 2020?

JCC: My father’s music is timeless and finds new listeners every day. You’re just as likely to find Johnny Cash albums in the collection of a hard rock fan as you would a Gospel bluegrass fan. He crosses boundaries still and appeals to people around the world. His music defies genre and touches everyone that hears it. 

RD: What’s the most important lesson in music you learned from your father?

JCC: To be free and follow your heart. To be open minded and pursue what dreams may come. That showed me there were no limits to creativity, that the heart was the only rule and if we were led to follow a creative direction by our hearts it must be the course we take. 

 

Johnny Cash and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is out on Friday, November 13

Read more: A life in pictures—Johnny Cash

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