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Lions Roar : September 2019
My mother did not want me to become a musician, or a writer, or an artist. She wanted me to get married, have kids, and be quiet. Understandable. Her template for being a performer or musician was that you were a drug addict, you got divorced, you were never home, and your relationships fell apart. I found good parenting wherever I could. I somehow knew how to do that. If somebody—an older woman—was nice to me in a store, I would take it in. I was smart about that. I still am. SHARON SALZBERG : We find love in many places. ROSANNE CASH: I was thinking of the love in music. I remem- ber 9/11. It was so traumatic and awful, but I was stoic. I had little kids, so I just plowed through. Then I was sitting in the kitchen lis- tening to the radio at Christmas, and they played Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” which is, I think, the saddest piece of music ever written. And those three months just came flooding out of me. I cried to the depths of my being. That piece of music healed me. I’m now married to my collaborator and I don’t think we would still be together if it weren’t for the healing power of music. You see the essence of someone when they’re performing. You see what they give to an audience and how exquisitely beautiful and vulnerable that is. How could you hold on to petty things when you see someone’s essence? I was talking to Diana Krall about this because she’s married to Elvis Costello and she said it’s identical for her. She said, “I can absolutely hate him that day, then he gets on stage and I see who he is and my heart melts.” A lot of times when I can’t relate to people, I can relate to art and music. A great painting or a great piece of literature can change everything. SHARON SALZBERG : In the Buddhist tradition, the thing that makes a work of art so great is the transformation of the artist in the process of creating it. I’m sure we intuit that when we are reading or listening to something. ROSANNE CASH: The most beautiful thing for me is to feel that the artist or writer touched something mysterious, some- thing that brings up more questions than answers. They broke through into something. They touched a mystery. SHARON SALZBERG: When I was working on my book Faith, someone said to me, “A lot of people think that, if you’re writing about something, it’s because you’re an expert on the topic and want to impart your expertise. But sometimes you’re writing about it as part of your attempt to immerse yourself in it and understand it.” ROSANNE CASH : You probably wanted to know more about it and the way to find out more was to write about it. When I was writing my memoir, Composed, it was startling how I was able to unpack so many boxes about my life and organize my thoughts around them. I would say. “Oh, that’s why that happened! That was the motivation of that person. That’s why I left that person. That’s why I cut that tie.” I found out so much. I wrote it for myself. SHARON SALZBERG : Totally. There are certainly ways of writing a piece where you are attempting to implement your expertise, but that’s very different from baring the soul. ROSANNE CASH: I think people don’t care as much about expertise as they do about humanity. Vulnerability. Phewf ! Do you always find yourself feeling like a beginner every time you start a new project? I find there is always a little thrill for me going into the studio or walking on stage or starting a new song. I ask myself, “How do I do this again?” Then some sense of mastery takes over. But the thrill remains if you always feel like a beginner. That’s very Buddhist, isn’t it? SHARON SALZBERG: The Dalai Lama, if he were sitting here, would be nodding his head. ROSANNE CASH : There’s a beautiful balance between hav- ing mastery and being a student, and going back and forth between the two. I’ve been singing some songs for almost forty years, and even if I’m bored with one song and I’ve sung it several thousand times, there are people in the audience who really want to hear it. It’s their first time, so I’ve got to bring my full self to that moment as much as I can. That’s where the discipline comes in. You’re creating something you love, but that doesn’t mean you enjoy or love every second of it. When I teach songwriting, I run into this phenomenon regularly—a young songwriter who thinks he doesn’t need to know the tradition he’s writing in, or about the songwriters who came before him, or what a rhyme scheme is, or the mechan- ics of melody or verse/chorus structures. He feels his personal expression is enough. To me that’s completely self-indulgent. Some people would say, “Well, that’s valid. It’s his expression.” I say, “That’s what toddlers do. Art requires discipline.” I had a songwriting mentor who gave me a great piece of advice once: “When nothing’s working in a performance and people are on their cellphones, remember there is always six PHOTOBYFABIOFILIPPI LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 52