John Carter Cash on the Family Cookbook & Why Loretta Lynn Reminds Him of His Mother

David McClister
John Carter Cash

When John Carter Cash thinks back to memories of his mother, June Carter Cash, in the kitchen, his mind goes to cheese. "It's just basically fried vegetables with hot pepper jack cheese," he describes to Billboard. "That's immediately what I think of when I think about my mom in the kitchen. Then there was cheesecake. My mother made wonderful cheesecake. She loved cheesecake. She ate it every day of her life."

Food is very much on John Carter's mind these days, as he has just released a new cookbook, The Cash and Carter Family Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections From Johnny and June's Table. He says he developed a love for the kitchen at an early age.

"I've cooked my whole life, and I grew up in a household of cooks. My mother was creative in the kitchen. My father, he made chili; that was probably his favorite dish to make. So I grew up in kitchens around the world and had the opportunity to learn how to make Italian tomato sauce from an Italian lady that worked for my parents that was there at the house every day. I was working in the kitchen making chicken cordon bleu and Mornay sauce and veal with capers by the time I was 12 years old," he confirms. Of the entries in the cookbook, he says "These are family recipes, but I am the person in my house that is typically behind the stove. I'm going home and cooking tonight, so it's very realistic that I write a cookbook, it's very much a part of my life."

Cash hopes that putting the recipes on paper will extend them to his children – and beyond.

"For a long time I've been wanting to write this book, and I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to do so. I want my daughter Annabelle, my sons Jack and Joseph, and my youngest daughter Grace to make these recipes for their children and on down the line. So, it's almost like a family heirloom, this cookbook is. I hope that my family will keep making these recipes for generations to come."

That's not the only thing on his menu these days. He has just released a new album, We Must Believe in Magic. He says it's a mixture of a lot of moods and moments.

"There's two songs on the album that I wrote when I was in my early twenties, and things mean different when I look back now. I look back at something like 'Dragon Song' after all these years and I see it's about the darkness of masculine nature, human nature - but particularly masculine nature. Then there's 'The Dungeon,' which I wrote when I was at a period of great depression. Contrast to 'We Must Believe in Magic,' which is the major focus of the album. The album is really all elements of 'magic' in terms of believing in your dreams and pursuing those dreams. The album itself pays homage to great musicians. Bob Moore is on the album, along with Tony Rice, Charlie McCoy, Jerry Douglas, and Sam Bush. It's a conglomeration of the wonderful pickers, musicians that I've had a chance to work with through the years."

Cash teams up with Wesley Orbison for "Dance With Me," a co-write he enjoyed immensely.

"He and I are dear friends, and have been for many years. I was working on that song and I asked him if he'd like to finish it with me. And this album was about group effort. Most of the songs that are on there that are co-writes I was working on or I was into the song, I had the layout of the song done, and I went to the folks and finished it with them. Like 'Prayers for St. Regis,' I finished it with Shawn Camp. And Wesley, he's got such a wonderful heart and is a gentle-natured person and he and my father were very, very close. These are the people that I believe in, and that I believe share that unique vision for magic through music."

We Must Believe In Magic also contains his version of "Hurt," the Nine Inch Nails song that his father so brilliantly covered. He says he is very close to the song.

"I got The Downward Spiral when I was twenty-two years old. A few years later, Rick Rubin had sent 'Hurt' to my father and he said, 'What do you think about this?' My dad came to me and I remember he was in his office and he said, 'You know a song called "Hurt"?' I said yeah, and he asked 'What do you think about me recording it?' I said, 'I could see how it would work. It's really dark, dad, there's not a lot of light.' And he said, 'It's true. I believe that I can sing that because it's accurate to my life. It's something that I could sing.' When the track was recorded, I actually sang the scratch vocal. As I remember it there were three takes and my father was in the room listening, but it was Smokey Hormel, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, then I sang the scratch. He took the version with me singing the scratch vocal home with him and learned it that night, and then came back the next day and sang it. I'm very connected with the song on a personal level, also, and I don't think anybody could sing it and mean it unless you've actually been there and I have felt that kind of emptiness. I've been there."

Something that brings a little more light to Cash is his relationship with Loretta Lynn. Over the past few years, he has recorded extensively with the Coal Miner's Daughter, including the just-released Wouldn't It Be Great. He says knowing Lynn is an absolute delight and brings to mind someone else very close to him.

"She's so much like my mom. She is of the same ilk of person as my parents were. I mean, yes, there's wonderful people in the music industry, there most certainly are, but people that have the [same] humility and the charm as my parents - there's not many. She's one of the few that I could probably count on one hand. She's like a mother to me, she really is. I love her dearly, I really love her dearly. The whole family, I'm very close with Loretta and her family."


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