LIVE: Rosanne Cash @ the Empire State Book Festival, 4/2/11

Rosanne Cash: Composed

She wasn’t there to sing.

Rather singer-songwriter-author Rosanne Cash was the closing keynote speaker at the second annual Empire State Book Festival last Saturday afternoon at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

And she didn’t sing – except for a very brief a cappella snippet of her song, “Sleeping in Paris.” Instead, she read excerpts from her recently published memoir “Composed.” She conducted a wide-ranging Q&A with the audience. She talked about the importance of books. She spoke about the power of metaphor. And she discussed her overwhelming desire to lead “the artistic life” and escape from “the morphine dream of success.”

Here are just a few random notes from her appearance:

On her childhood: “I was the geeky 11-year-old who asked to be dropped off at the library on Saturdays while my friends were off doing other things. Librarians became my heroes, my very first heroes.”

She revealed that the previous week she had been in the recording studio singing with Jeff Bridges (and, yes, she did a little swoon at the mention of his name) for his upcoming album. And she noted that the album was being recorded in analogue, rather than digitally.

On her songwriting inspirations: “There is no me without Bob Dylan. There is no modern songwriter without Dylan.”

She quoted Mike Doughty: “Twitter is boot camp for songwriters.” She also quoted both Thornton Wilder and Elvis Costello.

On the new music that she likes: “I’ve been listening to the Decemberists a lot lately, and a duo called the Civil Wars.”

She read from her introduction to “Composed“: “I have abandoned the reliance on external fact to support an individual truth, and everyone is entitled to his or her own.”

On the success of her recent Americana Award-winning album, “The List”: “It really shook me up. The biggest record I made in the last 20 years, and I didn’t write it. It’s all covers.”

She recommended Bill Flanagan’s latest novel, “Evening’s Empire.”

On her favorite of the songs that she’s written: “‘Sleeping in Paris’ is the hub at the center of my wheel. It connects my past, my present and my future. But if I had to pick just one, it might be ‘The World Unseen.'”

“Political correctness and branding are the death of art.”

On the importance of libraries: “Please help save the libraries for the geeks out there like me.”

And if you’d rather hear Rosanne Cash sing, you can do that, too. She’ll be stepping into the spotlight for a concert at MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center in North Adams at 8pm on Saturday, May 28. Tix are $35 and $39: kids under 16 $20.

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