To say a lot had to happen in order for Ana Cash to write, record and release her latest record, Shine (out April 24), is an understatement. The number of proverbial dominos that had to line up and then fall down for the 12-song LP to see the light of day is staggering. Whether talking about her parents’ immigration from Communist Cuba decades ago, her good fortune to land on a Spanish-language TV show or her chance meeting with her soon-to-be husband, John, in an L.A. bar one night, Cash’s story is almost too wild to tell.
Raised in Miami, Cash, who was born Ana Cristina, knew by the age of six she wanted to sing and perform. Watching Disney movies and daytime television with her grandmother, Cash was inspired one afternoon to contact the popular local program, Sábado Gigante, for a tryout. Her mother called and, as luck would have it, she passed the audition. She would go on to perform regularly on the show for the next eight years. At 15, she signed with Sony Music’s Latin division and began recording songs.
“I would say I had a pretty normal childhood despite appearing on these programs,” Cash says. “In school, the other kids would say they saw me when they were watching TV with their grandparents. They would either be really positive or, like, mad at me and walk away.”
But before all that, Cash’s parents arrived in the United States from a country with an erratic and often dangerous dictator. Cash says her parents made it from Cuba to the U.S. through a church program. They arrived in the country with little-to-no possessions, first her father and then her mother. Cash’s father went on to open an air conditioning company with his brother. He raised his family, happy and fortunate to be away from their sordid homeland.
“My dad studied engineering and started his own company,” says Cash, who also boasts a journalism degree. “My mom worked as a teacher. Through their example, I was shown what it was like to create something out of nothing. It takes passion. You have to just go for it.”
Later, Cash found herself in Los Angeles, trying to breathe more life into a music career. She’d performed larger gigs, sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at sports stadiums and, in 2017, released The Tough Love Ep. The record played on the darker side of the sonic spectrum, she says. It was much different than Shine. But before she could produce her new LP, she had to meet her future husband, which she did one night at a bar. After ordering a glass of wine at her favorite local, a man sat beside her and started talking. They talked for hours and months later, they wed.
“He was there with his friends two barstools away,” Cash says. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I just wanted my one drink and to go home. But he sat down next to me and we talked for five hours. He got my number and we started texting. Nine months later, he asked me out to dinner. It was a real Gwyneth Paltrow Sliding Doors moment.”
Cash’s husband is John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter, two of country music’s most esteemed royalty. Now married, the two live in Nashville, where Ana wrote and recorded many of the songs that appear on her forthcoming full-length record. She worked with her husband on the album, along with a handful of co-writers and musicians, to create a lively work that draws from Americana, the blues, rock and country music.
One of the standout tracks on Shine is the song, “Brand New Pair Of Shoes,” the lyrics for which were written by Johnny Cash but are arranged and sung on Shine by Ana. She sings over a jaunty, ragtime-inspired piano bolstered by muted horns and a swishing drum beat. The track will appear both on Shine and an upcoming collection of Johnny Cash’s songs and prose called, Forever Words 2.
“I kept all the lyrics exactly the same,” Cash says. “When I got them, I sat alone with them. I thought, ‘What is calling to me with this song?’ And it hit me. I knew I needed to write a jazz song, something with a jazz melody. So, I got on piano and made it into a barroom jazz song.”
For someone connected to and intertwined with music ever since she can remember, Cash’s focused – if not tumultuous – life has brought her to this moment of achievement. Whereas past work, she says, was rooted in bleaker thoughts and inspirations, Shine is more positive. It bounces. Cash is finally working under the right conditions for her art to, well, shine. All it took was a glass of wine and a circuitous route from Miami to Los Angeles to Nashville.
“I love music for that reason,” Cash says. “I feel like it doesn’t have any boundaries. At any time, I can be this type or artist or that type of artist. I identify with different worlds, that makes me who I am.”