John Carter Cash Reflects on the Meaning of Country Music

As the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter, John Carter Cash knows country music when he hears it, though that doesn't happen as often as it used to in today's musical climate.

Speaking to recently, the musician explained that he feels what's known as popular country music today could be classified in a different way, though that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"It's just national," he said. "A lot of it — I wouldn't say all of it because you can't generalize it — but a lot of it is national pop. It's just national music. And that's fine. In particular, the pop music of the Southern states, we could say."

To Carter Cash, country music evokes a vivid picture, something he shared no longer exists in the same way it once did.

"Country music used to mean that you grew up working hard in the field and you went home Saturday and Sunday nights and listened to Herb Sitter on the radio and listened to the radio shows and dreamed of sounding like that," the 48-year-old shared. "And you lived in a rural community and you didn't own a cowboy hat. You worked too hard to have one. So that's what country music was, it's just not that anymore."

Carter Cash acknowledged that the current iteration of country music allows artists to straddle genre lines, something he noted he himself might do with an upcoming short film.

"The world we live in, you can cross lines," he said. "I'm not too worried about it."

In April, Carter Cash released his album We Must Believe in Magic, which he calls "a catalog of my life's music through a decade or so."

"I see no restrictions or boundaries," he said. "I've got traditional gospel songs on there and I've got story songs and tragedies, murder ballads, love songs."

The album also includes the song "Hurt," which was previously recorded by Carter Cash's father. Speaking about his dad, the musician reflected that he's "not going to sound like Johnny Cash — it would sound a little strange if I did," but that his father's influence can be felt in his work.

"He saw no restrictions to his creativity," Carter Cash explained. "He felt free to follow his heart and he told me, 'You have a gift.'"


"My dad's there," he added. "And he's watching over it, he's always a part of it. I believed in him and he believed in me. So it's all part of the process."

Photo Credit: Getty / Charley Gallay/ACMA2013