Artist. Activist. Author. Rosanne Cash may have been born into American music royalty, but she’s never rested on her laurels, instead forging her own Grammy-winning path through the decades—and speaking her mind as she did. Taking the stage at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall this past April to promote her latest album She Remembers Everything—the acclaimed follow-up to her triple Grammy-winning masterpiece, The River and the Thread—the artist took a moment with SRQ to talk the draw of the studio, writing her first stage musical and what she’s learned from taking the long view.

What’s the story behind this latest album, She Remembers Everything?   Cash:  The last three albums I did were very much constructed around a theme—The River and the Thread being about the south, The List being the list of songs that my dad gave me (they were all covers), then Black Cadillac, which was really a map of mourning and about death and loss. Everybody was saying, “These are great. River and Thread was so successful. You should do another themed record.”

But you weren’t sure that’s what you wanted to do? I felt myself resisting that with all my might. I really wanted to return to personal songwriting and just write what my next 12 songs were, you know? I felt this sense of urgency about it, in fact. Women my age still have a lot to say and a lot less time to say it. I felt that if I were going to have any regrets about it, it would be about not saying these things. Sales and reviews be damned. It’s been gratifying that it has done well and that the themes aren’t off-putting.

What is that urgency? After The River and the Thread and three Grammys, you could have walked away. What keeps you coming back for another album?  That’s funny. I thought of that myself. It’s an engine that drives me. It’s like there’s not much choice involved here. It’s more who I am than what I do. If sometimes an outer voice comes in and says it’s ‘gracious’ to now move off the stage, then I remind myself of Leonard Cohen, who made one of the greatest albums of his life at the age of 80.

As the #MeToo Movement continues, what do you think is the next step?    I’m really encouraged by heightened awareness and by steps that certain parts of the industry are taking. There’s a campaign called Women in the Mix, which is devoted to getting more women producers and engineers work and notice, which I think is fantastic. But awareness is key.

What advice would you have for women starting out on their careers today?  To believe in their own agency and their own sense of authority. To not let what the men think is “the right way” co-opt their own intuition or instincts or power. We consciously and subconsciously defer to men, and women have very particular gifts at diplomacy, at organization, at creative thought. As long as we believe in our own sense of authority and agency, we can go a lot farther. It’s really a matter of owning your own power, your own sense of agency and taking the risk to speak up when it seems scary.