Ana Cristina Cash has walked many different paths in her lifetime. The Miami-born singer was raised in a bilingual household as the daughter of Cuban immigrants who fled the country to build a better life for themselves in America, their courage instilling her with a tireless work ethic and sense of passion that she’s carried into her artistry.
Now based in Nashville with her husband John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Ana Cristina is poised to make a name for herself in Music City. In this edition of Female Friday, Ana Cristina offers insight into the three cities she’s called home, why being bilingual is integral to her artistic career and her new album Shine.
When did you realize you had a passion for music and wanted to make it a career?
I always had an affinity for anything that was musical theater-oriented or television musicals as a kid. Really my passion for singing started in church and school. I started learning songs and the teachers would take me around different classrooms to sing for kids. And then I was a part of the longest running variety show called Sabado Gigante, which was on the Univision network. From the span of the age of six to 13, I would appear on the show. I’d do little kid musical numbers and all of this is in Spanish because I grew up in Miami in a bilingual household. A lot of the media opportunities were in the Spanish language and they broadcast it to Latin America and a lot of the U.S. Spanish speaking cities.
I was offered a record deal at the age of 15 and signed it once I turned 16. It was an incredible early experience because from there, I was put in the studio with Grammy Award-winning professionals. The first record I ever did was titled Ana Cristina and it was in the Spanish language and it was pop ballads and up-tempo pop in Español. I had the opportunity to really work in the Latin music industry and do promo tours in Mexico and Puerto Rico and different places, so it was great.
From there, I had another fortuitous circumstance where my recording of “The Star Spangled Banner” got into the hands of the Florida governor at the time and I was asked to sing at the continental ball for the presidential inauguration in 2005. I was the first Hispanic person in history to perform “The Star Spangled Banner” at a presidential inauguration during that time, so that was a major event. The following year, I was invited to sing at the White House. I was introduced by the president and I got to sing three songs at the White House for Hispanic Heritage Week, which was probably one of the highlights of my performance career.
I moved from Miami to Los Angeles in 2010. I had a group of friends that were extremely artistic and I would go from show to show watching friends perform and drew so much inspiration from that time period in my life. I have such a convoluted story, [I’ve] lived in three different places and they really do shape who I am as an artist.
What have been the biggest lessons that you’ve learned in Miami, LA and Nashville?
My parents are Cuban immigrants that migrated in the sixties, so I grew up in a bilingual household. As soon as the country became communist, they had to leave all of their possessions behind. They came to the U.S. with little to no possessions and built a life for themselves, my dad built a business. I would say from my family influencing in Miami, I learned work ethic from my parents who had a very tumultuous time when they moved to a different country. So that spark being the child of immigrants was always there to work hard. Plus, I was surrounded by Latin culture. I learned to sing in Spanish and English in Miami. When I moved to Los Angeles, my songwriting craft expanded even more making friends with so many different writers and performers and living the life of an artist while being out there and being very open.
Luckily when I needed work out in Los Angeles or in Miami after I was making it as an independent artist, I’d be hired a lot by people looking to create bilingual game apps and demo recordings or record labels would hire me to translate things in Spanish for their artists. I feel like I got a lot of those jobs because of my ability to speak both languages, so it’s helped me tremendously in so many different ways. Growing up in a bilingual household was amazing.
What was it like working on your new album, Shine?
My husband, John Carter Cash, produced Shine and so many great musicians worked on this. I got to collaborate with so many great songwriters. This record I would say is the most collaborative as far as English goes songwriting wise. I had a lot more collaborators, which was fun because it’s the Nashville way. It was kind of like a social experiment for me to get out of my own head and collaborate in a very friendly way with folks, which was cool, and Nashville is very welcoming in that sense.
“Broken Roses” was the first single off Shine and a song that I wanted to put out first because I wanted to relay a message about mental health and helping to break the stigma of mental health issues and substance abuse. The video is a very realistic portrayal of a love relationship that deteriorates because of one partner’s mental health declining. It’s not easy to watch, but it’s a very real take on it that I hope is cathartic, and at the end does give hope.
What have you learned about songwriting and collaboration in Nashville?
It’s always a learning experience. I love the songwriting craft, I consider myself an eternal student. I learned that I don’t have it all figured out. I learned that I will always be inspired and influenced by something new; therefore my music will always change. I think being very open to change is important, being open to ideas of other collaborators and not shutting something down because of ego. If you don’t like something particularly, I think it’s important to be very polite and be like ‘I don’t think this is really working for me right now. I don’t think I’m feeling this.’ But I think you have to respect people’s inspiration also.
Now that you’re in Nashville and have all these different influences throughout your life, what do you hope to bring to country music?
A lot of honest songwriting. Because I grew up in such a diverse world where I have lived in these three different cities, I feel like a piece of each of those places have come with me to Nashville. I have plans to record some of these songs that have a country-pop vibe in Spanish as well, so I hope to continue with a bilingual career.