NYCountry Swag – Stories Behind the Greats: Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

Country music is a genre that has a wide variety of singers and songwriters, and everything in between. With so much new talent in the industry, it is hard to forget the people that have made the genre what it is today. In all our interviews with artists, one thing has been consistent across the board, the influence that old-school artists have had on their musical journey. Johnny Cash is one of those artists who has transcended generations and continues to influence singers and songwriters today.

Although renowned as a platinum-selling singer-songwriter, Cash was also a military veteran. He served four years in the United States Air Force, where he worked as a Morse Code Intercept Operator, mostly intercepting Soviet Army transmissions. Interestingly enough, the singer was the first person to report on Society Union dictator, Joseph Stalin’s death.

During his time stationed in Germany, as many of us do during hard times, Cash turned to music as a way to escape. He bought his first guitar for $5 at a local pawn shop and created his first band while in the military. The band was called ‘The Landsberg Barbarians.’ He would write and record songs with a tape recorder and even played at local bars and other venues with his three-man band.

In 1954, Cash was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant, and he subsequently moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he was staying to be a radio announcer. As fate would have it, the entertainer would become a profound singer-songwriter, and arguably one of the best; despite, his initial career path.

One of Cash’s most popular and famous songs “Folsom Prison Blues” was released in 1955, but written in 1953 during his time in the service. Inspired by the motion picture Inside the Walls of Folson Prison, the record went on to win Cash a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance and a #4 slot on the charts. When the live recording was released in 1968, the song snagged the number one spot.

To learn more about Cash, his music, and his time in the service, consider visiting Nashville’s iconic Johnny Cash Museum when it re-opens. Head to for more information.



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Sheryl Crow Releases Johnny Cash Duet “Redemption Day”

Sheryl Crow Redemption Day

Photo Credit: Kharen Hill

Nine-time Grammy award winner Sheryl Crow duets with the late, great, Johnny Cash on her newest release of “Redemption Day.” The track originally appeared on her Grammy-winning, triple-platinum self-titled album in 1996. The new take on the song as a duet is the lead single from her forthcoming album slated for late summer this year.

The inspiration behind the writing of this song was when Crow visited Bosnia with then-First Lady Hilary Clinton. “I’d never been anywhere even close to a war-torn area,” Crow expresses in a recent press release. She visited military bases and even played for troops while there, but when she returned home, the news was covering the devastating genocide that was taking place in Rwanda. This lead to the writing of such an eye-opening song about the motivation and reality of war.

In 2003, Cash took a strong liking to the song and wanted to record it himself. “He asked a lot of questions about different lines and what I meant,” she recalls in a recent press release. “He didn’t want to put his voice to the song without being able to believe it, heart and soul.” Cash’s version of the song was intended to be the key track for his next album, but he died later that year. The song didn’t see the light of day until 2010 when posthumous American VI: Ain’t No Grave was released.

Crow also released the chilling music video for the song earlier last week during an event at the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee. The music video shows the singer on the piano in a beautiful field which is quite the contrast to the images of past horrific moments in history that flash across the screen. The visual features archived videos of Cash himself. A stand-out scene is a young boy who serves as the portrayal of all children. He’s watching the harrowing news on the television while trying to understand what’s happening himself.

Cash is one of several duet partners featured on Crow’s forthcoming album. Additional collaborations include Keith Richards, Stevie Nicks, and St. Vincent. Fans can catch Crow this summer at Pier 17 on July 28th and at Bethel Woods Center For The Arts on July 29th. For tickets click here.

To keep up with Sheryl Crow, follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

“Redemption Day” is now available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music here on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.

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NYCS Swag Spotlight: Ana Cristina Cash

Ana Cristina Cash

Born and raised in Miami, our Swag Spotlight this week, Ana Cristina Cash grew up listening to music in English and Spanish which shaped her artistry from a very young age.  Her parents moved to Florida from Cuba in the 1960s and were avid music lovers.  She tells New York Country Swag in a recent interview that her first concert was Gloria Estefan and she loved watching her perform live.

Her influences throughout her childhood included Barbara Streisand, The Carpenters, and even Madonna.  She recalls her sisters having friends over and watching them make up dances to Michael Jackson songs, all the while curating a love for all kinds of music being instilled in her.  “As I started growing into my own, I was heavily influenced by Jazz singers and country music singers,” Cash explains.  “Etta James, Patsy Cline, Leann Rimes, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain,  their voices and their stories were huge influences on me.”

Cash was fluent in Spanish and English as a child and now she always goes back to her roots when making decisions about her musical career. As a child, she performed on the longest running variety show, “Sábado Gigante”, which she explains was like The Mickey Mouse Club but in Spanish.  That experience gave her the chance to work with professionals in the business very early on. “I began singing demos of popular songs and dabbled in writing when I was 13, 14, 15 years old. My demos were brought to an A&R person at Sony Music Latin who’s offices were in Miami and they offered me a job as an artist,” Cash tells us. She learned as a teenager the ins and outs of the industry, setting her up for a long career as a bilingual singer.

She met her husband John Carter Cash, the son of June Carter and Johnny Cash in a hotel in LA, they quickly became friends and it took John nine months to ask her out on a date. “We were drawn to each other and our mutual interests. We are a lot alike even though we come from two totally different worlds, me being from Miami and him being a Tennessee boy, we are so much alike, you would think we were cut from the same cloth,” she lovingly says. She admits that growing up in Miami without the ability to stream music on the internet, she had never really heard any of his father’s classic hits but now has a great appreciation for not only the way his father shaped country music but his mother as well. “It is great to be a part of a musical family, to have the inspiration. Now, I have nieces and nephews that sing and play instruments,” she tells us. John is a product of both parents being in the music industry, now their child, a 13-month-old baby girl is a product of both parents being in the music industry as well. “She’s very musical, I was 9 months pregnant and still performing.”

She prides herself on creating a country fusion sound mixed with blues and most recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of recording a Christmas album. “I always admired classic traditional Christmas songs and it is something I thought about doing for a long long time and I’m so blessed to be able to have done it,” Cash says.  She worked with her husband over the course of several years, recording My Christmas Collection at the Cash Cabin Studios.  The album features her versions of the classic holiday songs including “O Holy Night”, “Santa Baby” and of course “The Christmas Song”.  She and her husband perform a duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” as well as an original song that they penned together, “Santa Claus is Real”. “I love Christmas songs, I listen the entire year, not just during the season. I love the warmth that those songs inspire and how they make you feel and remind you of family and a joyful time in your life, I wanted something that sparked that joy,” she says of the album. She even sings one verse of “Silent Night” in Spanish, speaking to her bilingual fans and resonating with her culture.  The entire project has a very old-timey sound, channeling the greats of the past who have put their mark on the Christmas season by recording the classic holiday hits. Take a listen to My Christmas Collection below.

Looking ahead to the new year, she plans on releasing a full-length album of original songs which was produced by her husband John.  For all upcoming announcements and news follow Ana Cristina on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



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NYCS Swag Spotlight Featuring Matt Stell

Matt Stell

Matt Stell, our Swag Spotlight for the week was born in Central Arkansas and now lives in Nashville.  His passion is writing and performing, but it wasn’t always the obvious choice for his career path. After moving to Nashville and trying his hand at being a professional songwriter and artist, he had taken a medical missions trip to Haiti and saw how the doctors and nurses were able to change people’s lives drastically. After returning home, Stell decided to turn down a pre-medical program acceptance at Harvard Law to stay in Nashville and change people’s lives with his music.  We discussed how that trip changed his life in so many ways. “Well, you can’t go there without having that place have a profound effect on your life,” Stell says.  “It took only a few hours to get there and it may as well have been on a different planet.”  He came home with a serious gratitude for the way we are able to live and for the ability to make a living doing what he loves.

Stell recalls listening to traditional country music with his Granddad growing up, like Johnny Cash and Ernest Tubbs while his mother was a big fan of Allison Krauss and Bonnie Raitt. “My generation has access to music in a different way than generations before us, so I’ve always had an affinity for all different kinds of music, for rock music, rap music, you name it,” he tells us. He brings those influences into his music today.

The latest project Stell released back in March is a six-song EP titled The Last of the Best and he either co-wrote or wrote by himself each of the tracks on the project. “I enjoy the writing, I get to do it every day. I love playing and writing music and I don’t know which one I love more,” he says. When picking songs for the album, Stell explains he is so glad to have a team around him who understands his goals for his music. “We keep the live show in mind quite a bit, I wanted to make sure that if someone heard the EP, they would want to come to see me perform those songs live.”

The debut single from the EP, “Prayed For You” has already garnered over 2 million streams on Spotify and the video which features reality star Savannah Chrisley has almost 200k views on YouTube. The love song about perseverance and holding out for a real love has resonated with fans and Stell is so proud of it. He has had people reach out and tell him what the song has meant to them, people are dancing to it at their weddings and finding solace in the pay off of waiting for the real thing.

On the schedule, Stell has shows coming up all over the country for the remainder of the year. Make sure to follow his continued journey on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


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Franke Ballard Brooklyn Bowl

Frankie Ballard & The Wildcat Band Perform at Brooklyn Bowl

Franke Ballard

Brooklyn Bowl, a bowling alley, and venue hosted Frankie Ballard last night.  Ballard sang songs off of both of his albums, Sunshine and Whiskey and El Rio and played crowd favorite covers from his heroes.  Opening his set with his smash hit “Young and Crazy” then going right into “Little Bit of Both” off his latest record the Michigan native toggles between old and new music.  His latest 11 song EP fuses country with rock and roll, soul and blues together, taking fans on a musical journey of the artist’s life.

Ballard, who’s perfectly coiffed hair and leather jacket fit in with his old school vibes asked the crowd if they were ready for a little Johnny Cash before covering “Big River” and then did his own mashup of Elvis’ “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel”, complete with the signature hip swings.

Frankie Ballard

Entertaining the crowd during his 75-minute set, Ballard slowed things down to chat with the audience, “I always dreamed of playing in the big city so tonight, on a Wednesday night to come on this stage and see all of your beautiful faces means the world to me.” Ballard closed out the night with his smash hit “Sunshine & Whiskey” and his cover of Bob Segers’ “You’ll Accomp’ny Me”.

For the full list of tour dates click here.

NYCS Frankie Ballard

Our favorite part of the show?
Spotting this fan rocking our Red Line Snapback in the audience!
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– Team NYCountry Swag