Alumna Ana Cristina Cash ’10 released her new album, “The Tough Love EP,” this month, recorded at the historic Cash Cabin Studio.
A Miami native, Cash (née Alvarez) began her singing career at age 6 and grew up performing on Univision’s Spanish-language variety show “Sábado Gigante.”
The daughter of an engineer and a stay-at-home mom who emigrated from Cuba in the 1960s, Cash did not come from a musically inclined background. But she remembers singing along to movies like “Annie” and “Beauty and the Beast” as a child – the earliest evidence of the talent that would develop into her lifelong passion for music.
“My grandma would comment I could sing all the notes,” Cash said, “and teachers started to notice I could sing, too.”
Soon Cash was singing at church and performing at teachers’ weddings. She joined the choir at her Catholic school, where the priest often pulled her out of class to sing Shubert’s “Ave Maria” at funerals. She developed a broad vocal range and can reach the highest register of the human voice, known as the “whistle register.”
Throughout her adult career, Cash has worked with prominent figures in the music industry. Formerly signed to the Latin division at Sony, she released her first album, “Ana Cristina,” at age 16. At Sony, she worked with Emilio Estefan, exploring the Latin genre.
At 19, she became the first Hispanic to sing the national anthem at a presidential inauguration, performing for former President George W. Bush. During Hispanic Heritage Month in 2006, she sang at the White House for the president, the crowned prince of Spain and other world leaders.
“The Tough Love EP” was produced by Cash’s husband, John Carter Cash, a producer of five Grammy-winning records and the son of American music icons Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Ana Cristina and John Carter were married in October 2016.
“‘Tough Love’ has a message of empowerment,” Cash said, noting the album’s “very feminist” undertones. “It’s really about not taking anything less than what you deserve in a relationship.”
Her songs, which feature co-writing by famous songwriters like Shawn Camp and Jodi Marr, discuss domestic abuse, equality in relationships and working hard to achieve your dreams.
“I love the songwriting process. It’s poetry with music,” Cash said. “I love to create something new that speaks to me and that helps other people, that they can relate to, and I love working with musicians to create something tangible.”
The album is inspired by Cash’s experience singing in dive bars and blues clubs in Los Angeles and Nashville, where she realized the blues and soul were the best fit for her voice.
“It has Americana, country, blues and rockabilly all mixed in.”
It also features Cash’s cover of John Anderson’s “Seminole Wind,” a 1992 song about the tribulations of the Seminole tribe.
“I’m happy to sing a song that ties to my Florida roots,” she said.
At FIU, Cash studied journalism. Though she remained in the music business after earning a bachelor’s degree in 2010, studying news writing proved invaluable to her career as a songwriter.
“My love for words has always been there, and FIU really sharpened my communication skills,” Cash said, adding that keeping abreast of current events is important in music. “As a songwriter, you have to know what’s going on. I’m a big observer of the world around me.”
Journalism Professor Neil Reisner mentored Cash, challenging her to hone her writing skills and advocating for her career as a singer.
“He always appreciated my music ability and encouraged that,” Cash said. “He got us into politics and current events. My eyes were opened.”
Reisner remembers Cash well: “She was a talented journalist, who brought a lot of passion to class. But I knew then that she pined for a career in the music business. And, I also knew she had the talent to succeed. I’m delighted that she proved me right, and I’m proud to have played a part, however small.”
Cash said she is proud to call FIU her alma mater.
“It was a huge part of my life. I lived in Kendall and drove up to North campus for class,” she said, reflecting on an experience shared by many students whose classes take place at the Biscayne Bay Campus. “I have very fond memories of that time.”
Cash is expected to release her full-length album this summer. For more information on the EP, click here.