Your Country's Right Here: Billy Ray Cyrus Gets Back to Basics

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Billy Ray Cyrus goes back to basics on his latest album Change My Mind”and it sounds so good.

The title song, inspired by his decision to end divorce proceedings and reunite with his wife, is one of nine tunes that mixes bluegrass, roots, southern rock, gospel and country music for a distinctive sound. Those that only know Cyrus from his work with daughter Miley on the Disney show Hannah Montana, may find the gritty sound surprising, but Cyrus said it’s his true musical voice.

“I’m very proud of this album,” said Cyrus who wrote or co-wrote every song on the album. “This is really who I am. When I grew up and listened to country music, this was the music I wanted to make.”

Cyrus talked about his life as a young singer-songwriter, living in his car and hoping for his big break. Yet when his single Achy Breaky Heart from his 1992 album Some Gave All album topped Billboard charts for weeks and went 9x-platinum, it was a double-edged sword. Cyrus was bashed by critics even as sales soared and the album stayed at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 chart for 17 weeks in a row and became the best-selling debut album of all time by a male solo artist.

The new album’s title track and lead single is just the warm up for the 10-song collection.

As he discussed writing the music for the album, he said he likely couldn’t have done so without a bit of inspiration from one of his musical heroes, Johnny Cash.

Back when Cyrus was bashed by critics for “Achy Breaky Heart,” the Man in Black sent him a handwritten letter. The letter not only praised Cyrus, but encouraged him to turn to God for encouragement and carry on with his music. Just as the letter got Cyrus through those dark days after his debut, it helped him again find his way through more recent challenges and conflicts.

“That letter means the world to me,” said Cyrus. “It felt like Johnny Cash was talking to me.”

And the album is only part of the major news from Cyrus. He’s also in a Broadway production of Chicago playing the lawyer Billy Flynn. The attorney was played by Richard Gere in the highly acclaimed film adaptation that includes songs such as “All That Jazz.”

Cyrus is no stranger to jazz and blues, either. He was actually discovered at the Ragtime Lounge in Huntington, W.Va. playing songs from that format.

Although Cyrus’s sound may be difficult to categorize his music’s origins, and arguably his passionate performances of all songs, remain constants.

My songs come to me when I’m dealing with heavy stuff, he said. If I’m going through something emotional, the songs pour out of me. It’s the only way I know how to express myself. I have lived through every emotion on every one of these songs. I’d just write it all down and tell myself, ˜Lean into the music.’

Find out more about Billy Ray Cyrus on his official website.