Billy Ray Cyrus Blends His Roots with Rap – The Village Voice

Steven J. Bradley
Yep, yep, we know. Say the words Bill, Ray and Cyrus and that song immediately blasts into your heed. The song that inspired the unwelcome ‘ 90s line dancing fad, with middle-aged couples all over America rushing out to buy a fedora and the pointiest of boots. But let ’ s dial back the snobbery a touch, because there ’ s a batch more to Cyrus than his aching breaky kernel .
On one hand, he ’ s the antithesis of alt-weekly polish. By the Voice of the Village, we shouldn ’ t be touching him with a fifty-foot barge pole. But that ’ s pretty much why the floor is appealing. Up until concluding year, Cyrus hasn ’ triiodothyronine been bothering the upper reaches of the mainstream charts for a while, and musically he went back to his down-to-earth, bluegrass roots with last year ’ sulfur The SnakeDoctor Circus album.

“ It was me going back to my roots of Muscle Shoals, the swampers, ” Cyrus says by phone. “ Muscle Shoals, Alabama is a Mecca for recording throughout the years. A lot of times it ’ s overlooked in the shadow of Nashville, New York, L.A., or Detroit. But a lot of that Detroit voice was coming out of Muscle Shoals. So for me to go back to the Shoals and play with some of the greatest musicians in the global was great. ”
One of those people is Vietnam veteran Don Von Tress, who actually co-wrote “ Achy Breaky Heart. ” Cyrus had written a birdcall called “ Some Gave All ” about veterans, and a adhere was formed. Von Tress had a birdcall then called “ Don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate Tell My Heart, ” and the remainder is history .
“ He thanked me for writing ‘ Some Gave All ’ and I thanked him for his service, ” Cyrus says. “ I asked him if he ever wondered if the name of the song is ‘ Achy Breaky Heart, ’ and he said ‘ Call it what you want to call it, equitable put it out. ’ We let her unaffixed. He joined the band and toured the universe with me for a good 10 years. He became my best supporter and my musical soulmate. We ended up writing a batch of songs that are more evocative of what you hear in SnakeDoctor Circus .
“ This is bet on in 1994. We wrote a song about child misuse, abuses of our club, called ‘ Enough is Enough ’ [ from the ’ 94 album Storm in the Heartland ]. It ’ mho about a daughter who was cruelly murdered in Kentucky, where I ’ meter from. When we got together and reconvened for SnakeDoctor Circus, we were writing in truth what we were writing then. The truth of what we ’ rhenium exist, and the intemperate realities. It was a broad circle consequence. ”
unfortunately, in some ways, SnakeDoctor Circus  was forced to take a backseat survive year, when Cyrus saw some unexpected success. A collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X on the song “ Old Town Road ” took off in a way that cipher saw coming. The sung rocketed up the charts and picked up a copulate of Grammys. And holy stool — Billy Ray Cyrus appeared at the BET Awards !

“ It was a wilderness ride, ” Cyrus says. “ I was sitting there in some ways derailed, put SnakeDoctor Circus on the backseat. It was set for release in May, and then early in March Lil Nas X contacted me to write and record a verse. I immediately fell in love with him and his story, standing up for an underdog. I felt like he was being a little bit mistreated in some circles and I asked myself, what would Johnny Cash do ? He would step up for this young man .
“ There are no lines and boxes in music. I told him to make his music, live like there is no box. I absorbed and learned that from Cash. He would write the poetry, sing the crap out of it, and stand up for this child. That ’ s what I did, and it took off. Within 14 days of record, it was released, shot to number one and stayed there for 19 weeks in a rowing. It was a wilderness ride. But the Snakedoctor Circus album got crusade way back and left in the dust of the horses running with ‘ Old Town Road. ’ That ’ s a price I had to pay. ”
A blend of hip-hop and state is, at least on the coat, incredibly difficult to pull off. Besides the obvious musical differences, one would expect that the herd are coming from different places .
“ It was dry that they added me to the read, ” Cyrus says. “ I was supposed to be the country component. But some of the stations said it didn ’ t have adequate elements of nation. Lil Nas had reached out to me before he had a record deal, trying to get the birdcall to me. He got signed to Columbia and the sung was moving but he was getting resistance at state [ radio ]. So they add me, and country completely bans the record. But the dependable news is rap, pop, every other genre took off with it. It didn ’ triiodothyronine matter to me — a hit ’ s a hit. The birdcall took on a liveliness of its own. I have no hard feelings towards area. It ’ randomness precisely the way the story goes. ”

This year, Cyrus releases a five-song EP called The Singin’ Hills Sessions — Mojave, recorded in the Mojave desert. Continuing with Cyrus ’ recent foray into rap territory, the EP features a cover charge of LL Cool J ’ s “ Mama Said Knock You Out. ”
“ Bootsy Collins is the co-writer on ‘ Mama Said Knock You Out ’, ” he says. “ I ’ ve been friends with Bootsy for going on 15 years. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife Patti, and I had been a big Parliament-Funkadelic fan. When ‘ Old Town Road ’ took off, Bootsy would reach out and say ‘ keep going. ’ I ’ m not doing this because of the success of ‘ Old Town Road, ’ it ’ second because this is who I am. I love the LL Cool J version .
“ He hit with that birdcall about simultaneously with when I hit with ‘ Achy Breaky Heart ’ in ’ 92. I think he came out in ’ 91, and I came out in February of ’ 92. It was that here and now, those early ’ 90s when people were in the climate to dancing. It was a natural paroxysm and a part of who I am. That ’ south partially of who I am, and it ’ s what Mojave is all about. My roots. ”
There ’ s a song on there called “ Ghost Dance ” which was written back in 1995, yet the song is the cornerstone of the EP. It sets the tone .
“ When I went to record ‘ Ghost Dance, ’ it was at a studio in Mojave Desert, ” he says. “ We spent 15-18 hours working. Back in the day I ’ d call it a marathon school term, which were my favorites. Record the song, sing it, do overdubs, harmonies, and mix it that night. We spent a day recording ‘ Ghost Dance, ’ and that night as we were standing in the sandpaper of the Mojave, they said see you late and I said adieu. then I said, you know what, I ’ thousand getting good at goodbyes .
“ Tyler Hilton from One Tree Hill, he played young Elvis in Walk the Line, he ’ s a talented musician. He said, we should write that. I started snapping my fingers and he started rolling on the banjo. I started singing. We wrote it standing there in the sand in a matter of minutes. It was very in the here and now, who we are going back to my roots of bluegrass, rock candy & roll, spiritual music. It ’ second got a short bit of a holy place roller sound to it. My grandfather was a pentecostal preacher. That song had that feel. It ’ mho one of those things. ”
so that ’ s where Billy Ray frickin ’ Cyrus is in 2020. A holy roller exploring his bluegrass roots, unashamed of his chart-topping past and dipping his feet into rap. His daughters, as we all know, are having fantastic success — liveliness is good. But at the same time, the earth is in a fix. All this is happening in the middle of a pandemic. Cyrus is hopeful .
“ My prayers are with the first responders and all those on the battlefront lines, ” he says. “ Their picture should be on the front man page. My thoughts and prayers are for their safety, their families. I pray that this vaccine and all variations work. I ’ molarity thinking very positively. I want everybody to be healed, I want the people to be healed, and by somewhere hopefully in the middle of 2021, we can all look up and say, ‘ We can go to concerts again. ’ Feel the celebration of dancing with each other .
“ It may take a fiddling longer than that, but I ’ molarity hop that somewhere by the end of 2021 what we once considered normal can come back and this iniquity will be lifted. We ’ ll say that we made it through something truly tough, and I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate think we ’ ll always take for granted what we once knew as normal. Be stronger and fresh as a people. All look at this moment and go, ‘ We survived ! ’ ” ❖

Billy Ray Cyrus’  The Singin ’ Hill Sessions — Mojave  EP is out now.

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