Billy Ray Credits Johnny Cash With Inspiration for New Album

Handwritten letter helps him through rough times

Billy Ray Cyrus by Melanie Swerdan for Blue Cadillac Music/SweetTalk Publicity

Billy Ray Cyrus gives credit to Johnny Cash for a fair share of the inspiration that helped him write Change My Mind, his new album that will be released Oct. 23.

As fans know, in 1992 Billy Ray received a handwritten letter from the Man in Black. Even though Billy Ray’s single “Achy Breaky Heart” from his Some Gave All album, topped the charts for weeks and went platinum, critics still mocked the song and its pop flavor. In the letter, Johnny Cash not only wrote encouragingly of Billy Ray’s talent but also urged him to trust in Almighty God for bright days ahead. “I always feel like Johnny Cash is not very far away from me,” said Billy Ray talking about how the legend’s words including “I’m in your corner” have helped him through many rough times. “I always keep a little bit of that inspiration close to me, inside of me.”

Words of support from Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Carl Perkins, and Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King, who wrote “Sweet Home Alabama,” also helped Billy Ray move beyond his personal turmoil and toward the songs on Change My Mind. “What I was really trying to do was make an album that reflected all my roots and the musicians and singer/songwriters that impacted my life. Those influences are really a big part of who I am.”

For all the fame and controversy that has surrounded Billy Ray and his family, including daughter Miley Cyrus, he said he is still the same struggling musician who lived in his car and dreamt of breaking into the big-time himself. The sonic tales of his musical idols, many of which became his friends, cemented his musical passion.

But what of the 2011 statement he made saying he was ready to retire from music? “You know what, I wasn’t serious,” he tell Country Weekly. “Honestly, at the time I said it, I was writing these songs. I didn’t even believe it myself when I said I was going to quit. I am a singer and songwriter and as long as I’m alive I’ll be singing and recording records.”

For more on Billy Ray Cyrus pick up the Oct. 29 issue of Country Weekly on stands Oct. 22.

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