Billy Ray Cyrus: Comin’ Back Home

Billy Ray Cyrus opens up about family, his country roots and returning to Tennessee to shoot the new Hannah Montana movie.

During a break in the recording studio not long ago, Billy Ray Cyrus chatted with Country Weekly about his new Back to Tennessee CD and a lot of other career and family topics. Here’s some of what Billy Ray had to say.

For more from Thom, check out the April 6 issue of Country Weekly.

CW
I really like the new album, and the title track in particular.
BRC
And the title track of Back to Tennessee is a direct [result] of the fact that I had read the script, it was all about goin’ Back to Tennessee. In my real life, as Billy Ray Cyrus, I was longing to go Back to Tennessee, longing to get in a studio in Nashville, longing to pour out my emotions that had built up in these last three years onto the tape and make a record. I wanted to go in and make some music and be real. And all these emotions really led up to the perfect storm, if you will, of the emotion that you feel when you hear the album Back to Tennessee . . . it’s very real.
CW
I love it . . . love it.
BRC
Tell me about it if you don’t mind, ‘cause you’re the first person I’ve spoke to that’s really heard the record. What was your favorite track on the album?
CW
I think it may be, “Love is the Lesson.”
BRC
Oh my goodness! Isn’t that a killer tune!
CW
It just knocked me out . . . the sentiment of it, the lines, like “stuck in this automobile, tryin’ to get through the eye of a needle.”
BRC
No, man! Rivers Rutherford. Honorable mention to Rivers Rutherford, he wrote that song.
CW
I love “Give it to Somebody” . . . gorgeous. I love the sentiment . . . and the organ . . . and I love “Country As Country Can Be.”
BRC
Did you know I wrote that with my little brother? I’ve got a brother named Nick, and he’s been around Nashville a lot. He and I were sittin’ up by the fire right before I was gettin’ ready to go in the studio and I’d just came out of Hollyweird to go in there and make this record. And I was just tellin’ him how great it felt to be back in Tennessee and how much I loved and missed the land and the music. And we were talkin’ about NASCAR. And we were both talkin’ about how much we still love Dale Earnhardt. And my brother looked up and said, “I ain’t apologizin’ for it, man. I’m just as country as country can be.” And I snapped my finger and said, “Country as country can be. I need to write that before I go to make this record tomorrow.” And low and behold I sat down that night and got a good start on it. And the next morning I finished it over coffee. Then the next morning I called Casey Beathard, who wrote “Ready, Set Don’t Go” with me. So Casey comes over to the house and he puts the icing on the cake. And I went in and cut it like two days later.
It’s really the way Nashville used to be, when artists were absolutely living what they were singing and singin’ what they were living. And it developed in front of society because it was real. And that’s what this record, Back to Tennessee, is. For better or for worse, it’s my life. And I’m wearin’ my emotions on my sleeve.
CW
What was it like shooting the movie back here at home?
BRC
It was an experience. It was something I had to fight for, but I’ve always found that the best things in life are the things that you really do have to fight for. I believed in Tennessee, I believed in the manpower of Tennessee. I certainly believed in the topography. As I read the script, I’m goin’, “Wait a minute. That’s in Leiper’s Fork. And that’s in Columbia. And that’s over in Franklin.” And I just said, “Man everything that happens in this movie is within an 8-mile radius of my house. And I wasn’t bein’ lazy sayin’ that . . . that’s the way it was. And back when I was doin’ Doc, I was tryin’ to move my production of Doc to Nashville. And I spent two years doin’ that and, unfortunately, they never could quite match the Canadian dollar. And so after four years, I left Doc . . . partially because they couldn’t move it to Nashville. They say, with every adversity lies the seed to something greater. And even though I didn’t get that production done at that time, what I did achieve was all the contacts through the film commission, through the government, through the labor unions. I had established those relationships, and when this deal came up with Disney and I shot ‘em some pictures, I said, “Here’s your locations right here. You don’t need to go to Louisiana. The movie’s right here in Tennessee, which is what the script’s written about.”
And I also knew that it was about Miley comin’ home and that she and I would be more realistic if she and I really were comin’ home. So Disney looked at the pictures and said, “Well, you’re right. But can they match the incentives of Louisiana?” And that’s when those connections and relationships that my accountant Jim Humphries had established paid off. He knew how to reach out to those people and say, “Guys, here’s what you’ve got to come up to to earn this business from Disney.” And I’ll tell you the truth, the state of Tennessee not only stepped up to the plate, when you see the film . . . and I probably better leave you on this . . . but when you see the film, you will absolutely say, “The star of the film is the state of Tennessee.” Absolutely sells itself. It’s amazing. And I think this could really be very positive for a lot of folks who are lookin’ for work right now. The showcase of the state of Tennessee in this film is nothing short of incredible. I can’t wait for you to see it.

For more from Billy Ray, check out the April 6 issue of Country Weekly.

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