Billy Ray Cyrus While preparing to play the role of a widower raising three children in his Hallmark Channel movie 'Christmas in Canaan,' Billy Ray Cyrus was swamped with tender memories of his own beloved father, former Kentucky legislator Ron Cyrus, who succumbed to lung cancer in 2006.

"I realized I just grew into my dad, to be honest," Billy Ray reflects softly.

The actor/singer took a trip down memory lane to prep for the film, looking through old photographs from his childhood.

"I started digging through the old boxes of stuff and finding old Polaroids of my dad from 1964," he recalls. "I thought, if I can become my dad -- if I can be Ronald Ray Cyrus in 1964 -- then that's this guy. Just go be your dad."

Taking it an emotional step deeper, Billy Ray even had his long hair cut short, so he could not only look like his dad, but feel like him.

In the movie, Billy Ray plays the part of Daniel Burton, a widowed father of three, living in Canaan, Texas at the start of the civil rights movement. In the story, his character says four times, "We'll get by somehow -- we always do." That line touched a chord of truth deep in Billy Ray's own heart, as he has seemingly always had to deal with media criticism throughout his career. That feeling -- and hearing a guitarist strumming a Texas-sounding tune on his tour bus one day -- inspired Billy Ray to write and record a song of the same title for the movie.

"As I got my guitar out of the case, he was playing that lick, and I just started singing, 'We'll get by somehow, we always do,'" Billy Ray remembers. 'That's what makes a hope turn into truth. When the chips are down, we'll see it through. We'll get by somehow, oh yeah, we always do.'

"I write about what is real. I write about what I'm living," he continues. 'We'll get by somehow, we always do ...' That's not only Daniel's mantra, that is my mantra. The second you realize that life ain't fair, you're one step closer to moving on ... But most importantly, have a vision of where you want to go and who you want to be, and no matter what the naysayers say, or no matter the negativity, you stay focused."

'Christmas in Canaan' was based on a novel co-written by Kenny Rogers, and will be playing on the Hallmark Channel through the end of December. Billy Ray's next film, 'The Spy Next Door' is due out in January.