Billy Ray Cyrus: ‘If My Story’s Gonna Be Told … I Gotta Tell It Myself’
If you're at a Katy Perry concert, the last thing you'd probably expect is an appearance from Billy Ray Cyrus. And now that you've read that sentence, you're probably wondering how a cameo from the "Achy Breaky Heart" singer would fare with a young crowd of pop music enthusiasts. According to Cyrus, it's a perfect match.
Cyrus didn't just crash one of Perry's concerts, though: His daughter, Noah Cyrus, was recently performing as the opening act on Perry's Witness: The Tour, and one night, she invited her dad to share the stage.
"She gave this old man a chance to jump up there and rock," Cyrus tells The Boot. "It’s so fun for me to be able to jump out there and play for those kids. Kids love to rock."
Yes, he performed "Achy Breaky Heart" -- and, yes, the crowds knew the song.
"They not only know it, they light up," Cyrus adds. "They sing, they dance, they do exactly what that song was made to do. It’s universal; it brings people together. People just bond over it. It’s a bridge, not a wall."
The partnership between father and daughter extends beyond a few surprise appearances on the road. Noah Cyrus is also be featured on a track on her father's new album, Set the Record Straight; it's a cover of Don Williams' "Tulsa Time." In fact, the elder Cyrus credits his daughter with pushing for the dance remix of the song that the album includes.
"My hat’s off again to Noah. She was the one that hung in there with it and said, 'Dad, I just love that dance mix of "Tulsa Time." She ... was locked into performing it with me on the record before the legend Don Williams passed away, and the day that he passed away, Noah sent me a text that said, 'Daddy, I’m so sorry about your friend ... We have to do ["Tulsa Time"] in his honor," Cyrus explains, "and here we are."
Aerosmith's Joe Perry also plays on the more-traditional cover of "Tulsa Time," and Cyrus cannot praise their performances enough. In fact, he jokes that he doesn't even need to be on the song.
"This is Noah Cyrus with the legend, the rock 'n' roll premiere guitarist of the world, Joe Perry. It’s Noah and Joe Perry together, and it is blistering," Cyrus boasts. "I hate to say it, but, boy, I got something really special here, man. Noah and Joe Perry. They don’t even need me -- like, I don’t even need to be in the mix ... I just use myself as a little bit of humor in the background."
"Let me give you a hot tip ...," Cyrus adds. "I would bet the farm that he’s the next big thing that happens in 2018 in country music."
Set the Record Straight is rich with guest performances: Miley Cyrus shows up, as do Loretta Lynn and the late Jones, on a song called "Country Music's Got the Blues." It'll be the third time Cyrus has put that song on an album.
"I'm hoping third time's a charm," he admits. "Because I just always thought it was a shame that Nashville had never recognized the fact that George Jones and Loretta Lynn came in and sang with me ... and they didn’t just sing on it, they put their souls and their spirits on it, and it's really, really great."
And, of course, the album includes "Achy Breaky Heart" -- three different versions, in fact. Hearing the new takes on his most famous song -- especially the version that features Ronnie Milsap -- has reinvented it for Cyrus.
"There have been 114 releases of ["Achy Breaky Heart"] this year," Cyrus jokes. "But this particular one has not been out ... and it’s a whole brand-new song again for me as the dude that’s lived with it for 26 years. Again, I hear Ronnie Milsap doing this magic, and I’m hearing something I never heard before on that song. It’s really fun."
Set the Record Straight, Cyrus says, is about looking back and looking forward at the same time. Ultimately, he explains, it's just him.
"I’m Billy Ray Cyrus," he declares. "A left-handed singer-songwriter from Flatwoods, Ky., who had a dream and loved music -- nothing more, nothing less -- but ... I’m not getting any younger, and if my story’s gonna be told before I'm dead, I gotta tell it myself."
See Billy Ray Cyrus + Other Country Stars' Yearbook Pictures!
Billy Ray Cyrus vs. Travis Tritt + Other Country Music Feuds