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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

BILLY RAY CYRUS: The Platinum-selling Dreamer that Became the Doer

by Cyrus Webb

Six year ago in 2013 I had the opportunity to interview someone I have admired and respected for some time: Platinum-selling recording artist and bestselling author Billy Ray Cyrus. Fast forward to 2019 and he continues to make headlines, this year because of the success of the single OLD TOWN ROAD with Lil' Nas X. When we talked back then, however, he was in the news for his powerful memoir called HILLBILLY HEART. Enjoy our chat about his life, music and lessons learned that he now freely shares. 

Billy Ray, thank you again for the time. When you went into writing your book HILLBILLY HEART did you know that you are going to be so open, not only about your own journey in life, but also the lessons that you've learned along the way? 
Well, you probably read in the opening pages There's a quote that says the truth will be your shield and your buckler. And I was just wanting to bring the truth and to say here's the story of my life. This is the way it happened. Each day I'm striving for purpose and asking what is my life about. Perhaps there's morals and meanings to some of the journey that I've taken and lessons to be learned. I thought if I could write it down and read it myself, maybe somewhere along the line it might find purpose in helping others, too.

I have to tell you as someone who remembers the success of your big hit ACHY, BREAKY HEART I did not know a lot of your backstory. I did not know that sports was your first thing that a lot of people got to know you for in the beginning. It was really interesting to see how this was really something that your family was able to rally around. What was it like for you to have something that you did to be not only seen as being as special, but also being able to share that with your father and grandfather.
I had different backgrounds and influences in my life to lean on. Both of them were a big part of my life as a kid. I think that helped to bring versatility into my life. There never was a middle ground for me. It was either to the left or to the right, cold or red hot. There was never anything that was right down the middle.

That being said, I think that became part of the foundation and the character of not only who and what I was as a young kid, but through my teenage years and adolescence and then it became the foundation of a lot of the stories that I write in the songs and the things that I talk about in the book. And as you turn the pages and read the chapters, you see that I'm always referencing and going back to the beginning and who I am, where I came from. All of that makes up my journey.It was just like baseball. Knowing that you just got to keep stepping up to the plate and you just got to keep swinging, regardless of what happens at the next at bat. You just keep getting back up and keep swinging.

You even talk about in the book the way that your dad had told you life isn't fair, but it really is about what you make it. And that brings us to what for me was a transformative chapter in the book, chapter either BUY A GUITAR AND START A BAND. We talk about on Conversations all the time about how our passion, where we truly are meant to do it, never really leaves us. It'll just seem as though it's right in front of us. For you, it came in those words to buy a guitar and start a band. Talk to us about that and how that changed your life. 
Well, it was definitely a crossroads for me. I thought for sure I was going to be the next Johnny Bench, the Catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. But you know, I'd always prayed that God would give me the wisdom and the vision to do the things I was supposed to do and be the person I was supposed to be. And I heard from within somewhere 'Buy a guitar and start a band. That's your purpose.'  It became not just a one-time thing. It was over and over and over every day, nonstop.

Another moment that meant a lot to you, Billy Ray, was a Neil Diamond concert that you attended growing up. I actually just want to read that passage. What you wrote in that chapter of the book was about that experience. Neil Diamond was talking to the audience there and this is what he said. 'If you just believe in the power of love, you can reach your dreams and be all that you can be if you just believe and have faith.' And then you wrote this: 'All that I was swept away into some new place I had never felt before. Not even in church. This was a church like no other, a church of music.' And then you go back to the voice and the voice told you, 'You can do it. You're going to do it. You're going to be a positive force in people's lives. God is going to use you to share his light and love.' 

And now here you are: a Platinum selling recording artist, someone that is known around the world. The amazing thing for me when I finished the book was it really seemed as though you are still that person. You're still the person who you started out being no matter where your career has taken you. What do you think has kept you grounded? 
My dad always said it's important to be aware of your current surroundings and where you are presently while looking forward to the future and where you want to go. He also told me most importantly never forget where you come from. I think that's one of the most important things in life is to never forget where you come from.

I dedicated my book to the dreamers, even though at times it might seem to be a curse to be a dreamer. But I was a dreamer. I thought if I could write a book that somehow would touch some other human beings somewhere that's in a journey that maybe they just can't quite figure it out, maybe they can learn about my mistakes. As I say in the book over and over, I made a lot more mistakes. There were also things that I did right. Every time you fail, you eliminate one way that won't work. That put you one way closer to the one way that will work. If somebody could look at my life and learn by some of the things I did right and most of all learn about some of the things I did wrong and not make those mistakes, then that's one step closer to me fulfilling my purpose.

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