Billy Ray Cyrus
Samples: Billy Ray Cyrus
He has introduced a veterans anthem, created a dance club
phenomenon, saluted his bluegrass background, sung for the American farmer and given us a
cluster of hits that brought an entirely new sound to Nashville. But up to now Billy Ray
Cyrus hasnt really explored the rich resources of Music Citys songwriting
community or the depth of its talent pool of musicians. So this year the superstar paused
to do just that. Billy Rays new Shot Full Of Love album aims squarely at country
musics commercial center and hits a bulls eye.
The album is his first collection of deliberately radio-ready
tunes, the result of his first full-fledged sessions with the finest musicians on Music
Row. Shot Full Of Love is accompanied by a shift in the multi-million-selling stars
image and outlook. During the first six months of this year, Billy Ray Cyrus withdrew
completely from the public eye. He marked his "new beginning" in June when he
reemerged to collect five trophies at the nationally telecast Music City News Country
"I adjusted my music, my attitude and my appearance,"
says the widely-loved entertainer. "I let go of the past. I just felt that it was
time to come back to earth. I decided, Im going to make a completely different
album than Ive ever made."
Shot Full Of Love includes straightforward country songs like
"Touchy Subject," "His Shoes" and "Hows My World
Treatin You." Billy Rays fun-loving spirit infuses such peppy boppers as
"Under The Hood" and "Rock This Planet." The albums title tune
harks back to his days as a club act, while the richly melodic "Missing You" and
"Time For Letting Go" look to the future with his confidently evocative vocals
and state-of-the-art productions by Keith Stegall and John Kelton.
As always, Billy Ray Cyrus sings lyrics that seem to spring
directly from everyday peoples lives. "Busy Man" is addressed to fathers
everywhere who neglect their families in pursuit of financial success. "Give My Heart
To You" is the story of a hard-working man with little to show for his life except a
loving soul. "the American Dream," Cyrus first recording with a string
section, is an anthem for the nation, a plea that we never stop striving for peace and
"I tried to record songs that everybody seemed to like and
that were true to life, too," he comments. "I wanted to make sure they were
songs that I could relate to. The fans are passionate about the music. They have kept me
in this ball game, so I wanted to be sure I was singing for them."
Billy Ray Cyrus connection to his audience is deep and
profound. Few artists in any musical genre have given of themselves so consistently and so
unselfishly. His devotion to the public is legendary, even by country music standards; and
the amount of charity work he does is simply staggering.
Because his early hits were so catchy, he became an instant
favorite with children, in particular. As a result, Billy Ray has held scores of dying,
crippled and infirm tots in his arms. His big heart has ached more times than he can
"I try to put on a real strong face for the kids. The
hardest part is when they turn to leave and they go one way and I go another. It is
emotionally draining; you jut feel weak and sad. But Ive tried to make sure that I
live up to my end of the deal with God. My dream was to be a successful singer, songwriter
and entertainer. I prayed that my music would be heard around the world and that God would
give me the vision to use my music to do good things. So I am going to see as many of
these children as I can."
"The day before we began recording this album I was going
through some mail and came across a letter from a little girl who had cancer, and it was
her wish to meet me. So I made some calls. The night of that first recording session I had
just sung "Give My Heart To You." I came out of the vocal booth and she was
there, in a wheelchair. We sat together. We did pictures and autographs and it became one
of those special moments."
Her name was Jenny. She added sincerity to the session, because
that moment brought me and all the musicians closer together. So we put a dedication to
that little girl on the album and theres a picture of us sitting there that night.
Her coming to the first recording session made me think there was a good spirit about this
"In the spring I got a letter from her Granny telling me
that Jenny had passed away. At her funeral, the kids at her school gathered and said a
prayer. Then they played Achy Breaky Heart" and danced and let butterflies go.
It was exactly like Jenny wanted."
"Achy Breaky Heart" is, of course, the record that
turned the leader of a Kentucky bar band into an international idol. Billy Rays
first four albums for Mercury Nashville put his sales in excess of 13 million unit to
date. Some Gave All, his debut for the label, is one of the 10 biggest selling albums of
the 90s, regardless of genre. Accolades have poured in from the Country music
Association, the American Music Awards, Billboard, the Recording Industry Association of
America, TNN/Music City News and numerous other organizations.
Born in Flatwoods, Ky., Billy Ray Cyrus was singing with his
fathers gospel quartet and his mothers bluegrass group before he reached
school age. As a boy, he formed a country duet with his brother. When he was 19 he began
playing guitar and performing locally with Sly Dog, a band named after his one-eyed pet
bulldog. The band took up residence in an Ironton, Ohio bar called Changes. Audiences
there particularly liked Billy Rays version of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band hit
"Shot Full Of Love."
When Changes burned to the ground in 1984, so did the bands
equipment. Billy Ray took it as a sign that he should try his fortunes elsewhere. But a
two-year stint in L.A. resulted in a dead-end job selling cars, instead of stardom. He
returned to Kentucky, re-formed Sly Dog, landed a job as the "house band" at The
Ragtime Lounge in Huntington, WV and began making weekly trips to Nashville to knock on
Billy Ray Cyrus was a seasoned show-business pro when he was
discovered by Mercury talent scouts while opening a Reba McEntire concert in Louisville in
1990. Two years later he set the music world aflame with "Achy Breaky Heart" and
Some Gave All. Its follow-up album was the million-selling It Wont Be the Last.
But by the time of 1994s Storm In the Heartland Cyrus
image was tarnished. Radio stations began closing their ears to his distinctive sound. He
responded by stripping his style down to the earthy, rootsy sound of Trail Of Tears. That
1996 album earned him widespread critical respect and a Single of the Year award from the
TNN/Music City News Country Awards voters.
"That was the beginning," he recalls. "That was
the first time that people really looked at me as an artist. That was the foundation of
where Im at now."
He assembled a greatest-hits collection called Cover to Cover and
included "its All The Same To Me" as one of its new tracks. The
performance returned him to the country hit parade in 1997 and paved the way for Shot Full
Videos are already "in the can" to promote the new
albums "Under The Hood" and "Time For Letting Go." Elsewhere on
the TV front, "The American Dream" is on tap as the theme song of a TBS
documentary about the comeback of the American bald eagle. Billy Ray will be featured in
that program; and thanks to his new association with the powerful APA agency he spend part
of September auditioning for Holy wood feature-film directors in Los Angeles.
Radio programmers are already enthusiastic about "Busy
Man," "Give My Heart To You" and "Missing You." Billy Rays
summer statuettes as the fans choice as Male Vocalist, Album, Single, Song and Video
of the Year at the TNN/Music City News Country Awards injected new vigor into his concert
tour. The star sees all these things as signs that "chapter two" of his career
is about to begin.
"Im more comfortable now than Ive ever
been," says Billy Ray Cyrus. "I have so much more peace of mind. I understand
who I am and what I do. Im enjoying my career now more than I ever Have.
"And Shot Full Of Love is the easiest album Ive ever
done. The whole experience just had this incredible vibe."
In retrospect, Cyrus himself is very much like his debut CD, Some
Gave All. That album topped the Billboard pop and country charts for an unprecedented 17
weeks, a record event he blockbuster "Titanic" soundtrack failed to topple.
Billy Ray Cyrus, unlike the Titanic, is unsinkable.