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Your Country’s Right Here: Billy Ray Cyrus Gets Back to Basics

Billy Ray Cyrus goes back to basics on his latest album Change My Mind—and it sounds so good.

The title song, inspired by his decision to end divorce proceedings and reunite with his wife, is one of nine tunes that mixes bluegrass, roots, southern rock, gospel and country music for a distinctive sound. Those that only know Cyrus from his work with daughter Miley on the Disney show Hannah Montana, may find the gritty sound surprising, but Cyrus said it’s his true musical voice.

“I’m very proud of this album,” said Cyrus who wrote or co-wrote every song on the album. “This is really who I am. When I grew up and listened to country music, this was the music I wanted to make.”

Cyrus talked about his life as a young singer-songwriter, living in his car and hoping for his big break. Yet when his single “Achy Breaky Heart” from his 1992 album Some Gave All album topped Billboard charts for weeks and went 9x-platinum, it was a double-edged sword. Cyrus was bashed by critics even as sales soared and the album stayed at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 chart for 17 weeks in a row and became the best-selling debut album of all time by a male solo artist. Continue reading ‘Your Country’s Right Here: Billy Ray Cyrus Gets Back to Basics’

Exclusive Q and A: Trace Cyrus Talks Ashland High, Designing Clothes and Collaborating with Miley

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsBeing a sibling to one of the hottest stars on the planet can have its benefits, but Trace Cyrus (aka Ashland High) has had no problem making a name for himself. Miley’s older brother rose to fame in 2006 when his dance-pop band Metro Station was discovered at the top of the charts on MySpace. The group exploded in popularity with the release of their song “Shake It,” and were soon sharing the stage with the likes of Cobra Starship and Fall Out Boy. After the band parted ways in 2010, Trace decided to continue honing his musical skills, and now records and performs solo as Ashland High. We met up with Trace at the Bamboozle Festival to learn more about the new project, his clothing line, and what it’s like to work with his famous family members.

OS: How has your weekend at Bamboozle been?

TC: My weekend has been busy. It feels good to sit down and relax for a second. I’ve been here since Friday. I performed today and I’ve been selling my clothing line and meeting kids. I’ve met thousands of kids, I haven’t met this many in years. It’s great.

OS: You’ve been making music under the name Ashland High for a few years. How did it all begin?

TC: It started a couple years ago after Metro Station. It wasn’t really planned, but we went our separate ways. Basically, we were trying to record the second Metro Station album and it ended up being just me on a lot of tracks by myself, and I was doing a lot of work. It kind of gave me the confidence, since the band went our separate ways, I was like, “Well, I already did five songs by myself in the studio.” They weren’t great, but they weren’t horrible. Two years later, like, a hundred and fifty songs later… The songs I have online, I did that last November and I recorded all of those songs in nine days. But before that, I had over 150 tracks that I did with other producers. It took me a long time to just feel confident with my craft as a solo artist. When you have a band and everyone contributes, it’s a lot different. I’m definitely happy with where I’m at. Hard work pays off when you’re doing it by yourself. I definitely have people helping me, teammates, producers and whatnot, but Ashland High is a solo act. A lot of people think it’s a band, but it’s strictly me.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Trace Cyrus Talks Ashland High, Designing Clothes and Collaborating with Miley’

Can Music Move Us Away From Discrimination?

It is clear that the world is changing, and it seems like most of these changes are for the better. New technology and trends have enabled us to do things we never thought possible.  And, even more importantly, opportunities are available to people, no matter what race, gender, sexuality, or religion they happen to be. But how is this change reflected in the world of music? It seems that while some genres of music are taking great leaps in the right direction, other genres are still digging in their heels.

Country singer Chely Wright, one of the few country artists who is openly gay, recently married her girlfriend Lauren Blitzer in Connecticut. And while this was one of the happiest days of Wright’s life, many of her fans did not see it this way. In fact, since Wright came out in 2010, she has been harassed and threatened by people who used to support her.  Country fans have historically been more conservative than other music fans, but for Wright it was a shock that her fan base seemingly disappeared after she opened about her sexuality.

Continue reading ‘Can Music Move Us Away From Discrimination?’

Sound And Vision: Miley Cyrus’ Career Rehab — Can She Pull Off A Pop Comeback?

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m several decades removed from my tween years. Or perhaps it was her sound, which, on her early hit albums, was a bit too High School Musical for my taste. Whatever the reason, I never quite got Miley Cyrus nor did I understand the haste with which she was able to turn a starring role in the Disney Channel sitcom Hannah Montana into international pop and film stardom.
She wasn’t the first ambitious kid to ride Disney to the top. Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Keri Russell and Ryan Gosling all got their starts on The All-New Mickey Mouse Club in the ’90s, but it took them several years to parlay their Disney exposure into instant fame. Cyrus’s 2006 rise, if not quite faster than a speeding bullet, was certainly more rapid than the ascent of Disney’s Lizzie McGuire star Hilary Duff in the early ’00s. Maybe the tweens were just desperate for someone new, and for a few years, Cyrus was it. Rising Disney starlets Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato were no match for her. She had hit albums and hit movies, sell-out concerts, massive media coverage, famous boyfriends (including—natch!—a Jonas Brother) and, until last January, Hannah Montana, the alter ego and the show.
Then Cyrus went and did the unthinkable: She grew up—way too soon.
Her 2010 album Can’t Be Tamed introduced a sexier, worldlier and still-underage Miley. Critics and tweens cringed, and it promptly tanked. Bong hits and public lap dances did neither her image nor her bankability any favors. Then this past March, I was the one doing the unthinkable: For the first time, I found myself rooting for Miley Cyrus. All it took was TMZ’s video replay of her run-in with a pushy paparazzo who got too close to her mom. As Cyrus forcefully told him to show some respect, I cheered and wished she’d channel some of this attitude and raw spunk into her work.
There might be hope for her yet. Though she announced after the release of Can’t Be Tamed that she’d be putting music on the backburner for a while to focus on acting (she’ll costar as Demi Moore’s daughter in the forthcoming film LOL: Laughing Out Loud), Cyrus already seems to be eyeing a pop comeback. Though she has no current projects to promote, she was booked to host the March 5 episode of Saturday Night Live. Not only did she prove that she still has some Hollywood pull by grabbing the plum gig, but considering that SNL regularly lampoons her with the mock “Miley Cyrus Show” (on March 5, she appeared as Justin Bieber alongside Cyrus impersonator Vanessa Bayer), she’s apparently a pretty good sport, too—plus she does a spot-on Bieber. She scored bonus points by mocking Lindsay Lohan and inciting yet another LiLo celebrity fued. And look what that did for Gwyneth Paltrow on Glee!
On April 27, Cyrus continued her climb back up the pop ladder with an appearance in the American Idol performance package for sixteen-year-old Lauren Alaina, who had sung the Cyrus hit “The Climb” weeks earlier. (Idol mentor and music exec Jimmy Iovine offered a huge reality check, though, when he declared Alaina “a much much stronger singer than Miley Cyrus.” Ouch!) Though she didn’t perform, her appearance hinted at a renewed interest in her pop career. According to her dad Billy Ray Cyrus, she’s met with Dr. Luke, the producer behind hits by Britney Spears, Ke$ha and Cyrus herself, so new music might be forthcoming sooner rather than later.
While Dr. Luke has an excellent track record (which includes Cyrus’s greatest hit, “Party in the U.S.A.”), I’m hoping she’s gotten the pop tart bit out of her system. Can’t Be Tamed already proved that no one is buying Cyrus as the second coming of Spears or any of those under-dressed female pop stars currently crowding the market. Unlike Lohan, there have been no arrests, no truly embarrassing moments. Cyrus’s biggest sins so far have been making poor fashion choices and releasing bad music, so this, too, shall pass—if she’s learned from her mistakes.
Next time, she should skip the skimpy. If she must embrace sexual liberation, she should do it with class—and better songs. She’ll likely never get a return shout out from Jay-Z, but maybe she can team up with Jessie J, the rising, sort-of-edgy UK star who co-wrote “Party in the U.S.A.,” for a sequel that’ll convert her detractors and restore her V.I.P. platinum status.

 


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