In every artist’s career there is a project that represents a true labor of love, the one that takes the artist back to their roots and incorporates all they have learned about life and their craft. For international superstar Billy Ray Cyrus, THE OTHER SIDE is that project.
“I call this the record of a lifetime for me, because this record has been a lifetime in the making,” says Cyrus. “Every bit of my roots, my influences and every bit of who I am is on this record.”
Those familiar with the Billy Ray Cyrus story know that the Kentucky native’s musical roots lie firmly in the church. Billy Ray Cyrus grew up surrounded by gospel music: the grandson of a Pentecostal preacher, the young Cyrus was singing with his father’s gospel quartet before he’d started grade school. Though Cyrus went on to fame as the multi-platinum hunky heartthrob behind such country hits as “Achy Breaky Heart,” “Could’ve Been Me,” “In the Heart of a Woman” and “Busy Man,” his own faith still runs deep.
Now with THE OTHER SIDE, his first studio release in three years, Billy Ray Cyrus has come full circle. For the first time Cyrus shares his faith journey on 11 tracks that range from rollicking Southern rock, to pure country story-songs, to heartfelt balladry. There’s nothing staid about this collection: even Cyrus’ rendition of “Amazing Grace,” the album’s only traditional hymn, is performed in a bluesy, rock style. This album has something for everyone in the family.
“This whole album came together very naturally, it just fell into place,” Cyrus says. “Nothing was forced about it, nothing was planned, it just evolved into what it was meant to be. Making this album was probably most similar to Some Gave All, my first album, in that it became who I was and what I wanted to sing and where I am at in my life. It was very real — I hate to be so cliché about it, but that’s the truth.”
In fact, THE OTHER SIDE has its genesis in a coincidence. Cyrus was in Toronto, where he films his lead role on the hit PAX-TV series “DOC,” and thinking about his next studio release. “My inner voice said, you need to make the record that you’ve wanted to make your whole life, and that’s a gospel record, an inspirational record. And within minutes my phone rings, and it’s this legendary producer out of Nashville, and he says, How’d you like to cut an inspirational album? It is one of if not the most bizarre things that has ever happened in my career — and there are not a whole lot of normal things about my career!”
In fact, that phone call came from renowned country producer Billy Joe Walker Jr., known for his work with such country stars as Pam Tillis, Travis Tritt, Tammy Cochran and Tracy Byrd. Walker had never produced a gospel record before, but in exploring the idea one day he says the name Billy Ray Cyrus just popped into his head. “I thought, Oh of course, Billy Ray Cyrus would be the most honest, believable, sincere person to do an inspirational album. So I got a number and called him in Toronto.”
From this goose-flesh inducing start, THE OTHER SIDE took off. Without a record label signed on for the project, Cyrus and Walker went into the studio intending to demo some new songs. Instead, they decided to record “Amazing Grace,” long a staple of Cyrus’ live show and a fan favorite.
“Whenever I do it with my band, I play it in the blues style,” says Cyrus. “I always thought it lended itself to being a great blues song. Billy and I came up with that arrangement, and it became the cornerstone and foundation of this entire album.”
After hearing their track for “Amazing Grace,” Word Records requested an entire album, and a six-month song search began. At the label’s request for a song about Cyrus’ own background and faith, he wrote the title track for the project -the personal and gentle ballad “The Other Side-, Cyrus and Walker mined Nashville’s rich and varied talent pool for the other material, finding songs by writers from the worlds of country (Bob DiPiero, Tom Shapiro, Rivers Rutherford, Kelly Shiver, Victoria Shaw), gospel (Bebo Norman) and pop (Richard Marx). The Jordanaires also added their tight southern gospel harmonies.
Musically, THE OTHER SIDE has a rousing, energized feel unique to country gospel. Much of this rock and roll spirit comes from special guests such as Marx, ’80s pop icon Kim Carnes, rocker Bekka Bramlett and Denise Walls of Anointed, all of whom lent their vocals to the project.
Lyrically, the songs offer vivid country storytelling and a gospel message of encouragement. Some of the album’s most compelling tracks offer a challenge to listeners to live their faith transparently — and Cyrus puts himself at the top of the list of those needing to hear that message.
Indeed, Cyrus admits his long, hard struggle to get his career off the ground and the ensuing rocket ride as “Achy Breaky Heart” catapulted him to international fame tested his faith. A devoted family man — he and wife Tish have six children — Cyrus’ dual role as TV star and recording artist often requires long separations from his family.
“I have to say my world was spinning so out of control in the last 10 years, I hit a couple of spots where I didn’t feel like God could hear me anymore,” Cyrus says. “There were times I felt like, is anybody listening? Does anybody care? But it wasn’t that God wasn’t listening, it’s that I wasn’t taking the time be still and make sure that prayer was getting through.”
With that realization came a shift in his priorities. “My family became my foundation, and my spirituality became my foundation,” he says. “That’s when I started reconnecting back to life, instead of being out there in the twilight zone on some rocket spinning out of control.”
Though he’s come full circle musically, Billy Ray Cyrus stresses he’s still the same imperfect person he’s always been.
“By no means because I put out this record am I proclaiming that I’m this perfect, religious person,” he notes. “I’m not all of a sudden stepping up on a pedestal and saying I’m holier than thou, because I’m not! I’m a very imperfect person, but isn’t that why God sent his son Jesus to this earth? … to save sinners like me? I just always try to work to make myself better in the eyes of God.”
And that, he says, is what life on THE OTHER SIDE is all about.
Billy Ray Cyrus
The Other Side Cut by Cut
1- Face of God (Bob DiPiero, Rivers Rutherford, Tom Shapiro)
What a wonderful, wonderful song. I fell in love with it the first time I heard it. It’s such a great song to sing too, it’s a singer’s song. That’s probably the widest range on a song of anything I’ve ever recorded.
2- Always 16 (Marty Dodson, Brett James)
This is just a great song about keeping love young. When you’re keeping love young, you keep yourself young. It might not have an overtly inspirational message, but it’s a song about love, and isn’t that what the old bumper sticker always said? God is love.
3- Wouldn’t You Do This For Me (Kelly Shiver, Rusty Tabor)
We looked for songs for six months, and we were going to have our final A&R meeting on a Monday. Ironically, the Sunday right before my family and I were coming home from church and we saw this old homeless guy by the side of the road asking for money. We drove past him at first and my wife Tish said, “What if that was Jesus?” So we turned the car around, and we had just come from the grocery store so we had all this food in the car. So we gave him some Gatorade and food, and he said, “God bless you, son.” I said, man I’m glad we turned around.
I got home and because I was going to have that A&R meeting the next day, I was going through the last few stacks of songs. And that’s when I found “Wouldn’t You Do This For Me.” ” I thought, man, that’s what I just experienced!
4- Did I Forget To Pray (Del Gray, Bobby Taylor)
This song was a chide at myself, to be honest with you, because I watch the news non-stop. I’ve tried to cut back on watching the news and think more about the prayer-side of what can I do to make the world a better place, instead of watching all the bad news on TV. Kim Carnes came on that song and sang with me and did a fabulous job.
5- Tip of My Heart (featuring Richard Marx) (Bebo Norman)
Oddly enough I wanted to record that song like two albums ago! I wasn’t really taking it in the Christian sense, I was taking it as a beautiful love song. My record company at the time didn’t get it, they didn’t see the song, and my producers didn’t want to cut it. So for two albums I fought for that song, and nobody ever did get it! Well, when Word Records sent me a compilation of songs they wanted me to hear for this project, “Tip of My Heart” was on it. I thought, here comes that song, back like an old friend! It was like it was meant to be.
6- Love Has No Walls (Sam Mizell, Matthew West)
I just loved the Southern vibe to this song. To me it was kind of like a Lynyrd Skynyrd-goes-gospel song! Very Southern rock.
7- I Love You This Much (Austin Cunningham, Neil Thrasher)
This was the first song we cut for the album, after “Amazing Grace,” which we actually cut before we even had the record deal. So this song became our standard. It was such a great song, it became the bar that any song we thought about for the album had to rise to. Neil Thrasher, who co-wrote the song, is doing some of the background vocals on it.
8- I Know You Now (Kelly Shiver)
Kelly Shriver is a great storyteller. This song is the story of Jesus, and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a song that goes straight down the pike to tell the story of Jesus like that.
9- The Other Side (Billy Ray Cyrus)
The people at the record company had asked me if I could write a song about where I’m from, about my Pap-Paw being a Pentecostal preacher, about my life, and my relationship with God. I said, I can’t write a song on purpose, my songs come in a moment of inspiration or desperation. I thought we had so many songs, there was no need to force a song to come out of me. It was my last week in Toronto filming “DOC” and I got on my knees and prayed and said, “God, if you want me to write a song for this album, you have to give it to me. Because what can I write that’s worthy?” And the song just came flowing out of me.
10- “Amazing Grace” (Words by John Newton, Music: Traditional American melody from Carrell and Clayton’s Virginia Harmony, 1831; Arranged by Billy Ray Cyrus and Billy Joe Walker, Jr.)
This was the first thing Billy and I cut before we actually had the record deal. We did a different arrangement on it, as you can tell. I’ve sung that song as early I’ve been able to sing, since I was a little teeny boy. I’ve always played it at my shows, and it’s always requested by fans. That’s one of the reasons I started this album by recording it.
11- Holding On To A Dream (Richard Marx, Victoria Shaw, Richie McDonald)
Before I ever became famous I’d go to schools and give seminars and speeches on how to set goals, persistence, faith, and never giving up. And that’s what this song is about, never giving up. We all felt like maybe there’s some kid out there, a person that’s reached for something all their life and they’re on the verge of giving up but they could be inches way from reaching dream, and this song is for them. We felt like it was a good inspirational song.
Billy Ray Cyrus Factsheet:
Birthdate: August 25, 1961
Birthplace: Flatwoods, KY
Parents: Mother, Ruth Ann Adkins; Father, Ron Cyrus; Stepfather, Cletis Adkins; Stepmother, Joan Cyrus
Siblings: Brothers: Kevin and Mick; Sisters: Angie, Lisa, Cherie
Family: Wife, Leticia; Children: Brandi, Trace, Christopher Cody, Destiny Hope, Braison Chance, Noah Lindsey
Residence: Singing Hills, a 500-acre farm south of Nashville
Hobbies: Working out with weights, riding his four-wheeler, horses
American Music Awards:
” Favorite New Artist – Country
” Favorite Single – Country “Achy Breaky Heart”
Country Music Association:
” Single of the Year “Achy Breaky Heart”
TNN/Music City News Awards:
” Male Artist of the Year Album of the Year “Cover To Cover”
” Single of the Year “It’s All The Same To Me”
” Video of the Year “Three Little Words”
” Song of The Year “It’s All the Same to Me”
” Single of the Year “Trail of Tears”
10th Annual MovieGuide Awards Gala
” Epiphany Prize for Doc Episode “Some Gave All”
11th Annual MovieGuide Awards Gala
” Epiphany Prize for Doc Episode “Nobody”
” Faith & Freedom Award for DOC “2001 Best Television Series”
” Holds the record for 17 weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Albums chart for “Some Gave All” (the longest time this spot has been held by a debut artist)
” Won BMI Robert J. Burton Award for “Achy Breaky Heart” in 1993
” Recognized by The Kennedy Center Honors for his work with children; Child Help USA Humanitarian Award in 1994
” Received the first ever Bob Hope Congressional Medal of Honor Society Entertainer’s Award for his dedication to philanthropy in 1995
” Received the Country Radio Broadcaster’s Artist Humanitarian Award (1996)
” Inducted into the VFW Hall of Fame in 1996 for his efforts on behalf of veterans
” Received the International Entertainment Buyer Association’s “Humanitarian of The Year” Award in 1999
Multi-platinum Albums: Some Gave All (1992)
Platinum Albums: It Won’t Be The Last (1993)
Gold Albums: Storm In The Heartland (1994)
Albums: Trail of Tears (1996), Cover To Cover (1997), Shot Full of Love (1998), Southern Rain (1999), The Other Side (2003)
Received a Diamond Award in Canada for “Some Gave All” in 1995
Singles: Three No.1 and Six Top 10 singles
Doc (2001-Present) – Dr. Clint Cassidy
Colgate Country Showdown (2003) – Host
Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (2002) – Dr. Clint Cassidy
18 Wheels of Justice (2000) – Henry Conners/Casey – Games of Chance
The Love Boat: The Next Wave (1999) – Lasso Larry Larsen – Divorce, Downbeat and Distemper
Diagnosis Murder (1997) – Himself – Murder, Country Style
The Nanny (1995) – Himself – A Kiss Is Just a Kiss)
Elvis Has Left the Building (2004) – Hank
Death & Texas (2003) – Spoade Perkins
Mullholland Drive (2001) – Gene
Radical Jack (2001) – Jack Reynolds
Wish You Were Dead (2000) – Dean Ludlow