Billy Ray Cyrus calls new album, 'Change My Mind,' 'dang personal'

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TORONTO - Billy Ray Cyrus sums up his new album in the true spirit of a country artist.

"It's pretty dang personal," the Kentucky native said of "Change My Mind," which hits stores in Canada on Monday.

Of course, that's nothing new for the famed "Achy Breaky Heart" singer/songwriter/actor, who's sold more than 25 million albums worldwide.

Several of his 13 studio releases have delved into his life, including 1992's smash "Some Gave All." That album was certified multi-platinum nine times in the U.S. and spawned "Achy Breaky Heart," as well as a line dancing and Cyrus-style mullet craze.

"But this is right up there, this is an extremely personal album," a mullet-free Cyrus — wearing a cowboy hat, jean jacket and blue jeans — noted with his twang in a recent interview.

Cyrus, 51, said he was driven by "the pure love of making music" for "Change My Mind," which was recorded over about six months in California with Grammy-nominated and multi-Juno Award-winning producer Brandon Friesen.

"For me, as a songwriter, I'll never paint the Mona Lisa, but I don't have any desire to. I'm a simple guy from eastern Kentucky that writes about simple things, and I don't really try to say it in a fancy way just because I don't know that.

"So the combination of me and Brandon together, it just made a chemistry. He took the simplicity of the songs that I wrote ... and really took me to a whole new level."

The tunes combine all of Cyrus's influences, "from bluegrass to outlaw country to southern rock to swamp rock," he said.

"Just core, southern rock, honky tonk, stompin' good time music."

But Cyrus's lyrics also indicate he needed to get some heavy feelings off his chest.

On the first single, the banjo and fiddle infused country-rock title track, he croons about backtracking on a decision to leave a loved one.

The song seems to allude to Cyrus's decision last year to withdraw his divorce filing and reconcile with his wife, Tish — a topic that a publicist warned was off-limits during his recent swing through Toronto. The couple has five children, including actress/pop star Miley Cyrus, who starred with her dad on the medical drama "Doc" and the hit Disney Channel series "Hannah Montana."

"Tomorrow Became Yesterday" and "Good As Gone" also touch on lost love, while the ballad "That's What Daddys Do" (which is the spelling Cyrus went with on the liner notes) has him ruminating on his family.

Cyrus said his daughters Noah and Brandi also sing on the tune — one of five in his career that have touched on fatherhood after "Trail of Tears," "Call Me Daddy," "Hey Daddy" and "Ready, Set, Don't Go," which he recorded with daughter Miley.

Cyrus joked that if he writes a couple more tunes on fatherhood, he'll "have a whole daddy album one of these days."

"Somewhere along the line I became, for a lot of kids around the world, some image of their daddy, America's daddy or the world's daddy or whatever I was on 'Hannah Montana,'" he surmised.

"And that song 'Ready, Set, Don't Go,' every single day I'll read a letter from a daddy somewhere that's either played the song at his little girl's wedding or a couple of days ago I read about a daddy that took his daughter that had enlisted in the army and they played 'Ready, Set, Don't Go' as she was leaving."

Cyrus said he isn't sure if he'd perform the tune at 19-year-old Miley's wedding, though (in June, she and 22-year-old actor Liam Hemsworth announced their engagement).

The whole family is "really happy" and the couple is "taking it one step at a time" with the wedding planning, he said.

"Both Liam and Miley are both so busy right now, so whenever that is, I have plenty of daddy songs just in case they need one."

Cyrus predicted Miley might want him to perform "Stomp," though, noting that's her favourite tune from his new album.

The song repeats a line Cyrus's dad often said about how the more you step in feces, "the more it stinks." Cyrus actually uses an expletive in place of the word "feces" on the track, though.

"Everybody involved with the record, I've been telling them they need to put a parental warning on the album, that I'm going to drop an 'S' bomb at the end," he said with a chuckle.

Cyrus plans to perform in the Broadway musical "Chicago" this winter.

He said he doesn't do much dancing in the show, mostly singing.

"They're going to surround me with a bunch of young, beautiful people, so I'll just be the old man in the middle trying to keep up and know my lines."

After his stint in "Chicago," Cyrus will put the finishing touches on his autobiography as well as a movie he wrote and produced.

And he'll kick off a world tour that will travel through Canada, a country he came to love when he filmed "Doc" in Toronto.

"It was this town, in Toronto, where Miley started acting on 'Doc' and where we went to see 'Mamma Mia.' That was the first play that me and my family had ever went together to see," said Cyrus.

"We saw it here in Toronto and it was that moment that Miley turned and looked at me as a little girl and said, 'Daddy, this is what I want to do.'"

Miley even took acting lessons in the city, he added.

"There's no doubt without 'Doc' and Toronto, there just wouldn't have been a 'Hannah Montana.'"

Organizations: Disney Channel

Geographic location: California, TORONTO, Kentucky Canada U.S. Chicago Broadway

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