Long before Billy Ray Cyrus dreamed of a career in country music, he had big dreams of life on the ball field. The 58-year-old reveals he originally planned on being a professional athlete, until he went to one concert that changed the entire trajectory of his life, and switched his career path.
"I was a ball player. I was going to be the catcher for the Cincinnati Reds," Cyrus told PopCulture.com. "Or the Dodgers. That was my backup team, the Dodgers. I wanted to be Johnny Bench, but the Dodgers were scouting me. And I would have said yes to either. But I went to a Neil Diamond concert. I won tickets coincidentally in this odd, meant-to-be way, that I was supposed to be there. And I went to Charleston, West Virginia. First time I ever won anything, that's how I know it was meant to be. I never won anything; I won these tickets on the radio and Neil Diamond touched my light that night.
"I saw the power of a song and witnessed the power of an entertainer holding an audience in their hands and representing God's light and God's love through the music," he continued. "And I felt at that moment that was my purpose, and the next day traded my catcher's mitt in for a left-handed guitar and started a band and didn't look back for 10 years."
Cyrus was so pulled to music that he put his catcher's mitt away, for 10 years, until his dad brought it back to him, all for a worthwhile cause.
"I didn't move that guitar," the Kentucky native revealed. "I just tried in music. For 10 years I didn't move that catcher's mitt. And then in the summer of 1992, my dad drove it down from his garage and I put it on my hand to catch Nolan Ryan at the St. Jude's celebrity softball game in the summer of '92. Summer of '91 I lived in my car. 10 years previous of that, I had struggled, and been told no. It wasn't an easy decade."
"I didn't give up and kind of in some strange way similar to this moment, now, with 'Old Town Road,' I just kept making music and kept doing what I do because I love it," Cyrus explained. "I'm just a singer and songwriter. I'll never be nothing more, that's just what I am. And I love entertaining people and being in this moment and going full circle."
"Old Town Road" is nominated for three Grammy Awards: for Record of the Year, Best Music Video and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The song previously won a CMA Award for Musical Event of the Year, and also set a new record for holding the No. 1 position on the charts the longest.
Photo Credit: Getty / Brett Carlsen