Billy Ray Cyrus wowed thousands of CMA Fest members when he and Lil Nas X, along with Keith Urban, performed "Old Town Road" on Saturday, June 8. The song was originally recorded by Lil Nas X, and landed on the country charts, before it was later removed, citing that it wasn't country enough.
Cyrus joined Lil Nas X on a remix of the song, and is quick to defend the success of "Old Town Road."
"I just love making music," Cyrus shared with PopCulture.com and other media backstage at CMA Fest. "I love all styles of music and always have. For me, a whole lot of what I'm going through right now, I attribute a lot of it to some of the guys that really became my true friends, like Waylon Jennings. The first time I tweeted Lil Nas back after I heard that he was looking for me, I told him that Waylon had told me that definition of an outlaw is one who had been outlawed. And welcome to the club."
Cyrus credits some of his own musical heroes, including Waylon Jennings and Carl Perkins, with giving him the courage to break out of the mold of what some consider country music, after the release of Cyrus' big hit, "Achy Breaky Heart."
"Carl Perkins was another guy who is just such a great friend to me and such an influence," Cyrus said. "Carl told me in as early as 1992, he said, 'Man, pause. You've got to do this because you love the music, you do it for the music. Don't be the guy in Nashville – so many people in this town are always chasing the cat's tail and going, 'Well if it works for them, then I'll do what they're doing.' And he said, 'Don't be the guy chasing the tail.'
"He said, 'Be the guy that's making your music because you love it and you go different places and you find different sounds, and you're not following the pack. You're doing what you do because you love it,'" continued Cyrus. "It's that journey. That's what I do. I'm really just same guy I was when I stood on the banks of the river 28 years ago. I'm just a guy from Kentucky that loves – I'm a singer-songwriter. Nothing more, nothing less. And that's what I love to do."
Cyrus hopes his music, both then and now, inspires other aspiring artists to forge their own path as well.
"I still love doing it now," said the 57-year-old. "I love finding new sounds. I said to Lil Nas early on, too, 'Don't try to think inside the box. Don't try to think outside the box. Think like there is no box.' And I think that there's a lot to be said for all the dreamers out there. All the people walking these streets that's carrying those guitars and packing those songs and trying to find their door to open. It's not a very glorified word, but it's a very important word and it's persistence. Persistence is keeping on keeping on.
"You keep on getting up when you get knocked down, but you do what you do because you love it and that's who you are and be real," he added. "If you keep doing it, and doing it because you love it, you'll find your way home."
Download Cyrus' version of "Old Town Road" with Lil Nas X on iTunes.
Photo Credit: Getty images/ Terry Wyatt