|Billy Ray Cyrus performs a private showcase at the Rivoli in Toronto on Tuesday October 16, 2012. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/ QMI Agency)
It may be the 20th anniversary of his breakthrough hit, Achy Breaky Heart, but - sadly - country singer Billy Ray Cyrus has no plans to grow back his mullet.
On the contrary, the 51-year-old Kentucky native is trading in his cowboy hat for a fedora to make his Broadway debut next month in the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago.
"My lead role in Chicago, that's my celebration," said Cyrus, who was about to head into rehearsals. "A lot of the fans are coming from different places around the world and that's kind of our 20 year celebration."
Cyrus also has a new album of country-bluegrass-rock, Change My Mind, out and is planning a world tour starting in Australia before arriving in Canada by May 2013. Not to mention writing his autobiography, My Life, for release next April or May.
Q. I'm surprised that you're taking on Chicago's Flynn?
A. I wouldn't necessarily say it's in my wheelhouse. Certainly, I would say I had to push myself....
I've always been hungry to learn new things. For me, being on stage, I like that feeling of flying without a net.
Q. So no nerves?
A. Of course, I'm a nervous wreck.
Q. Why write your autobiography when you're still a relatively young man?
A. Either I was going to tell my story or somebody else was and I wanted it to be right and it wanted to be based on the truth. I know it better than anyone so I wanted to be the one to tell it. My life's story's kind of the Kentucky version of The Twlight Zone so you can't make this stuff up. It happened.
Q. On your new album, there's a song called That's What Daddy's Do. Are you refering to Miley and your other kids?
A. I wrote it as a tribute to my dad. My dad was a great dad and a great best friend and my gosh he was kind of my spiritual leader. My baseball coach. My dad was a really important figure in my life. Unfortunately, he died about six years ago (of lung cancer) and I still miss him as much today as I did six years ago. I wrote that about one year ago in New York City. ... It was just one of those songs that came. It came from him up there somewhere."
Q. Were you surprised at all of the reaction to Miley's new short blonde haircut?
A. She sent me a picture and said, 'How do you like my new hair?' And I said, 'I love it.' I just think her hair looks great. ... It'd been easy to ride the Hannah Montana train forever but she had the courage to reinvent herself. I respect that. To me that's the evolution of a true artist."
Q. And do you approve of her betrothed, actor Liam Hemsworth, to whom she became engaged in May?
A. One thing I do know she's very happy right now and that's fantastic. She's worked hard enough in her life. Whatever she wants. There's no date planned. I like Liam a lot. He's a great actor too.