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Billy Ray Cyrus: Healing an 'Achy Breaky Heart'

By Catherine Hubbard and Lisa Ryan
The 700 Club “Achy Breaky Heart” made Billy Ray Cyrus internationally famous and paved the way for Doc, the highest rated show on PAX.

Billy Ray is quick to tell you that things in his life don’t just happen by chance.

“I have no coincidences, ever,” he says. “I don’t even believe in coincidence. Everything in my life has happened for a reason – every single thing.”

So it’s not just happenstance that Billy Ray is going back to his roots with his long-awaited gospel CD.

“My papa was a Pentecostal preacher,” he says. “My dad had a gospel quartet called the Crownsmen Quartet, so Sunday mornings we’d sing ‘I’ll Fly Away’, ‘Old Rugged Cross’, and ‘Swing Down Sweet Chariot’.”

Billy Ray learned he could lean on Jesus even as a little boy -- especially when his parents divorced.

“My parents started going through the divorce, and life started getting depressing,” Billy Ray says. “[I] had a lot of questions. I’d go out into the woods and pray to God.”

As he approached his teen years, life would deal him another devastating blow.

“I went through a period after my papa Cyrus died. He died when I was about 12 years old,” he recalls. “I did become rebellious; a wild juvenile delinquent hoodlum might be a good description.”

Billy Ray CyrusBut Billy Ray would reach a turning point just as the “Achy Breaky” phenomenon took off and the chaos of fame ensued.

“Finally I’m reaching my dreams but my personal life is a complete mess,” Billy Ray says. “I was acquiring a lot of things, a lot of accolades, had platinum records hanging on the walls and motorcycles -- all kinds of stuff I’d only dreamed of but everything inside just felt so empty like I didn’t have anything of any substance or value.

“In the midst of the chaos, I was supposed to go play for the Queen of England. It was 1993, and I thought, Either you can continue on, refuel this rocket, and take it around the horn another time or you can pull your life together and have something that’s worth something.”

One more time Billy Ray ventured into the woods to talk to God. Without a doubt, he felt God leading him to cancel his European tour and focus on his family.

“[I] came out here and just went into seclusion,” he says. “Kinda started life all over.”

For Billy Ray, continued success in the music business proved elusive. So he jumped at the chance to begin a career in acting.

“When David Lynch cast me for Mullholland Drive, it was bad language, sex, violence, all the things that Hollywood has to offer, and after I left Hollywood on the flight back, I felt like I’d done a deal with the devil.

“[I prayed] 'God, if you want me to be an actor, then show me what You want me to do.' The next day I was taking that flight, Tish was reading the script of Doc, the pilot. Page by page it was hope, faith, love, God, and grace, and it was obvious.”

Billy Ray traveled to Toronto for four seasons to shoot Doc.

But the pressure of being away from home and family would spell the end of PAX network’s biggest hit.

“I’m proud of Doc, but it was hard,” Billy Ray laments. “If they could’ve moved the show to Nashville, I’d still be making Doc. By the time we got to that 88th episode, it was pretty obvious that that ship had gone as far as it could sail. It was just time to come back, get my life back together, huddle the family around in a pile, and say, ‘God, let’s get grounded again. Let’s start a new journey.’”

And that journey would lead Billy Ray right back to where he started.

“I just felt very lost, and I said, ‘God, tell me what to do.’

Billy Ray Cyrus and family“It was just pretty clear: go back to your roots. The feeling was it’s time for you to make the gospel album you’ve always wanted to make. I got a phone call from a legendary producer in town [who] said, ‘You ain’t gonna believe this but something just stood me up off my couch and said that I’m supposed to call Billy Ray Cyrus and help him make a gospel album.’”

These days Billy Ray is quite literally singing a new tune.

“I think a lot of people think that Christianity is about always being perfect,” Billy Ray says. “It’s actually the opposite of that. It’s realizing that we’re all humans, and that’s why God sent his Son to this earth -- to save people like us.”

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