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Noah Cyrus on debut album ‘The Hardest Part’, Xanax Addiction and Taking After Billy Ray

AFinally, Noah Cyrus is ready to officially introduce herself. Six years after she launched her music career with the single “Make Me (Cry)”, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter’s debut studio album, The hardest partFriday arrived. When I pointed out to her on a recent Zoom call how unbelievable it is that she’s kept a constant stream of music going for the past six years without ever releasing a proper album, Cyrus agrees as she tries to explain: There were “internal conflicts with previous teams.” she says, and then things took a backseat as she prioritized her “mental health and physical well-being” (more on that later).

More than anything, though, she started her career “extremely young” and needed time to understand herself. Case in point: At one point, she was ready to release an album called NC-17—a cheeky title that played on his initials, his age at the time, and, of course, the MPAA rating for explicit movies with an age restriction (nervous!). That project was ultimately scrapped, something Cyrus is thankful for in hindsight.

“It was a great title, but I don’t even know if I’m like that,” he tells The Daily Beast. “Looking back to an album that would be called NC-17 seems so off my mark or vibe. I realized that I definitely like a more organic sound and feel for my overall aesthetic, so NC-17 It really doesn’t feel appropriate for me anymore.”

Like many young artists walking out the door, Cyrus spent those early years of her career trying out different genres like new clothes, seeing what stuck. Early singles like “We Are…” and “Stay Together” leaned toward moody electro-pop, and subsequent collaborations with XXXTentacion and Lil Xan suggested an interest in Soundcloud’s then-fashionable rap-infused pop sound. .

“I think I was just looking for an identity that I hadn’t found yet,” Cyrus says of those early efforts. “I think it was me experimenting and growing and of course maybe trying to change myself a little bit and trying to see where I fit in, because I felt like maybe I didn’t fit in anywhere.”

“You know, I was always making music that I was really proud of,” she adds. “And I look back at the music that I put out when I was younger, and I still find it really amazing for my age. But I’m happy that I was able to grow up a little bit and experiment and live before my first album, because you really get the most real of me and the most authentic album you could ever get. So I’m happy that my first album is something as amazing as The hardest part.”

An integral part of the development of his sound was his friendship with Australian musician PJ Harding, whom he met at a summer songwriting camp in Bali. Together they wrote the excellent folk ballad “July”, which would later appear on his 2020 EP The end of everythingspawned a remix with Leon Bridges and helped land her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 2021. That EP marked a major turning point for Cyrus, who soon found her footing in what she describes as “really simple” and ” naturally made”. ” songs like “I got so high I saw Jesus” and “The end of everything”.

by The hardest part, linked up with producer Mike Crossey (The 1975, Wolf Alice), who helped her refine and focus on that “super organic” sound by filling the album with live instruments like pedal steel guitars, violins and strings. The title track, for example, climaxes with giant drum fills before ending on a peaceful harmonica-led finale. Meanwhile, “My Side of the Bed” is a heartrending piano waltz, and “Loretta’s Song,” a moving tribute to her late maternal grandmother, sounds like an instant classic gospel hymn.

It all adds up to a 10-track debut that suggests Cyrus, unlike many artists her age, isn’t particularly interested in chasing the trends currently appearing on TikTok or on the radio. “I’m definitely the most disconnected of those things. I’m trying, but I’m way beyond my little 22 years on this planet. I feel like a grandmother,” she says. Instead, she found her groove in Tennessee country roots that run deep for the Cyrus clan, including father Billy Ray and sister Miley.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

“I’m definitely my father’s daughter, so I was very inspired by home and those sounds. And my dad was a huge inspiration on this record, both in the lyrics and the narrative, but also in the music,” she says. “I feel like my father is a big reason why I have experience in the music that I make, and he is the one who brought me that passion from such a young age. My dad is such a passionate person, and I’m a lot like him. I am also extremely emotional. I’ve been like this since he was a kid. I’m super sensitive and really in touch with my feelings, and I realized that putting that into my music was a superpower.”

Consequently, Cyrus fills her songs with unflinching narratives about what she describes as her “pessimistic” fear that the people she loves will leave her (“Ready to Go,” “I Just Want a Lover”); coming to terms with the twilight of a relationship (“Every Beginning Ends,” a duet with Ben Gibbard, which she said she was inspired by her parents’ divorce); and a noxious relationship tainted by drug abuse (“Mr. Percocet”).

The most shocking moment on the album comes the moment you press play, on the opening track “Noah (Stand Still)”: “When I turned 20 I got over it/With the thought that I might not turn 21,” he sings. Cyrus has previously explained that she did The hardest part after going into recovery for a Xanax addiction; she said Rolling Stone earlier this year that she was introduced to the drug by her then-boyfriend when she was 18, eventually deciding to seek help after her grandmother passed away in 2020.

“That lyric is about an actual conversation I had with a friend of mine around my 20th birthday. Personally, things had gotten really tough and another year seemed really impossible,” says Cyrus. “I wrote this song once I was already in recovery, so I was remembering that. It was a really scary time for me and for the people who love me. And it’s an extremely powerful lyric, but I also found that that was a very appropriate place for it to be on the album, to start something so honest. I think one line sets you up for the weight you’re going to feel for the rest of the album.”

That song, he adds, “really tells a story,” which can be heard in the music itself: What starts out as a melancholy acoustic-guitar-driven ballad eventually turns into a more joyful, harmonic anthem about grounding yourself in the middle. of chaos. . The track revolves around generational wisdom: “And my father told me, Noah, when you don’t know where you’re going, just be still / You’ll soon know,” she sings. Likewise, Cyrus calls The hardest part “a very healing album” and shares that he is currently “in a great place” in his recovery.

“I really take it one day at a time and I don’t try to put a lot of pressure on myself,” he says. “But I’m doing really well and I’m over a year off of Xanax and I’m very proud to say that. It was very hard at the beginning, but I am very proud of where I am now.”

I really take it one day at a time… I’ve been Xanax free for over a year and I’m very proud to say it.

As for writing about his recovery and deciding to share it with the world, well, he just considers it an occupational hazard.

“I was definitely putting it into my music before I made a conscious decision to be open about it, and it’s definitely not something I look at as a secret,” she explains. “But I felt like it was pretty public, whether it was on social media at the time or in certain interviews years ago I look back and I see that thing in my eye that makes me extremely sad, looking back at photos or videos of me same when I was using. But yeah, it was all coming out in my music and I wanted to be open and honest. It’s part of who I was and who I am.”

and now that The hardest part is finally in the world, Cyrus seems determined not to wait another six years to make the No. 2 album.

“Mike and I immediately said, ‘LP 2! LP 2!’” she says. “So yeah, I have a lot of songs that I’ve written that I love. Some older, some who might be in The hardest part but that didn’t really complement that story. I’m totally thinking about album 2. I’m always thinking about moving on.”

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