Joel Ryan, AP
Head to any newsstand, and chances are Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter, Miley, will be mentioned in the majority of the tabloid magazines. The 18-year old's name has been splashed across headlines everywhere in recent months -- not for her acting and singing talent, but for her questionable and sometimes dangerous behavior, including alleged underage drinking and a recent video of her taking bong hits of salvia, a legal herb but with psychedelic effects. Dad Billy Ray, who has remained mostly silent throughout the media frenzy, is now speaking candidly about the former 'Hannah Montana' star's actions.
"There's no doubt I did stuff when I was a teenager that I'm sure could have turned out horribly," he tells GQ magazine. "I've done some stupid crap -- I do stupid crap. We all do. But it's different when you sit back and you see it happening to your little girl."
The country singer is adamant that while his daughter has been making some seemingly detrimental choices, the finger-pointing should not be in his direction.
"Every time something happened in Miley's career, every time the train went off the track, if you will -- Vanity Fair [referring to his daughter's scantily-clad 2008 photo shoot], pole-dancing, whatever scandal it was -- her handlers would [say], 'Somebody's shooting at Miley! Put the old man up there!'," he recalls. "Well, I took it, because I'm her daddy, and that's what daddies do. 'Okay, nail me to the cross, I'll take it' ... All those people around, they used me every time. It became so obvious that no matter what happens, they're going to put you up there and let you take the bullet."
His long-standing pattern of defending his then-minor daughter stopped when she became of legal age in November, thanks to how her 'handlers' wanted to help her celebrate the big day -- with a party at the Trousdale club in Hollywood. "You know why I didn't go? Because they were having it in a bar," he insists. "It was wrong. It was for 21 years old and up ... They all wanted me to fly out so that then when all the bad press came they could say, 'Daddy endorsed this stuff.'"
The unfortunate incident was the painful wake-up call the 'Achy Breaky Heart' singer needed. "I started realizing I'm being used," he continues. "I said, 'This whole thing's falling apart up there and they just want to blame all of this stuff on you again.' I'm staying out of it."
However, the father of six painfully acknowledges he might own some of the responsibility for Miley's actions. "['Hannah Montana'] was driving a wedge between us," he reveals. "How many interviews did I give and say, 'You know what's important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids'? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, 'You don't need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.' Well, I'm the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, 'Enough is enough -- it's getting dangerous and somebody's going to get hurt.' I should have, but I didn't. Honestly, I didn't know the ball was out of bounds until it was way up in the stands somewhere."
The showbiz Dad insists though, that in spite of the way Miley's career sky-rocketed with the hit Nickelodeon TV show, the perks of her stardom belonged solely to her. "I've never made a dime off of Miley," he professes. "A lot of people have made percentages off of her. I'm proud to say to this day I've never made one commissioned dollar, or dime, off of my daughter."
Still, the distraught father says those that are profiting from her success are the ones putting her directly in harm's way. "I'm scared for her," he acknowledges. "She's got a lot of people around her that are putting her in a great deal of danger. I know she's 18, but I still feel like as her daddy I'd like to try to help. Take care of her just a little bit, to at least get her out of danger. I want to get her sheltered from the storm. Stop the insanity just for a minute. When you go through what she's been through, it takes a beating on you. And there comes a point where you just got to step back."
In addition to watching Miley's unfortunate life choices, Billy Ray is also in the middle of a painful divorce from his wife of 18 years, Tish Cyrus. He says 'Hannah Montana' is partially to blame for that disastrous downfall, as well. "It destroyed my family," he insists. "The damn show destroyed my family. And I sit there and go, 'Yeah, you know what? Some gave all'," he adds, referring to the title track of his first album. "It is my motto, and guess what? I have to eat that one. I some-gave-all'd it all right. I some-gave-all'd it while everybody else was going to the bank. It's all sad."
The cycle of difficulty, which inclues a lawsuit from his former road manager as well, has brought out one unexpected perk: a rapid-fire burst of creativity that resulted in an album's worth of tunes in three weeks. "Not by choice," he says. "The [tune] I wrote this morning is called 'Feels Like Goodbye.'" It's unexpectedly stark, simple and beautiful."
Before the new tracks can be added to another CD, Billy Ray will release an album of patriotic tunes, 'I'm American,' that is tentatively scheduled for a Memorial Day release. The multi-platinum selling singer and actor says that more than twenty years from when it all began, not much has changed. "I'm right back where I started," he concedes. "I'm still just sitting here writing bar-band music."
Living back in his home state of Tennessee, he will travel to Florida next month to play in the annual Strawberry Festival. He is also spending time on his role as spokesperson for the Tune Up for COPD campaign. More information about the cause can be found here.