IN CONVERSATION WITH NOAH CYRUS
Noah Cyrus grabbed the reins, took control of her life and told her story like never before in the middle of a whirlwind of loss, heartbreak and chaos. The Grammy Award-nominated multiplatinum Nashville-born and Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter uncovered the kind of strength you only find within. She lived every song and the embers of her experiences burn bright over a soundtrack steeped in pop spirit, folk eloquence and country soul. She has stepped into herself on her 2022 debut album ’The Hardest Part’, which was released on 16 September.
Noah, you had a lot of music in your family growing up. Is this background what ignited your passion for music?
It definitely gave me some context to what I was kind of getting into. I think being in a really musical family gave me a lot of inspiration from a very early age and also introduced me to a lot of incredible music at a really young age. So I think I was so musically influenced from such a young age that it definitely had an impact on me. And just from growing up in a musical family, of course I’m one of my dad’s biggest fans, so naturally I did want to be just like him. And I mean, looking at Miley and Trace and all the amazing things that they’ve done musically, as well. And my brother Braison’s a songwriter now.
But at the time I had really just seen this and I was less fond of the public side of everything than the actual music itself. And I think that’s what always kept me from it in the beginning and at younger ages. I still think starting at 16 was extremely young. If I had a do over, I maybe would’ve waited until I was a little older, like my mom had originally told me to do. My mom didn’t even want to allow me to put out music until I was 18, but my mom also isn’t the type of parent to not allow her kids to do something that they’re driven to do. She would never hold us back from something we wanna do, but she really did not want me to do it so young, for my mental health. And moms are always right.
You emerged onto the scene in 2016 at the age of 16 and immediately captivated audiences. How do you look back on the beginnings of your music career?
My very first performance ever on TV was on Jimmy Fallon, with Labrinth. And then performing at the VMAs with Labrinth at the time felt so big and so scary. Of course, the VMAs was so insane for me, being always somebody that was rather in the seat watching somebody else that I was related to on a stage. And now I was on that stage and that person was in the audience watching me. And we got to have such an amazing moment together as sisters, just her being able to experience me as an artist on the stage. And also me being on such a big stage amongst all these amazing artists and performing with one of my favorite artists of all time, Labrinth. I was just so amazed. But being on Jimmy Fallon for my very first time ever being on a stage was quite nerve wracking and terrifying.
So I would say that’s kind of the most insane one at my earlier stages, just because it was literally my first concert ever or first time being on a major stage. I remember that being so scary for me, that all the other really scary performances didn’t feel scary, because I got my first one out of the way. And it was on national TV on Jimmy Fallon, so I knocked both of those out at the same time.
You’ve been nominated for a Grammy Award in the category ’Best New Artist’ and Billboard named you amongs its ’21 Under 21’ for three consecutive years. How did these achievements impact your future career?
I try to not search for validation in that stuff. But honestly, it’s obviously an honor to be named as one of ’21 Under 21’ most influential teens at the time. It’s always an honor knowing that people are listening to the music and are inspired by the music, and are hopefully being healed by the music. That my music is making an impact and that it’s being recognized is always an honor, but I try to not let myself get to a point where I search for that and gain validation from that.
While your music career was consistently ascending to greater heights, your well-being was spiraling downward just as rapidly. You’ve been open about your struggles. How did you overcome them and came out stronger?
You know, the first step was asking for help. And once I got the help I received, it was about staying focused on that until I could get myself sort of stable with the recovery journey. And in that process, I also met my new manager, Mookie Singerman. And Mookie helped me then get in contact with Mike Crossey. The reason I’m saying all this is, working on the album and being in the studio with Mike Crossey every single day and focusing on my music and having something to focus on other than my recovery, helped me.
Hyper focusing on my recovery was actually giving me so much anxiety and putting so much pressure on my recovery, so being able to have an outlet with my music and being so involved on the production side and with the arrangements of the music and really building my musicianship and getting in touch with my musicianship, I felt like I was there. But I’ve never been as in touch with that as I am now. And that’s all because of that album. Working with Mike Crossey, I learned so much. And honestly, I would say that the album saved my life because I don’t know what I would’ve done without it. I don’t know what I would’ve done in that time, I don’t know how I would’ve managed. And this album was there for me and I got to put all of my emotion into the lyrics and into the music.
Your debut album ‘The Hardest Part’ is being released today (16 September). What was the biggest inspiration for you when you wrote the songs for this album?
A lot of things inspired me while I was writing the songs. I’d say I write about the harder times naturally, I think that’s just how I am as a writer. That’s my outlet, writing about the harder times, the harder stuff. I think a lot of my inspiration comes from back home and obviously family and my dad and growing up and kind of coming to terms with what that means and finding yourself, but also finding yourself while also learning how quick everything moves and love and loss and life and death. I think there was so much that inspired me and that I wanted to write about on this album. There was a lot of inspiration. I find my inspiration in everything.
There’s a song on the record called ‘Loretta’s Song’, which is sad to listen to, but it’s a pretty hopeful and positive song. It’s a beautiful song about my grandmother, the word she lived by, who she was as a human being and who she is after life. And she was such an angelic human being. I think whenever you were with her, it was kind of the closest you could get to God. I feel she was just so loving and powerful.
And so I tried to put that into a song and honor her with this song, which I wrote in the beginning to give to my mother after grandmother’s passing. I hadn’t really been there majority of the time after her passing, because I was still very much in my addiction and I isolated myself even more after her passing than I had been isolated. And it really caused me to not be there with my family or for my mother as much as I had wanted to be. I felt a lot of guilt and I wanted to be able to give my mother something.
So would you say this song about your grandma is the most emotional one on the album?
I think it depends on who you are. To me, I would say it’s emotional, but not in a sad way. I think it depends on what you’re going through in your life. I feel extremely at peace when I hear this song. So for me, I would say the most emotional song and hard song to listen to would be ‘My Side of the Bed’. That one is the one that I’m just extremely physically and emotionally connected to. And it’s a pretty big insight into the relationship I was in at the time, of everything I was going through and where we were and how I felt during pandemic.
It’s a very visual song and it’s written about the relationship and how I was feeling from the other person. But also, I ask a lot in the song “Are you leaving me”? And that’s something that I ask everyone quite a bit and it’s this underlying anxiety that I have at every single moment, that whoever I’m with is gonna be gone. And so whether I’m sleeping next to somebody and they’re just getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I’m gonna wake up cause I feel somebody leaving me. It’s like I sleep with one eye open and I’m just waiting. It stems out of the sphere that everyone’s leaving, so I feel like I’m hypersensitive to the fact of feeling someone move in their seat to get up or someone getting up to leave. Like, are they gonna take me with them? Are they ever coming back? That’s all very scary for me. And I wrote about that with ‘My Side of the Bed’ and that’s my favorite song on that album. It’s very personal and real, and it’s probably the most painful to listen to, but I love it so much.
For this album you dramatically expanded the sonic palette and oversaw arrangements, emphasizing the incorporation of instruments such as pedal steel and slide guitar. Why is incorporating the instruments so dear and important to you?
I mean, I’m from Nashville and I felt like doing a real live instrument album was just what I had always envisioned for me and what I wanted to do. And obviously I write a lot about going home. Home is a big topic for me and I just found it was really important for me to go back to where I’m from, in music as well. Go back to my roots a little bit and bring in some of that early inspiration that I found or some of the inspiration that I’ve gathered from my dad or just Nashville.
What is the most fulfilling part of creating music for you?
The most fulfilling part for me is seeing how my music can help someone heal or change someone’s life or give someone strength or courage or a friend. That’s probably the most fulfilling part emotionally. Also, I’ve never had a first album before. Having a full body of work done, that I’ve worked so hard on for a year, is fulfilling. To know that it’s actually coming out, I have a feeling it’ll be quite fulfilling to see all of this unravel and what everybody thinks of it. I felt like this was the very first time I’ve ever been proud of myself. And that’s a very fulfilling feeling as well.
When you mention your roots and being from Nashville, why is Nashville in your opinion the perfect music capital in the States?
There’s so many different talents in Nashville that you can find. It’s the home of some of the greatest singers and songwriters of all time. I think there’s just a lot of inspiration that you find there, within the people and within the place itself and the beauty of it. It’s interesting for me, I think no matter where my family was or where I grew up, I would probably look back and idolize Nashville. My dad, my mom, my family and everyone is there, that really makes it my home. And I feel like that’s probably why I love it so much, cause I’m going home to them. But yeah, I think there’s a lot of inspiration there and there’s a lot of beautiful people and amazing different people and writers and guitar players there.
Are you maybe already thinking of the next steps of your career, how you would like to grow, explore and evolve?
I think I’m really enjoying right now as and just living in my very first album, but of course I’m always thinking ahead. That’s kind of part of my anxiety, so I’m always thinking too far ahead. But yeah, I’ve already started thinking a lot about a second album as well and telling Mike that we have to get back in the studio to finish the second album. So we’re already on it.
I’m always thinking about that and of what I wanna grow or evolve to and into, musically and personally. Personally, I’ve been working on myself for the past year and a half and I don’t wanna stop. So I’m just always trying to evolve and grow.
INTERVIEW BY JANA LETONJA
Talent: Noah Cyrus
Photographer / Creative director: Tyler Patrick Kenny
Stylist: Lyn Alyson
Make-up: Dominique DellaMaggiore with The Only Agency
Hair: Laura Rugetti with The Only Agency
Assisting photographer / BTS: Reno Ronquillo
Set design: Jozette Cortez
Styling assistants: Melanie Mceachen, Malaney Jackson
Editor: Timi Letonja