NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Billy Ray Cyrus is back in Tennessee. Or at least he was.
The Kentucky-born singer and actor, who has been spending much of his time in Los Angeles, where he stars in the Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" with his daughter Miley Cyrus, had a busy summer around Nashville last year. Not only did he host NBC's "Nashville Star" talent competition and film (with Miley) the forthcoming "Hannah Montana: The Movie," but he also made a new album, "Back to Tennessee," which will be released March 31 by Lyric Street, the Nashville sister label of Walt Disney Records.
The CD originally was scheduled for fall release, but the new date could turn out to be fortuitous. The Hannah Montana movie hits theaters April 10, and Cyrus' current single and title track, "Back to Tennessee," which is in the movie, is now getting play on country radio. Cyrus co-wrote the I'm-longing-for-home tune with Tamara Dunn and Matthew Wilder.
Cyrus says that "Back to Tennessee" is "the cornerstone" of the Hannah Montana movie, which is about Miley/Hannah's return to her roots, but adds that it also represents his return.
"You are talking to someone who loves the country, who was born and raised in Kentucky," he says.
His last album, "Home at Last," was recorded in Los Angeles. The new set marks a return to Music City. It was produced by Mark Bright, whose credits includes best-selling albums by Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood.
The new set will include a duet with Miley on "Butterfly," a song from the movie. Miley's version will appear on the soundtrack, but the duet will appear only on Cyrus' album. ("Ready, Set, Don't Go" from his last album featured Miley. That song peaked at No. 4 on Hot Country Songs in February 2008 and was his biggest hit in nine years.)
Still a concert draw, Cyrus will be on the road a couple of weeks each month for the rest of the year, playing casinos, clubs, country festivals and Sea World.
Cyrus has heard talk that his career would be over after the phenomenon that was "Achy Breaky Heart," his 1992 No. 1 hit, but he's had the last laugh.
"I never give up," he says. "My dad always said, 'As long as you love what you do for a living, you never have to work another day in your life.' I love making music, and I knew that no matter what happened that until the day I died I would be making music somewhere. I knew I would be setting up my guitar and my microphone somewhere and I would be singing for somebody."
Cyrus' father also advised him to "have a career like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton."
"I said, 'Dad, what does that mean?' and he said, 'Well, you have to branch out into TV and film,'" Cyrus recalls. "And I hadn't really thought about that. I went to L.A. the next week and they were casting (for the drama series "Doc"), and I went and auditioned and they hired me. And four years later, 88 episodes, I was a full-time actor. And I look back on it now and think, 'Man, I am really glad that my dad said that,' because there is no doubt that I would not be having the career that I am having now if I hadn't branched out."
(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)