“It was all about timing and purpose.” That’s how Billy Ray Cyrus explains his — surprising to some — collaboration with vocal legend Dionne Warwick. The pair have released a moving ballad, “Hope is Just Ahead” which has been charming fans of all genres of music, in great part to the unexpectedly seamless way the two very different singers’ voices meld together.
As it turns out, Cyrus and Warwick were brought together by Warwick’s son, who heard the song while Cyrus was taping “The Jay Leno Show” and played it for his mother over the phone. Mutual friend Jamie Foxx, who also heard and loved the song, offered up his home studio for the duo to record, and the track premiered in late January to rave reviews.
“I actually wrote [the song] with my buddy Don Von Tress the day after Columbine. And the news had broke, and we were playing a concert, on the bus, watching the news coming out of Colorado and the song just came,” Cyrus explains. “It was kinda like ‘Some Gave All,’ ‘Trail of Tears’… the words just came. Don and I wrote the song like right then — and I sat with the song for years. And I always would pray that God would give me a purpose through the music and the songs would find their place in time and this song certainly did.
“When Dionne heard the song and joined in on the record, she took it to a new level.”
Warwick notes that she had no hesitations about joining in on the track. “I fell in love with the song. Lyrically it’s everything that I would normally say in any event, for any reason, regarding the health and welfare of people, generally,” she confirms. “I think he nailed it without any question whatsoever, and I must say I’m really pleased that [he] thought of me to be [his] duet partner on this one.”
Of course, savvy fans will connect the dots quickly to realize that Cyrus is collaborating with more than just one member of the Warwick clan. Warwick’s aforementioned son is Damon Elliot, also known as rapper Buck 22, whom Cyrus has just recently joined forces with to record “Achy Breaky 2” — a hip-hop styled version of Cyrus’s 1992 smash hit “Achy Breaky Heart.” While the cover has attracted its share of negative reviews — many for its risque video, which Warwick opines is “the cutest, funniest thing ever” — it’s gained an undeniably huge amount of attention in record time.
It’s a little ironic that a video featuring scantily clad women twerking started out via the path of a song written in the aftermath of a tragedy, but Cyrus thinks everything happens for a reason: “What’s nice about everything that I’m going through with Buck 22 … It all stated with hope, with Dionne, everything that grew out of that was just a natural momentum of singers and songwriters and entertainers collaborating in a moment of music.”
“For me, my mantra was ‘I’m leaning into the music.’ I was writing songs every day, recording every day and just living with my guitar and singers and songwriters. I found myself just writing songs with the greatest people around in town and just leaning and living in the music. And Miss Dionne comes into my life,” Cyrus muses, calling the collaboration “A moment of ‘this is why I bought my guitar and started a band,’ because I felt like it was my purpose through the music.”
“You take her background, my background, combining the two and all of the musical styles that we love. I believe that on “Hope is Just Ahead” it’s all there…..gospel, that whole thing of stacks and stacks of harmony. Her performance elevated my performance, and it became something that – I feel like it’s a really special record at a special time.”