Recorded in Los Angeles over three months with producer Brandon Friesen, Change My Mind finds Cyrus coming full circle musically. Having attended college on a baseball scholarship before buying a guitar at age 20 made him question his career path, Cyrus started a band called Sly Dog, and for years made his living performing in the smoky bars of the Ohio River Valley. Change My Mind has that loose, honky-tonk feel of bar band music, but is performed by a group of world-class musicians, including in-demand session drummer Kenny Aronoff, bassist Dusty Wakeman, and guitarists Leroy Powell, John West, Dominic Cifarelli, and Nelson Blanton.
“Once Kenny was locked in, Brandon and I knew the train was on the right track,” Cyrus says. “We started bringing in guitar players with different influences that really covered the spectrum of everything I’ve ever listened to including early bluegrass, like Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe. We built this really solid rock and roll band, but when I started listening to the tracks I realized, ‘Oh, man. I’ve definitely got the rock and roll side covered, but what about the other part of my roots?’ That’s when we added banjo player Tony Furtado and fiddler Luke Price. They kind of work as a team and have been playing with Alison Krauss for years. Once we did that, we knew the band was complete. It became the perfect mesh of everything I wanted to create sound-wise with Kenny holding down the bottom end on those drums.”
The album’s highlights include the country-rock title track, which Cyrus says features “a little piece of every style of music I love,” the lean and mean "Hillbilly Heart,” and “Once Again," which finds Cyrus channeling such rock influences as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There’s also an update of Some Gave All’s "I'm So Miserable," which is given a smoky twist and a blistering guitar solo that pays homage to one of Cyrus’ all-time favorites, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Change My Mind also showcases Cyrus’ smoldering, swaggering voice, as well as his unforgettable melodies and candid lyrics that offer up a window into his colorful life. “My songs come to me when I’m dealing with heavy stuff,” he says. “If I’m going through something emotional, the songs pour out of me. It’s the only way I know how to express myself. I have lived through every emotion on every one of these songs. There has been so much chaos around my world over the past few years. I’d just write it all down and tell myself, ‘Lean into the music.’”
The result is a series of heartfelt tracks, including "That's What Daddys Do" — a tender ballad about fatherhood that Cyrus wrote during what he calls the storm of his life. “I was separated from my wife and my kids and looking at our worlds being torn apart. I said to myself, ‘You know what Cyrus? You’re the dad. You’ve got to go put your family back together. That’s what daddies do.’ And the song came to me.” “Hope Is Just Ahead” was written the day after and inspired by the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, but Cyrus feels the events resonate with what’s going on in the world today. Then there’s “Tomorrow Became Yesterday,” which Cyrus says is the most personal song on Change My Mind. “When I was a young boy my dad would say, ‘Don’t worry about stuff beyond your control, because one day you’ll look in the mirror and be an old man and your life will have passed you by.’ Unfortunately I did worry my whole life, and I remember that moment when I realized, ‘My dad was right.’”
The lyrical honesty, Cyrus says, was born out of the complete freedom he had in making Change My Mind, which will be released on October 23rd by Blue Cadillac Music, the independent label Cyrus has launched with Friesen. “I was able to make a record with 100 percent creative control: no rules, no limits, and without trying to fit anyone’s preconceived notions,” he says. “That in itself was sweet. It’s the reason I started a band all those years ago, because I thought music was supposed to be an artistic and true reflection of who you are.”
Now, fresh off the 20-year anniversary of Some Gave All, Cyrus is ready to unleash the album of his life, Change My Mind, which has made him recall some valuable advice that his friend, rock and roll pioneer Carl Perkins, gave him back in the day. “Carl said, ‘Hoss, just do what you do. Make your music, don’t be following anyone who says you have to sound like everyone else. That’s the main thing: Be original.’ Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash told me the same thing. All these years and all this turbulence later, I’m glad I listened.”