Billy Ray Cyrus is sharing his core beliefs. First, the country music star knows what makes for a good duet. (Nineteen weeks of “Old Town Road” with Lil Nas X at No. 1 helped solidify that.) He’s certain of the value dogs bring to this world. (He’s convinced his late German Shepherd Tex was a matchmaker — more on that in a second.) And here at the age of 61, he’s finally convinced of Newton’s Third Law. But ever the rebel, he has his own spin on the notion of action and reaction. “For everything that’s good,” he says, “there’s always been something equally as bad.” That’s been his experience, he says. “I’ve never really known the middle.”
The singer and actor is known as much as the singer of “Achy Breaky Heart,” which launched him into stardom 30 years ago, as being father to Miley, which launched each to stardom when they both appeared on Hannah Montana from 2006 to 2011. He is acting again, in a new movie, Christmas in Paradise with Kelsey Grammer and Elizabeth Hurley. Of working with Hurley, he says, “On set I just thought, “This has to be what working with Elizabeth Taylor was like.”
Cyrus says after a period of “bad” (he and wife Tish divorced in April, his mother Ruth Ann Casto died four months later) he’s now getting some “good.” He’s engaged. And yes, he says, Tex introduced him to his fiancée, a 34-year-old singer who goes by the name Firerose. (About her name: It was given to her by her grandmother as a child in Australia, she says, and is now her legal name. “It’s always how I’ve identified.”) “She’s the real deal,” Cyrus says.
It was 12 years ago, and Cyrus was on the set of the Disney Channel series in Los Angeles. “I loved doing that show,” he remembers. “There’s a couple old pine trees on the lot that look like Tennessee. Tex and I would go out there in the middle of the day and he’d take care of his business and we’d stretch and I’d think how much I missed Tennessee. On that given day, Firerose came out of the front door. There was almost a moment of, I don’t know, recognition. I was like, ‘This girl’s a star.'”
There was no way Cyrus could have known her. But Firerose knew who Cyrus was. “Growing up in Australia, my love of music was predominant over everything,” she says. “I’ve known his music since forever.”
“‘Since forever,'” Cyrus playfully mocks. “That’s how long I’ve been around.”
Firerose came over to say hi to Tex. “She told me she’d had an audition and I said, “Well, I’m sure you got the job.” Firerose doesn’t remember what she auditioned for, but she didn’t get the job. Cyrus had an idea that day. “I just thought, well, the casting agents, the producers, the writers, they’re all on the floor of where we do Hannah Montana. And I actually said to her, ‘Don’t ever take a strange man up on this offer, but, in this case, Tex will testify that you will be totally safe. I’m going to introduce you to a producer and you can kind of make yourself at home and watch us rehearse and you know, maybe it might lead to a role or just another contact at Disney.’ And so, off me and her and Tex went back to the studio and I think she met a lot of the cast and met the producers, writers. And, in some ways, well, in a lot of ways, we became friends.”
They stayed in touch. Firerose asked Cyrus to hear some of her music. “Our friendship was so solid over the years,” says Firerose. As the pandemic began, they became songwriting partners. “She plays all of her own instruments and writes her own songs,” says Cyrus. “We started sharing music, and it just evolved.” In July 2021 they released “New Day,” their first song together. “Billy confided in me a lot of what was going on in his life,” Firerose says, alluding to his marital strife. “I was just the best friend I could possibly be, supporting him.”
Cyrus and Tish have since finalized their divorce. (It was the third time the couple had filed.) Moving on afterward “took a lot of prayer. A lot,” says Cyrus, who asked Firerose if they could be more than friends.
“There was sickness and death, and hard times,” Cyrus says of life during the pandemic. “All of the sudden, the life that I’ve always known as a touring artist didn’t exist anymore. A moment of so much change. And at the same time, Firerose, who had been such a light of positivity, such a best friend. And then when we started sharing the music, it just evolved more into, as musical soulmates, to soulmates, happy, pure love that to me, I didn’t know could exist. Again, we’re musicians, first and foremost, both of us. And we found this harmony, and this rhythm, this melody to life.”
In the early summer Firerose moved to Cyrus’s Franklin, Tenn., farm, where his mother, then ailing, was also living. In August, Cyrus proposed. There was no bent knee. No ring. “Billy looked at me and said, ‘Do you, do you wanna marry me?’ And I was just like, ‘Of course I do. I love you,’ ” says Firerose, who later picked out a diamond and designed her own ring. “He said, ‘I love you. I wanna make this official. I wanna be with you forever.’ ”
Despite rumors of a rift with his children — he is father to son Christopher Cody (with ex-girlfriend Kristin Luckey), 30, and shares daughters Miley, Brandi, 35, and Noah, 22, and sons Trace, 33, and Braison, 28, with Tish — Cyrus says there are no hard feelings. “Everyone knew that that relationship was over a long time ago,” he says. “Everybody’s turning the page. It’s been a lot, but everyone knew that it was time for a change.”
Cyrus says his new single with Firerose, titled “Time” (see the exclusive music video above), is a reckoning. “I’ve spent my life worried about things that are beyond my control. But at this spot in my life, knowing that all you really have is the happiness that you feel inside your mind and your heart . . .” He pauses and begins to cry. “Finding Firerose and getting engaged and then losing my mom [a few weeks later]- see? The teeter-totter won’t stay in the middle,” he says. “But having somebody to ride it out with now—that’s giving me a little more balance.”