Billy Ray Cyrus has recorded a public service announcement for Lee National Denim Day on Oct. 5, a fund-raiser to fight breast cancer. The money will go to the Women’s Cancer Programs of the Entertainment Industry Foundation. The singer and actor talks to PEOPLE about how cancer has touched his family – plus his move to Los Angeles from Tennessee and his new song for his daughter, Hannah Montana star, Miley Cyrus.
Can you talk a bit about the PSA?
What it is, is that on Oct. 5, everyone wears jeans to work – or wherever you’re going that day, you wear jeans – and donate $5 [to fight breast cancer], and that’ll add up real quick to an extensive amount of help and hope for this project.
What made you decide to participate?
People know I have three little girls. They know I have a wife. They know I have a mom. I come from Eastern Kentucky, Flatwoods to be exact, and I had a lot of aunts up there and unfortunately several of them battled breast cancer. It’s a very unforgiving disease, and to be a part of hope, that’s everything I prayed God would give me the wisdom to live my life for.
How did your family’s history of battling this disease influence you?
If you read the notes in my new album, Home at Last, you’ll read that my album is dedicated to my daddy. I lost my dad a little over a year ago to mesophilioma, another form of a very aggressive cancer. I put his picture inside the album and the point being – yes, I know what cancer’s all about. Yes, I’ve lived it. Yes, I’ve seen it. Yes, I’ve dealt with it and it ain’t been pretty.
What’s the message you hope to send out with this PSA?
What this project represents is hope. We’re not only talking about awareness, we’re talking about a possible cure, at least one that can be effective in some way. So it was a no-brainer when they called and asked me if I wanted to participate.
On your CD there’s a song called ‘Ready, Set Don’t Go,’ you wrote for your daughter, Miley. What’s the story behind that song?
The series of Hannah Montana had been picked up. It was obvious to the Cyrus family we needed to move from Franklin, Tenn., to Los Angeles, Calif. We all loaded up and put all the stuff in a U-Haul and the whole family – except for me – took off driving with all of our belongings to come out here and start filming Hannah Montana and live in L.A. full time because the demands of the work.
I stayed behind to tie up some loose ends with my tour … I watched Miley disappear into the sunset there – driving off in the U-Haul. I walked into my house and it was empty. I was alone and it was silent, and like I so often do, I leaned on my guitar for comfort, and the song just came to me. It’s a very natural evolution and the building block and corner stone of the album. I’m so proud of this album because it’s so real. I’m playing my life right now as an open book. I’m just having a lot of fun getting to act with my little girl and be her daddy and be her best friend and it’s just an amazing time to give thanks to almighty God to whom all things that are good come from.