Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Billy Ray Cyrus

TOPSY-TURVY TRIUMPH

HAVING YOUR CAREER TAKE OFF AT achy breaky speed isn't all caviar and klieg lights. Just ask Billy Ray Cyrus, 31. "It's really a lot harder than I thought it would be," he confesses. "The work, the interviews, the lack of sleep, the lack of nutrition. I'd like to say that I have an outlet, that I get away, but I don't."

Instead, the hillybilly heartthrob from Flatwoods, Ky., who now lives in Nashville, put his "all" into his second album, It Won't Be the Last, which sprinted to the top of the charts almost as briskly as his debut album. "This music is very real," he says. "If you listen, you can hear where I've been. These songs are about my life."

Cyrus traces his musical roots to his local Pentecostal church, where he started singing in the choir at age 4. Further inspired by the sounds of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin, he picked up a guitar in 1980 and taught himself to play.

Now, having just wrapped a "When I'm Gone" video, Cyrus, who is divorced and the father of Christopher Cody, 14 months, is back on the road again pushing his latest wares. And so what if some music industry folks cluck at his Chippendale-like moves and his gruff, barked-out delivery? Billy Ray's loyalties lie with his fans. "I appreciate the people who listen to me and judge me by the music," he says. "If you want to know me, listen to the music. These songs are a true reflection of my soul."

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