Johnny McGuire Found a Brother in Billy Ray Cyrus
When Johnny McGuire's previous duo Walker McGuire called it quits, he could've decided to call it quits, too. Instead, the "harmony" half of the duo convinced the band's old label to give him a shot.
"I moved to town to be an artist, and when the band broke up, it was either fight or flight," McGuire tells Taste of Country. "You either quit or you have to get to work."
Luckily for McGuire, he had a newfound mentor, friend and collaborator who helped show him what work ethic really looks like.
"I relate a lot to Johnny, and in some ways he really does remind me of myself when I was younger," says Billy Ray Cyrus, fresh off breaking the Billboard Hot 100 record for consecutive weeks at No. 1 as a feature artist on Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road."
"I mentioned that his voice is fire, but his attitude is fire. His music is fire. The legends, they all said let your music be your truth, and this man lives his music."
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McGuire first met Cyrus last year when his band, Walker McGuire, was in Los Angeles filming a segment for a TV show with other artists. Billy's daughter Noah was there filming too, and when her guitar had a malfunction, Johnny let her borrow his. Billy Ray came in to thank Johnny and told him that if he ever needed anything to let him know.
Two weeks later, their manager reached out to see if Billy had any interest in joining them on a song they had written called "Chevys and Fords." Cyrus agreed immediately and they recorded the song in October 2018.
"Originally it was supposed to be Walker McGuire featuring Billy Ray Cyrus," McGuire reveals. "I would've probably just been singing harmony. But once the band broke up and Billy still wanted to do the song, I basically learned how to sing lead on that song."
A timeless country trope using the all-American car brands as metaphors for important life moments, "Chevys and Fords" is as classic feeling of a country song as you'll hear from a mainstream act. After redoing the song to make it just a Johnny McGuire and Billy Ray Cyrus song, McGuire's relationship with Cyrus strengthened. One of the first performances of "Chevys and Fords" came in front of tens of thousands of people, when the pair performed at Nissan Stadium during CMA Fest.
"People ask me like, 'Oh, is Billy your uncle now?' but he's more like a brother," McGuire says. "I don't look at him as being older than me, because we both like the same music, both really passionate about writing songs, often on the fly. We might both be in different parts of our careers, but I get to learn from him while he surges back into country music."
The five months between Walker McGuire's breakup and Johnny McGuire's solo launch certainly felt like a long time — especially considering Billy Ray Cyrus' role in inarguably the biggest song in the world. "I was probably ready to go long before this," McGuire says. "We were gonna release a song even if I didn't have a record deal."
"I love the way he thinks," Cyrus includes. "His spirit is so good. He's a music man, that's what I love about Johnny."
McGuire says Cyrus inspires him — particularly his work ethic, how he keeps a guitar with him everywhere he goes, and how he'll choose to write a song instead of watching TV. "Today, a lot of musicians I come across, we don't have that work ethic," McGuire says. "We go home and we get into Netflix. But to see the result of what happens when you stick with it and you work hard, it's pretty telling. It's inspiring, and real moments happen when you show up."
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