ARLINGTON, Texas — With a newly renegotiated recording contract in hand, Billy Ray Cyrus can now turn his attention to the June 22 release of his sophomore Mercury/Nashville album, “It Won’t Be the Last,” a title chosen as a way of addressing the claims that he’s a one-hit wonder.
The disc’s first single, “In the Heart of a Woman,” arrives at radio today.
Speaking with Daily Variety during a three-concert swing through Texas, Cyrus was well aware of the pressure associated with following up his blockbuster debut album, “Some Gave All.” It was one of last year’s best-sellers and produced the country music anthem “Achy Breaky Heart.”
But even as he launches the next phase of his recording career, Cyrus is making plans for ventures outside of music. He has completed a story that’s set to be made into a feature film next summer by Universal Pictures, and also has several TV projects in the hopper, including a second music special for ABC.
“I know my entire career — and the rest of my life — hinges on what happens with the album,” Cyrus said.
The former Flatwoods, Ky., resident is preparing for even tighter scrutiny from the industry and media, but added, “I’m already under a microscope. I don’t know how it could get any worse. They’ve got to have that thing focused down on me to a pinpoint.”
Retail has already given the album a vote of confidence, ordering just over 1 .5 million copies. Radio programmers also appear ready to support the new effort.
“We’re hoping that it’s not just a repeat of a successful formula,” said R.J. Curtis, program director of country station KZLA in Los Angeles. “It needs to have stronger material than the first (album), and not be driven by one song. But it really doesn’t matter what the industry thinks. Nine million people cast their vote (on “Some Gave All”) and if people buy the new album, radio will play it.”
Luke Lewis, president of Mercury Records/Nashville, said the label’s marketing push on the new disc will be extensive but not overwhelming. “We’re putting our resources into giving retail better deals and using (cooperative advertising) dollars to push the album,” he said.
There are no plans to create a line dance based on a song, as was the case with “Achy Breaky Heart.” Thus, the dance club/radio promotions that helped make that single a national phenomenon will not be set up.
Lewis says a strong schedule of TV spots and Cyrus interviews will begin the week of the album’s release and continue until the end of June.
Cyrus already has incorporated several of the new album’s tunes into his live show, carefully reminding the audiences of the release date. The new songs have been well-received by the crowds on the Texas swing.
Lewis said Cyrus’ recently renegotiated record contract is “in line with someone who has sold 9 million albums,” pointing out that Cyrus originally signed a basic artist agreement given to new acts whose future is unknown. “We both got a deal that we’re comfortable with,” Lewis said. “If the second album does well, we’ll probably renegotiate again.”
Sources say the new deal is above that given to artists who have proven themselves with two or three successful albums, but is below the level recently set by Garth Brooks’ new deal with Liberty Records. Higher than usual percentages and lower label recoupment schedules are said to highlight the pact.
While the music machine moves forward, Cyrus said he wrote the film story on his days off from touring and has blocked time in his schedule next year to participate in the project. Cyrus is meeting with potential writers to turn his story into a screenplay. Cyrus hasn’t yet decided if he will star in the film, which is based on a turning point in his life. He says it’s not his life story, but will not elaborate.
Cyrus will also tape another music special as a follow-up to his highly rated February spec on ABC-TV, “Dreams Come True.” The new show will be done “during the summer, somewhere along the ocean,” with locations along either the East or Texas Gulf coast being scouted. Cyrus would like it to air sometime this winter.