Happiness doesn’t come easily for Noah Cyrus.
When the 20-year-old singer began writing her new EP, “The End of Everything,” in 2018, she was in one of the worst mental states of her life. After the release of her first EP, “Good Cry,” a strenuous tour and the end of a relationship, Cyrus was left questioning who she was.
The songs “Ghost” and “Lonely” came out of this dark time, two haunting, devastatingly honest ballads about Cyrus’s struggle with her self-image. Besides showcasing her obvious talent, both songs take an introspective look at the life of a girl who was practically born famous. On “Lonely,” Cyrus sings: “Cause I don’t know much about me/ I’m still ashamed of who I used to be/ So I try way too hard, but I still miss the mark to fit in.”
Having the last name Cyrus is both a blessing and a curse. Seven years younger than her sister, Cyrus was just a child when Miley rocketed to global stardom – and scrutiny – with the success of Disney’s “Hannah Montana.” Before she was old enough to form her own identity, Cyrus was receiving hate online from people she didn’t know.
“I remember not being able to look in the mirror without tears welling up in my eyes,” Cyrus tells Variety. “I had no confidence. How are you supposed to when everyone is telling you that you’re ugly?”
Her experience growing up in a spotlight that felt more like a shadow was much of the inspiration behind “Young and Sad,” the fifth track on the EP. Cyrus sings: “My sister’s like sunshine/ Always bringing good light / Wherever she will go / Yet I was born on rain clouds / When they blew the flame out / Blessed in her shadows.” Cyrus is adamant that although her life may seem perfect to an outsider, all sadness is relative and she has a right to voice hers.
“That song to me is the story of my life,” Cyrus says. “For people who complain about what I wrote about in that song, I always want to be like, ‘Shut the f— up, because you didn’t live it. You don’t know the pain that came with it. You only saw the good side of things.'”
Although growing up in a famous family hasn’t been easy, Cyrus credits their support as the reason she’s here today. In fact, “Young and Sad” begins with a sweet voicemail from Billy Ray during a time when Cyrus was too depressed to even pick up her phone.
“Hey bud, this is ol’ dad,” Billy Ray says, muffled by static. “Just wanted you to know, you ain’t alone. Keep a smile on your face, everything’s gonna be fine. I love you.”
“My family has really just been my rock through this. Now whenever I feel like I’m backtracking, I go to them,” Cyrus says. “It hurt me knowing that my dad was worrying about me. You can hear it in his voice, and I just think that song and that voicemail fit beautiful together.”
Cyrus is terrified of losing a family member, which is a reality she comes to terms with on the EP’s final and titular track, “The End of Everything.” Paired with a video by John Boswell that shows a time-lapsed depiction of the end of the universe, the song takes on an even larger meaning.
“My biggest fear is death — for me, for everybody,” Cyrus says. “I took that fear and I turned it into something beautiful, because we have this short amount of time on this earth and we must take care of it while we’re here.”
A common thread in Cyrus’s songwriting is her transparency, a quality that her fellow members of Gen Z crave as they navigate their own mental health and relationships.
“I just can’t not be transparent because I’m done hiding. I’ve spent my whole life hiding. I know that sounds weird, but I was hiding mentally because I wasn’t okay with myself,” Cyrus says. “The second I started being honest and being me, it felt like that was the reason I make music, because all I have is my truth.”
Now beginning to write her debut full-length album and starting a podcast (with Sony/ATV Music Publishing’s VP of A&R, Lou Al-chamaa) — aptly titled “In My Feels” — Cyrus is finding happiness.
“Lately I’ve been feeling pretty happy and it’s a really rare feeling and it feels good,” Cyrus says. “I finally learned how to take control of my life and that’s why I feel like I’m making the best music that I’ve made in a long time.”
Cyrus hopes to bring the same honesty from her songwriting to the podcast, which will feature guests like Gary Vee, Jay Shetty, the Medical Medium, Tyler Henry and Waka Flocka. Besides interviewing them on their subjects of expertise, ranging from spirituality and mindfulness to mental health to communicating with the dead, Cyrus wants to ask everyone the same basic question: How are you really feeling?
“Do they need something off of their chest? Are they hurting? I feel like that’s something people never ask me, is how I’m feeling,” Cyrus says. “There’s a reason for every guest because they know about something that has intrigued me. I want to be putting something out where we’re not just talking about my life. I want to talk about things that can help people. And we’re all in our feels lately, so I think that applies to many people.”
Listen to the first episode of “In My Feels” (featuring entrepreneurship expert Gary Vee) below, exclusive to Variety.