'I'm Not Afraid Of Who I Used To Be': Miley Cyrus On 'Younger Now' The pop star will release her sixth studio album later this month. She speaks to Lulu Garcia-Navarro about staying honest, confronting controversy and learning from her godmother, Dolly Parton.
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'I'm Not Afraid Of Who I Used To Be': Miley Cyrus On 'Younger Now'

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'I'm Not Afraid Of Who I Used To Be': Miley Cyrus On 'Younger Now'

'I'm Not Afraid Of Who I Used To Be': Miley Cyrus On 'Younger Now'

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Most people definitely have an opinion about our next guest.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS IS THE LIFE")

MILEY CYRUS: (Singing) This is the life. Hold on tight. And this is the dream.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Fourteen-year-old sensation Hannah Montana.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Miley Cyrus has been famous ever since she was a kid starring in Disney's "Hannah Montana" series. In 2007, she made a breakout album that went triple platinum. And she has rarely been out of the headlines since. Over the years, she's adopted and incorporated lots of different musical styles from country to hip-hop to psychedelic. Her new album is called "Younger Now." And Cyrus has changed her sound and her look like again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUNGER NOW")

CYRUS: (Singing) Feels like I just woke up. Like all this time, I've been asleep.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Miley Cyrus joins us from Los Angeles. Welcome to the program.

CYRUS: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lulu this album is called "Younger Now." And that's apparently a reference to something your mom told you. Tell me the story.

CYRUS: Well, you know I was at - it was during Christmastime. And I was dressed as a reindeer.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

CYRUS: And I had, like, blinking earrings. And I had the antlers on. And, you know, my sweater was blinking and all that. And my mom was like...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sounds awesome.

CYRUS: ...When did you - yeah, she was like, when did you become, like, an 8-year-old? And I said, you know, I feel younger now. And she kind of said it in this way, too, where it was, like, I couldn't tell if it was a compliment or not.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

CYRUS: You know, and I was like, well, I just feel younger now. I feel, like, less like I have anything to prove. And I guess as I've gotten older, you know, what "Younger Now" says is even though it's not who I am, I'm not afraid of who I used to be. So embracing rather than running away from who you've been in the past.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUNGER NOW")

CYRUS: (Singing) Even though it's not who I am, I'm not afraid of who I used to be. No one stays the same.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've been in the public eye since you were a child. And you always had this incredible poise and awareness of yourself as a public figure. Are you now sort of reclaiming that childhood? I'm seeing all these references to "Hannah Montana" in the stuff that you're putting out. You're seeing all this promotional material with these adorable kids pictures of you in it. Who is that Miley?

CYRUS: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, the way that I see myself now - everyone that I've been, whether you are thinking about Hannah Montana or the music I've made in the past, all of it's always been the truth. And so I think when people are saying the new Miley, the more honest Miley, it's - I've always been that. But I've been honest for who that person was then. You know, like, how "Younger Now" says change is a thing you can count on.

You know, for me, I don't change with the times or with fashion. I change by being active politically or by philanthropically. I think that really changes the way that I project who I am. I'm more, like, inspired. And the fire is put and lit in me by, like, my surroundings of the real world. And I think that's why people relate to my music - because in the day, I'm experiencing humanity with all the other listeners.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INSPIRED")

CYRUS: (Singing) I'm writing down my dreams, all I'd like to see, starting with the bees, or else they're going to die. There won't be no trees or air for us to breathe. I start feeling mad, but then I feel inspired.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about that song.

CYRUS: I wrote that song for Hillary Clinton. And that was - I had gone campaigning for her. And I was sitting in this line of really crazy traffic. And then I realized that I was in the middle of a funeral line. And I was behind a hearse. And all these people that I was looking at into their cars - they just looked so devastated. And it just made me start thinking about life and all the things that really, you know, matter and thinking about how much I always have loved nature. You know, it talks about the bees and saying that there might be a day where we won't, you know, have bees or blue skies or clear water or fish in the sea because of the way that we abuse the planet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INSPIRED")

CYRUS: (Singing) We are meant for more. You're the handle on the door that opens up to change. I know it sounds so strange.

You know, that song was really about being inspired to be active. You know, there's don't get mad, get glad. I mean, I feel like that's what it is, you know? I would be a good Glad spokesperson. But it's bad 'cause it's plastic, so that's not good for the environment. Maybe we can make reusable Saran Wrap out of hemp.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

CYRUS: We can make it out of hemp.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INSPIRED")

CYRUS: (Singing) How can we escape all the fear and all the hate? Is anyone watching us down here?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've gotten a lot of blowback for how you have incorporated black music into your work, on the "Bangerz" album in particular. There's a lot of anger in the African-American community. The Root just wrote about you and said that your music has exploited black people for profit. Do you understand that anger? Do you accept it?

CYRUS: I respect that. And I can't tell you that that's my intention. So I always feel, you know, apologetic and sympathetic, you know, and - to those who feel a way. But, you know, that's not my intention, so I can't say that I agree.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are you still interested in that kind of music? You sort of moved away from it in this album.

CYRUS: Yeah, but I think that that's labeling. You know, it's like that kind of music. What does that mean? It's - I love music. I love all styles of music. I love, you know, Mike Will's music. I love Wayne Coyne's music. I love, you know, country music. I love Dolly's music. I love Leonard Cohen's music. I don't ever label music. I love it. It should be like sexuality. It should be like race. It should be like religion. I don't think about it when I think of something I like. I just like it, or I don't.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm going to ask you about another controversy. And I'm curious about this one. You know, you are very vocal as a self-declared feminist. But you have gotten, also, a lot of flak for your performance with Robin Thicke at the Video Music Awards in 2013 of a song that some view as promoting rape culture. You know, it's been a couple years.

CYRUS: That's so ridiculous. That's just the - I'm sorry. I empathize with people's feelings because, you know, opinions are a natural response in human beings. We all form opinions as we intake information. We judge it because that's the way we know not to cross the street when a car is [expletive] coming towards us. But besides that, that's so hurtful, actually, to take something that is good intention and not - like, that would make me a very, very sick [expletive] human - not just a woman but human.

And what's the difference of anyone else doing what they do in pop music? I mean, what's the difference of Britney Spears coming up, oiled up with a snake. I mean, it's like the same thing. It's any pop singer. I mean, I wish people - there's so many real, true problems in the world. If people would take their angst and their opinions and actually do something besides worry about what I'm doing - go and take your time. And instead of writing on a blog about what I'm doing, go and feed someone in your community and get mad and call your senators about the things that matter.

I'm, like, working in my community. I'm changing the way that people view sexuality. I'm working with suicide prevention programs. I'm feeding people that don't have food to eat. I'm doing my part as a human. You better go do your part if you're going to, like, even have one little opinion about what I do. You better be doing some great things for your community.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to end this with a song featuring your godmother, the very great Dolly Parton.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RAINBOWLAND")

MILEY CYRUS AND DOLLY PARTON: (Singing) Living in a rainbowland, where everything goes as planned, and I smile 'cause I know if we tried, we could really make a difference in this world.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What advice has she given you about navigating, I guess - I don't know - interviews like this one or how you keep your career going so long, about longevity?

CYRUS: I think she - the best thing that she does is she's not afraid to laugh at herself. You know, you take seriously what matters. But Dolly - part of her entertainment is by - in a way, she pushed the boundaries for country music by looking the way that she does and saying the things that she says and being sexual in that way. I mean, there's no one that's been able to make country music sexual, you know, more than Dolly.

But she would say, well, that's not why I'm doing it. That's not why I wear my hair like this. That's not why my boobs are this big. I mean, she does it because she likes it. And I think that's what she got to do. If you want to be in that way, pushing the boundaries, you have to like it - and to remember that, you know, you want to make music for the people that love your music for what - for your honesty and your fans. And, otherwise, just have fun and make the music that you love.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Miley Cyrus - her new album is "Younger Now." Thank you very, very much for joining us.

CYRUS: Thank you so much for chatting with me. I liked it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RAINBOWLAND")

CYRUS AND PARTON: (Singing) Living in a rainbowland, where you and I go hand in hand together. Let's do it together. (Unintelligible) forever. I know there's not a (unintelligible). We are in this, me and you.

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