Transformation transpires through turbulence.
In the middle of a whirlwind of loss, heartbreak, and chaos, Noah Cyrus grabbed the reins, took control of her life, and told her story like never before. The GRAMMY® Award-nominated multiplatinum Nashville-born and Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter uncovered the kind of strength you only find within. She lived every song, and the embers of her experiences burn bright over a soundtrack steeped in pop spirit, folk eloquence, and country soul.
Noah has stepped into herself on her 2022 full-length debut album, The Hardest Part [RECORDS / Columbia Records].
“These songs all mean so much to me—they’re straight from my heart, my brain, and my body,” she states. “Every song is important to the story, and for the first time I’m revealing my complete and honest truth.”
Emerging in 2016 at the age of 16, she immediately captivated audiences with platinum singles “Make Me (Cry)” [feat. Labrinth] and “Again” [feat. XXXTENTACION]. 2020’s The End of Everything EP yielded the triple-platinum “July” and gold “Lonely.” In between earning a GRAMMY® Award nod in the category of “Best New Artist,” she teamed up with PJ Harding for the People Don’t Change EP in 2021. NME rated the project “4-out-of-5 stars” and predicted, “it’s not hard to imagine her becoming a household name in her own right.” Along the way, she performed at Coachella twice, while Billboard named her among its “21 Under 21” for three straight years. She also shined on The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Ellen, and The Today Show.
Yet while her music career was consistently ascending to greater heights, her well-being was spiraling downward just as rapidly. By the end of 2020, she had reached a crossroads.
“I had a death wish,” she admits. “Soon after I started having all this music success I was introduced to downers, which gradually took over my life the next couple of years. By 2020 I was at my lowest low—I was suicidal and in an unhealthy co-dependent relationship. I was choosing drugs over my family, my friendships, myself—everything. And when the pandemic hit it gave me an excuse to further isolate myself. Anxiety and depression fully consumed me.
I finally had a moment of clarity after I lost my grandmother. When she died, I wanted to be there for my mom, but was so emotionally and physically gone. I felt an enormous amount of guilt and the whole situation made me re-assess a lot of my decisions the past few years. Around the same time, I got out of my toxic relationship and weighed out my options—life or death. I wanted to find purpose and hope. So, I chose life. I called everyone I needed to and asked for help. I did the work to get off the pills. December 15, 2021 was my 1 year anniversary. I’m experiencing happiness and joy for the first time since I was a little kid.
While she worked on herself, Noah also worked on the future. She welcomed a new team behind-the-scenes, wrote a slew of songs with her main songwriting partner/collaborator PJ Harding, and hit the studio with producer Mike Crossey [Arctic Monkeys, Ben Howard, The 1975] for the first time. Guiding the vision, she dramatically expanded the sonic palette and oversaw arrangements, emphasizing the incorporation of instruments such as pedal steel and slide guitar
“Creating the arrangements was the most fulfilling part of this record,” she goes on. “Mike and I were so driven and fully engulfed in the music. It was seamless—our brains connected into one. I found a safe place to make music with people I love and trust. The process was really healing for me.”
She healed through the fire of this new chapter as evidenced by the epic first single “I Burned LA Down.” The song opens with sparse acoustic instrumentation and jarringly graphic lyrics as she confesses, “I stood and bled in the hall, watched it all, and the mess that it left on the floor.” Her harmony slips into an explosive chorus, “Yeah, I burned LA down and you left me there.” Over the course of three minutes the song builds to a galloping, widescreen crescendo. It is light years beyond anything she’s done before and firmly places Noah Cyrus in the upper echelon of contemporary singer-songwriters.
“I’d written it with PJ [Harding] a few months after my breakup,” she recalls. “Living in California, you’re constantly living with this dread of wildfire season. We wrote that song during the massive Caldor fires. At the time, I was reeling from my breakup, and Caldor was dominating the news. All this internal, emotional pain I was feeling was intertwined with the anxiety around this out-of-control fire and climate change in general. The song took shape around the idea that the only way my ex could comprehend the scale of my emotions was if I became this agent of chaos and set the entire city on fire…I guess I kind of have a flair for the dramatic,” she laughs. “But that idea of your internal struggle manifesting itself in the real world and affecting your surroundings is a big theme of the record, and that song feels so much bigger than anything I’ve written before. It’s the perfect introduction to the album.”
On the heartbreaking piano waltz of “My Side of the Bed” she confronts “the constant anxiety and insecurity of the people I care about most in my life leaving. It’s a fear I’ve struggled with since a very young age.” Then, there’s “Every Beginning Ends” where she duets with none other than Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. Recorded in Seattle at Ben’s studio, their call-and-response details the demise of a tired romance.
“That was such a surreal experience,” she smiles. “I’ve always been such a huge fan, so it was pretty daunting to get in the room with him, but once we got to work it all came very naturally. We talked about past relationships, failed relationships, our parents’ relationships, and relationships that have lasted forever. He told me his dad has a saying: ‘you have to wake up and choose to love someone every day,’ and it sparked this conversational song about the twilight of a relationship and the reluctance to admit that something has run its course.”
On “Loretta’s Song,” she delivers a touching and tearful tribute to her late grandmother over faint acoustic guitar and pedal steel before a heavenly crescendo uplifted by violin and divine harmonies.
“My grandma’s life purpose was to live for and love Jesus,” she says. “She was the cutest, funniest little southern woman you’ve ever met. It gave me a lot of peace and comfort to know she felt safe leaving for a better place. I wrote “Loretta’s Song” to try and offer my mom some of that reassurance while she was grieving.”
In the end, she made it through The Hardest Part and found Noah Cyrus.
“I’m starting to get comfortable with who I am,” she leaves off. “I’m excited to be learning and growing; I’m practicing loving and nurturing myself. The Hardest Part has been a long time coming, and I needed to pour everything I had into it. Making this album was one of the happiest times of my entire life, and in a lot of ways saved it. I’m really hopeful for this next chapter.”