Noah Cyrus: “This time, I really wanted to do things the right way. I wanted to say my goodbyes and have that quality time I knew I’d never get back.”
Alice Gee | 26/09/2022
Noah Cyrus is a force of nature. The release of her debut album is something I can only imagine as incredibly overwhelming in the best way. But with the recent loss of her Grandmother, I ask her how she’s been in the run-up to the album.
“I’ve been better, and I’ve been worse. My Grandma passed about a week before my Grandma on my mother’s side, two-year anniversary of her passing. So it’s all a bit painful right now. I am just internalising it all, but I actually feel like I have a lot of surrounding peace around the situation, which I am incredibly grateful for. I’ve definitely been attempting to heal while hurting. But personally, I’m also very good.” As she sits with her dogs, Noah explains how she’s been In Nashville for the past month alongside family members, spending quality time with her Grandmother for the last few weeks of her life. Being in Nashville, as a city, however, was a change, Something she’s missed as she readjusts to LA life. As she simultaneously balances the polar opposites of grief and massive success, she opens up to me about the regret she’s felt surrounding loss, specifically her Grandmother on her mother’s side. “At the time in 2020, I wasn’t mentally there or capable of showing up for many of the people I love due to my complete self-isolation. We didn’t get to see each other for about six months because of COVID.” Pausing for a moment before continuing, she explains, “I also feel like, as a granddaughter, I could have picked up the phone more and done many things differently.” Having spoken about her struggles with drugs with Rolling Stone, Noah expresses more of the emotional side when addressing recovery and how she sometimes feels unhappy when facing memories. “When I woke up from everything, later in 2020/ early 2021, my mind was much clearer from coming off the pills; I was so unhappy with how I had communicated with everybody. So this time, I really wanted to do things the right way. I wanted to say my goodbyes and have that quality time I knew I’d never get back,” she explains. “I’m so grateful and happy that I could consciously make that decision for myself this time.”
Having experienced and witnessed the difficulties of relying on substances, I think it is somewhat understandable. The End of Everything singer clearly knows where her feelings lie from the problems she’s experienced. “The shame and guilt that I feel is something I work on daily from the mistakes I’ve made throughout that period, or even just in my life.” As she moves towards one of the most significant moments in her life, the release of her debut album, Noah dissects the moments of grief she feels at this moment in time and the new perspective she intends to take. “I’m going through a period right now where I’m feeling a lot of grief, guilt, and shame from some of the mistakes I’ve made in the past,” I question what she’s just said, noting that it’s ok to feel everything under the sun even if others don’t, “I was also very young. And I’m still very young. I’m only 22. So I like seeing it, as I’ll probably make many more mistakes. And that’s ok.”
For Noah, the release of The Hardest Part has been a long time in the making. It’s an album that speaks so openly about her experiences with mental health, Something she’s been so honest about, poignantly addressing these parts of life with fans online. As an album, it’s incredibly well thought through from every instrument, melody and lyric that delves so deeply into the life she’s experienced.
“I wrote many songs about a lot of what I’ve lost in my past. In some of the songs like ‘I Burned LA Down,’ “My Side of the Bed,” and “Noah (Stand still)’, I was able to write from a clear space that I’d entered from coming off of drugs. While the other half where I was in this alternative state of mind and a pretty toxic relationship,” it’s a relationship she’s written about throughout the album with some of the songs in her pocket since being signed to her label from 16 years old. It seems she’s lived a lot of life since her debut single, with an album that you can only assume had some role in helping her heal. “I wrote a lot of new material that helped me heal. But I would say the most healing part would be the production side of it with Mike Crossey and PJ Hart”. Spending the best part of 2 years writing with PJ Hart and Mike Crossey has been a key space in which Noah has been able to heal. It’s apparent its been a safe space where she felt inspired to create and record organic music. Its styling, you can tell, has come from both her, Mike, and PJ Hart. And a routine she’s craved, having left behind a difficult yet crucial year, as she moves towards a new life following sobriety. “I had a hard time finding balance and figuring out what my new life would look like without that. So feeling purposeful, working towards an end goal, which is making music for me to be able to share who I am with the world, has been my drive towards healing.”
Healing has been a big part of the process, as Noah lights up in front of my eyes, explaining a little more about the production behind her debut album. “It was just an enjoyable experience overall. I have never been so involved withi production. I got to experiment with my own musicianship and find what gravitates to me.” It’s Something she’s passionate about, from every instrument, as she tells me about her favourite, the pedal steel, aiding her in creating the music she’s envisioned for so long. “I have found so much love for the actual music through this process. I never felt so inside of it before.”
Partially created using CGI, Noah had the opportunity to create an entire world, being able to dictate a vision just as she imagined it, Something once surreal that came to life. The cover she tells me has been in her head for the entire project, a recreation of a field at her Dad’s farm in Nashville. “I write a lot about that place, it’s a sacred place for me within my album, and so I wanted to be able to show a piece of that.”
Noah is no stranger to the industry, with her debut featuring Labrinth peaking in the top 50 of the billboard charts. Since she’s released three extended plays with The End of Everything being nominated for a Grammy. I quib to her that it’s no mean feat to be in your early 20s to be nominated for a Grammy, something she tells me she’s yet to get over. The morning of the Grammys, she confesses, was an emotional one. “I was in disbelief, thinking maybe I don’t even deserve to be here. Something that I think is part of me and my trauma, is not allowing myself to be happy” Having had some time pass she explains how it’s now Something extremely unreal to her. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sum up, the feeling you get when your peers feel the same about what you have created”. And as for the advice that’sshe attributes in helping her accept the achievements she’s come to experience, even she thinks it sounds cliche “my dad keeps telling me to keep achieving my dreams and working towards them by setting goals, something i’ve done ever since.”
As a fan, it’s been exciting waiting for her debut album, seeing glimpses and performances of what can only be described as exceptional, as I start to imagine how long she’s been waiting for its release. With the release imminent, when I interview Noah, I ask about her excitement surrounding her American tour dates. “I can’t wait to get out there and see a lot of familiar faces, as well as a lot of new faces in the crowd. Being able to physically connect with people again is going to be incredible. To be able to feel that all together, I think it brings you a completely different experience of the sound, especially with the live show that we’ve created.” Noah tells me her response to fans coming up to her in airports. “I know it’ll be a nice surprise when people also hear the full album realising I’m bringing many of those elements heard in my album to the live show.”
Throughout our interview, I’m incredibly humbled to have had Noah be so open about multiple journeys from making her debut album to such to finding her footing in new ways of coping. “When I started coming out about my mental health journey, I felt very relieved that it was being more accepted as a topic. I felt like I could get a lot off my chest not only in interviews but in my music and personal life.” As I tell her how Head Above The Clouds hopes to create safe spaces similar to those campaigns she’s developed through The Lonely Collection, I hope she knows how many she’s inspired. “What I’m trying to do in this new chapter of my life is to not preach nor be a spokesperson for recovery but instead be someone who’s there and experiencing it with everybody. If I can do my part by being open and honest and writing these songs, teaming up with incredible people and foundations, then I can help others. So it’s become so important to be open and honest.”
It’s not only a conversation Noah’s creating but space for her fans, including those who are yet to be introduced to her, to feel safe and find escapism. For Noah being honest is enough, it’s been pinncale in helping create safe spaces, and to those who come accross her music or work, I know they benefit from the legacy she’s created.
Words: Alice Gee