Billy Ray Cyrus stole the stage at The Troubadour in Los Angeles on Wednesday (Jan. 22) when he made a surprise visit to BMG’s pre-Grammy event to debut his unreleased version of Neil Diamond’s “I Am…I Said.”
Fellow country singer Lindsay Ell introduced Cyrus in the middle of her set and played lead guitar for the “Achy Breaky Heart” star, with her band backing them up.
Cyrus says his version of the 1971 Diamond song will be released as an EP next week.
He recounted to the audience at the invite-only event that a Neil Diamond concert 40 years ago inspired him to take up music, at a time when he was pursuing a career as a professional baseball player.
“I kept hearing this voice telling me to buy a guitar and start a band and I would find my purpose in life,” Cyrus said. “And I was dealing with this thing going on my life, and I went to a Neil Diamond concert. And Neil Diamond changed my life. The next day I bought a guitar and didn’t put my catcher’s mitt on for two years.”
Ell later told Billboard that Cyrus had only made the decision to show up at the BMG party a few hours before taking the stage. “They were like, ‘Hey Lindsay, would you mind if Billy went up on stage?’ and I was like, ‘Would I mind? I would be honored,’” Ell says. “He is just such a legend in his own right.”
Thomas Scherer, evp for Repertoire and Marketing with BMG, who emceed Wednesday’s event, said Cyrus told him backstage during Ell’s set how impressed he was seeing the Calgary native perform live. “He was like, ‘What the hell! It’s not the same girl I met before,’’ Scherer tells Billboard.
Ell’s set also featured her recently released tearjerker ballad, “I Don’t Love You,” and she ended with a rousing guitar solo.
Earlier, BMG Grammy-nominated artists performed at the event. Lewis Capaldi sung his bid for Song Of The Year, “Someone You Loved.” Jessie Reyez, nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album, and India.Arie, up for Best Traditional R&B Performance, also took the stage.
BMG publishing clients have been shortlisted at the Grammys for 25 different projects.