Noah Cyrus On Growing Up In Public And 'The End Of Everything'

May 24, 2020

On her latest EP, Noah Cyrus wants you to know that you're not alone in feeling alone. Blending the spirit of classic country music with the sensibilities of today's pop, it's called The End of Everything — which feels like a good title for this moment.

Noah comes from quite the musical family, but now, with songs like "July" and "I Got So High That I Saw Jesus," she's finding her own voice.

"Every time I hear them and every time I sing them, it feels so exciting," she says. "That's the feeling I was looking for, and that's when I know that I'm making the music that I want to be heard."

NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke to Noah Cyrus about how a YouTube video about the end of the universe inspired the EP's accidentally prescient title, growing up in the public eye in the age of social media and her appreciation for the harmonies in both gospel music and Billie Eilish's songs. Listen to the radio version at the audio link above and read on for highlights of the interview.

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Interview Highlights

On growing up in a famous family and dealing with the Internet at a young age

I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I have since I was very young. And I also have suffered from body and face dysmorphia. I just could not look in a mirror and my eyes would water and I would cry and I'd tell my mom how much I hate myself and how ugly I feel and how I just feel like this speck in the universe that didn't matter and that the universe didn't care to hear from me. They didn't care what I had to say. They didn't want me here. That's how I felt. And I've learned how to control that, but for a while, you know, it's hard because a lot of people around me tell me not to let the public and their view weigh in on my life.

Obviously I am so blessed, the family that I live. As many pros as that comes with, that the public sees, there's a lot of cons that come with that. I was, to the public eye, Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter and Miley Cyrus' little sister and that hurt me. Because I felt as if I lost my own identity. After a certain amount of time that makes you feel like nobody knows who you are, and that makes you feel like no one cares about you or your identity.

On the influence of gospel music and her love of harmonies

My grandfather was in the Crownsmen Quartet, in Kentucky. It was a gospel group, and gospel music has been such a big part of my life. Listening to Pappy's music, there were harmonies, always so many harmonies. I was listening to all different genres from all different decades, but the one thing I loved the most about songs was when harmonies just hit right. And there's something about harmonies that are so beautifully haunting in songs. I like recording with multiple people in the room singing the notes of the harmonies, because I feel like that just brings this gospel choir sound into it.

I always gravitate towards songs that I can either harmonize to or that I find harmonies they don't have. I love doing that. And I think sometimes artists leave it open for their listener to be able to sing. That's why I love listening to Billie [Eilish] so much, her songs like "When The Party's Over" and "Everything I Wanted." Her harmonies — she gets it.

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On the inspiration for the title of the album

"The End of Everything" is the title track of the EP. And that actually was the last song written for the EP. I had seen a video, it's called "A Timelapse of the Future" by John Boswell; his name is MelodySheep on YouTube. When I was watching this video, it shows you the stars blinking out and the universe going dark and Saturn's rings will one day disappear. And the universe will all one day come down to two black holes that'll dance together.

That hit my heart so heavy. My mom is my best friend and I immediately started thinking about her when I watched this. My time with her and my family is so limited — and with everybody on this earth. The mountains that I look at outside of my window from my view, they're going to explode and obliterate and there's not going to be a me or a you or my mom or my dad. And there's something really terrifying, but also comforting about that, when you think about how much fear and how much hatred there is in the world, and that will also end.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Singer-songwriter Noah Cyrus wants you to know that you're not alone in feeling alone. Her new album blends the spirit of classic country music with the sensibilities of today's pop.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE END OF EVERYTHING")

NOAH CYRUS: (Singing) Everyone you love is going to die. But, darling, so is everything. Don't cry.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's called "The End of Everything," which feels, I've got to say, like a good title for this moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE END OF EVERYTHING")

CYRUS: (Singing) And there might not be a sadder thing than watching Saturn lose her rings and black holes slowly dancing in the dark.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Noah Cyrus joins us now from her home in Los Angeles.

Welcome.

CYRUS: Hey. How are you doing?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm doing. How are you doing?

CYRUS: Honestly, same, you know? I think before we just hopped on this call, we were just saying there's really nothing else to talk about but quarantine. But I'm good.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell me the story about the name - "The End Of Everything."

CYRUS: I had seen a video. It's called "A Timelapse Of The Future" (ph) by John Boswell. It shows you the stars blinking out and the universe going dark, and Saturn's rings will one day disappear. And the universe will all one day come down to two black holes that'll dance together. And I started crying - like, man. You know, my mom is my best friend. And I was, like, my time with her and my family is so limited. And that hit my heart so heavy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE END OF EVERYTHING")

CYRUS: (Singing) It's a song that we were born to sing about the end of everything until it all goes up in one last spark.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Throughout this, you sing about feeling separated from your family and your friends, going through this dark period. Let's listen to "Lonely."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONELY")

CYRUS: (Singing) I don't have a romantic life. And everyone's dying, so I keep on trying to make 'em proud before they are gone. But can't someone help me? Oh, please, someone, help me. I don't care, anyone, anything, 'cause I'm so sick of being so lonely. Miss all my family.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was happening in your life when you wrote this?

CYRUS: I had just come off of tour, and I had just gone through a very, very public breakup. And I also - I struggle with depression and anxiety, and I have since I was very young. And I also have suffered from body and face dysmorphia. I just could not look in the mirror.

And my eyes would water, and I would cry, and I'd tell my mom how much I hate myself and how ugly I feel and how I just feel like this speck in the universe that didn't matter and that the universe didn't care to hear from me. They didn't care what I had to say. They didn't want me here. That's how I felt.

And I've learned how to control that. But for a while, you know, it's hard because a lot of people around me tell me not to let the public and their view weigh in on my life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And we should mention at this point that your sister's, of course, Miley Cyrus, and your dad is also incredibly famous. You come from a famous family.

CYRUS: You know, that was - as many pros as that comes with, as the public sees, there's a lot of cons that come with that. I was to the public eye Billy Ray Cyrus's daughter and Miley Cyrus's little sister. And that hurt me. I felt as if I'd lost my own identity.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Your music has a lot of different influences, but it also pulls a lot from religious tradition, like the heavy choral chants in "Ghost." Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GHOST")

CYRUS: (Singing) Why don't we kill the lights? I'm no good at hiding underneath a sea of tears. Flood, pouring through my eyes. I can't even close 'em, I can't even see you clear.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you talk a little bit about the religious ideas and why including them was important to you?

CYRUS: Yeah. I - honestly, my grandfather was in the Crownsmen quartet in Kentucky. It was a gospel group, and gospel music had been such a big part of my life. Listening to Pappy's (ph) music, you know, there were harmonies - always so many harmonies. And there's something about harmonies that are so beautifully haunting.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GHOST")

CYRUS: (Singing) I'm staring at a ghost.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you want people to take away from this album? What do you want people to know about you, Noah?

CYRUS: I would say, you know, you really get a glimpse of, like, the inside of, like, who I am and stuff that I've gone through and just how deep of a thinker I am and depth of things like the universe, you know? I think of things kind of further than, like, what's beyond the surface. Like, well, why are we here or how are we here? And it just all blows my mind. And that's the kind of person I am. I just - I wonder so much. And - I don't know. And this EP is just really kind of just a glimpse inside of me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUNG AND SAD")

CYRUS: (Singing) They say, you should smile more. Darling, show your eyes more. Aren't you satisfied?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Noah Cyrus talking about her new EP, "The End Of Everything." You can find it on all music streaming platforms. Thank you very much.

CYRUS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.