February 20th, 2012, 2:26 pm · · posted by KELLI SKYE FADROSKI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
In early 2010, Trace Cyrus found himself spending a lot of time alone in the recording studio. His pop band Metro Station was supposed to be recording the follow-up to its 2007 self-titled debut, but as the musician recalls, things simply began to unravel. By March of that year, the band had bitterly called it quits.
But now life is rosier. The older brother of pop star Miley Cyrus and the adopted son of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus admits that although he made money, toured the world, had a label deal and a plaque on his wall commemorating 4 million sales of Metro Station’s hit single “Shake It,” going solo has nonetheless been the best decision of his life.
“It was scary at first, but I tell everyone that I don’t even want to talk to labels right now,” he says during a recent phone interview. On Jan. 1 he independently released his solo effort, Geronimo, under the moniker Ashland High, via his website as a free download. Shortly after that, a music video for his track “Jealous Lover” made its debut.
“It sounds crazy but I feel like I’m doing better now than I ever did on a label. I have a video out, an album online, I’m about to go on tour for a month and a half – there are a lot of artists signed to labels that aren’t doing as much as I am right now. I feel like I must be doing something right.”
Cyrus brings his new music and a full backing band to Chain Reaction in Anaheim on Feb. 24. He also celebrates his 23rd birthday at the venue, and says he’s looking forward to reconnecting with fans, meeting and greeting them at the merch table.
Check out Ashland High’s “Jealous Lover” in the video below.
Certainly there were aspects of being in Metro Station he enjoyed, but Cyrus says he’s loving life as his own boss, although he insists he’s hard on himself and treats his music career as he would any 9-to-5 job. He wakes up every morning, gets on his computer and takes care of business.
“People thought I had a manager or a label or someone helping me out this whole time. I just got a manger like two weeks ago. I’ve been my own manager and my own label, and I like it – because if I don’t achieve what I want, the only person I have to blame is myself. I was sick of pointing the finger at my label or anything else. If any label is going to take me on, I need to be the artist. With Metro Station, there were too many people trying to control us. That’s not the thing you should do with an artist, I think.”
The best thing about splitting from the band, Cyrus says, is meeting his fiancée, Brenda Song, co-star of the Disney Channel’s long-running comedy “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.”
“Me and my girl’s relationship, that’s the most important thing in life,” he says. “Everything that I do now is focused on her; every song I write, whether the storyline is about her or not, I have her in mind.
“I want us to have a good life. I want us to be successful. You don’t want to think about money all of the time, but I want us to have a long and happy life and not have to worry so much about bills. She’s my motivation, and since I met her and moved into a house with her, I feel like she has made me a better person. That’s the type of relationship you need: someone who is going to make you strive to be better. I’ve cleaned up my life in so many ways. She was exactly who I needed.”
After going into several studios and working with numerous producers, Cyrus decided to record his solo disc at his Los Angeles home. He flew out a couple producers from Canada in late November and cut the album in just nine days; a month later, it was ready for release.
On New Year’s Eve, as he prepared to upload it to his site, Cyrus says he was overcome with emotion: “It was the best feeling I’ve ever had. I had just listened to the whole album and I seriously just wanted to cry. After two years of being the most depressed I had ever been … I can’t go into too much detail about what happened with Metro Station, but I was stabbed in the back by some of my closest friends … so after coming back from that dark point in my life, musically I was just depressed.
“I didn’t think I would ever come out of that rut. But once I posted the album to the site, I was like, ‘OK, I’m back and nothing is going to stop me now.’”
Along with his musical endeavors, Cyrus also has a clothing line, Southern Made Hollywood Paid, for which his fiancé and little sister Miley are his biggest inspirations. Since the majority of his fan base is female, he’s created women’s apparel based on the trends and likes of the females closest to him.
“All the money I make from it, I put back into it,” he contends. “I want it to become as big as possible. Right now it’s more street wear and stuff like that, but I hope it grows.
“With Metro Station, I was always the one coming up with designs and talking to the designers. I was always very hands-on with our merchandise, and honestly I was sick of the label taking a cut of our merch. I wanted to make the one thing that nobody else could take money from. I was sick of everyone trying to get a piece of me. So this is the one thing that’s strictly mine, that no one can touch.”
As a (very) heavily tattooed entertainer, Cyrus says at times his excessive body art – including ink on his face, neck and hands – can intimidate or give off the wrong impression about who he really is.
“People don’t expect me to make pop music,” he says, laughing. “Even on the tour with Miley, her managers and people on her label didn’t even want us (there). Not because of our music but because of the way I looked. That bothers me more than anything.
“Some of the most successful artists are the weirdest ones – look at Lady Gaga. I’ve done shows with her and she’s amazing. When people first meet me, they think I’m going to be a mean guy or something. I guess I just need to prove that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I mean, I want my live show to be like a Marilyn Manson show, where it’s gruesome and dark, but I want the music to be straight-up pop.”
Cyrus enjoys working with his sister and father when he can; he has one track – “Shot in the Dark,” a duet with Miley – that he hopes to release on a future album. As for the musicians he looks up to, his father continues to be a huge inspiration.
“I’ve toured with him since I was 4 years old. I watched him, I studied him, and I feel like he’s an underrated musician. I’m not saying that just because he’s my dad. I’ve witnessed his hard work and his ethic and he’s really just the best. I just wanted to be like my dad one day. A lot of people say that, but I’m actually doing it. He’s the only person I want to look up to and be like.”
See Ashland High with Huntington Beach-based outfit Runner Runner at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim. $12 advance; $14 at the door. 714-635-6067. Allages.com.
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