Billy Ray Cyrus, cohost of the CMT Music Awards Billy Ray Cyrus, cohost of the CMT Music Awards

If November's CMAs are the Oscars of country music, then the free and easy CMT Music Awards (tonight at 8 pm/ET) — honoring country music videos — are the Golden Globes. Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Sugarland and LeAnn Rimes perform at the Nashville event, along with hosts Miley Cyrus and her father Billy Ray, who phoned us from his home in Tennessee to discuss what's shaping up to be an awfully busy year for the Hannah Montana patriarch. Are you all ready to host?
Billy Ray Cyrus:
Man, I am so excited. Miley and I play everything by ear. We'll learn a script really good and do that whole thing, but we kind of play everything by ear. So it's going to be kind of an evolution, with any twists and turns that may develop. But hopefully it'll feel like a party! You're also performing "Ready, Set, Don't Go" together.
Cyrus: We are. What's really cool to me is that that single is officially gold. 500,000 downloads! For an old man like me to have a gold single, that's called a hit! It's about loving what you do. And country music is in a great spot right now. There's a lot of great artists who are making original music. We understand you helped persuade Disney to shoot part of 2009's Hannah Montana feature film in Tennessee.
I wouldn't have been so dead-set on it had the story not been about me and Miley coming home to Tennessee. This is where I belong, man. The Hollywood thing was just an accident. I'm back home now! Are you filming now?
Cyrus: No, we're in preproduction. I'm writing some songs for the movie. And I'm writing and recording for my new album. Last week, I cut a Sheryl Crow song called "Real Gone," from the Cars soundtrack. It's a real smoker. And then I wrote a song two weeks ago called "Back to Tennessee." That's appropriate.
Well, that's why we wrote it. It just came to me. And "Back to Tennessee" was what I was feeling. It's a candidate for the theme song to Nashville Star, it's in the Hannah Montana movie, I perform the song in the movie…. And then they're talking about it as the first single on the album. Speaking of Nashville Star, you're hosting the singing competition this summer on NBC.
I'm really excited about it. John Rich [of Big & Rich] is one of the judges. I was bragging earlier about the state of country music, being in a fertile place, and I give a lot of that credit to John Rich. He and Big Kenny kind of kicked the door open to start this momentum that country is in right now. John is one of the judges, and I think that adds a tremendous amount of credibility to the show. But you also helped country cross over to pop back in the '90s with "Achy Breaky Heart." Looking back, how do you view that time?
Well, thank you for saying that. How do I feel about that? When I recorded the album Some Gave All and the single "Achy Breaky Heart" in the summer of 1991, I was living inside of my car. My car was a Chevy Beretta. Do you know how much room is in a Chevy Beretta? Not that much.
That's a dang good answer! Not that much. Now, fast-forward to 2008, and I'm out here in my backyard on a beautiful, sunny day in Nashville, Tennessee. I'm just thanking God for all things that are good. When do you start shooting the third season of Hannah?
October. It's the CMT Awards, the Hannah feature film, Nashville Star throughout the summer, all the while I'm touring, and my album will come out in late August. Then we'll go into making Season 3 in October. That's pretty crazy, isn't it? Indeed. What can fans expect for Season 3?
They can expect me to look a lot older! And really tired. [Laughs]

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