As a father, Billy Ray Cyrus looks at daughter Miley Cyrus and still sees his little girl. As a musician, he watches her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards and sees an artist testing old boundaries and breaking new ground.
"I'm a singer/songwriter, first and foremost. And I'm her daddy," the "Achy Breaky Heart" crooner told CNN's Piers Morgan on Thursday, Sept. 19. "I come from that school of -- as a singer/songwriter, as a musician -- it starts with a song. It's that magic moment when a song finds the right artist, the right singer, and it becomes a synchronicity of that moment in time. Well, Miley harnessed into something very special."
"She's an artist. She's real," he continued. "I think that what's happened over the years, Miley has been reinventing her sound. She's evolving as an artist herself. I think that all of what everyone is calling controversy now, that's still my Miley."
That said, even he is surprised by how far she'll push the envelope. "She has risen to a whole new level," he told Morgan of his not-so-little girl. "I thought I had seen it all -- until these last couple of weeks."
Asked about the controversy surrounding his daughter's VMAs duet with Robin Thicke, Cyrus said simply, "I've never known any great artist that was lukewarm and the fans were just in the middle on it. You either love it or you hate it."
Which is not to say the 20-year-old "We Can't Stop" singer needs the shock factor. "She could've went out and sang the song in a flannel shirt and a pair of jeans, and it would have still been just as strong," her dad bragged. "But would we have been here talking about it? No way."
"Miley's smart enough to know that to come out of the shadows of Hannah Montana, it really takes something extremely drastic, which when you go to that level, it creates passion, and passion is either love or hate," he explained. "There's no middle of the road for passion."