Image Source: Getty / Kevin Mazur / The Recording Academy
Content warning: This post contains mentions of suicide and death.
Heartbreak and happiness take center stage in Miley Cyrus‘s “Endless Summer Vacation.” Since the album’s release on March 10, tracks like “Jaded,” “Muddy Feet,” and “Rose Colored Lenses” have given further insight into the “Flowers” singer’s past relationships. Among the bruised lyrics and playful choruses, Cyrus’s “Thousand Miles” featuring Brandi Carlile stands out as more than a song about scorned lovers. During her “Endless Summer Vacation (Backyard Sessions)” special on Disney+, Cyrus revealed that the country-pop ballad is actually a tribute to her younger sister, Noah Cyrus.
“I just couldn’t imagine not having my little sister in my life.”
“When I wrote ‘Thousand Miles,’ it started as a song that was very different from the one that is on the album,” Cyrus explained in the doc. “I wrote it in 2016 or 2017, and it was after one of my really close friends lost her sister to suicide. I just couldn’t imagine not having my little sister in my life. I wrote this song for her. It was originally called ‘Happy Girl,’ and it was, ‘I just wanna see you happy and all I really want is for you to be happy, girl.'”
During her backyard sessions, Cyrus shared a snippet of the original lyrics. “There was a friend of mine. Her name was Darlene, but all of us called her Becky. I don’t know why,” she sang. “I knew she was hurting. But I never thought I’d wake up to that call. Never at all. I remember on that day I promised you the world. But soon realized the world ain’t what you need. Now all I want is simply for you to be happy, girl. Even if that is a world without me.”
Though the core message holds true, the finished song strays from the feelings of sadness that initially inspired it and focus more on Cyrus’s appreciation for her relationship with Noah through the good times and the bad. “I told myself I closed that door, but I’m right back here again,” she sings in the official version of “Thousand Miles.” “I know half of what I’m saying don’t make no sense, so don’t ask me where I been. I’m not always right. But still I ain’t got time for what went wrong. Where I end up, I don’t really care. I’m out of my mind. But still I’m holding on like a rolling stone, a thousand miles from anywhere.”
While the tribute to sisterly love was originally inspired by heartbreak, Cyrus is glad the finished product embodies the beauty of her relationship with Noah. “It was about happiness and sisterhood, and it just makes me emotional, because now the song is filled with so much joy in the music and it’s become something so far from the sadness that inspired the song,” she said.
Speaking on the album as a whole, Cyrus added, “If you’re close to me and you listen to this album, it sounds like a conversation with me. There’s subtle shade. There’s, you know, honesty and truth, and there’s some wisdom and some humor. There’s some heaviness and depth. It represents who I am, and I feel that the greatest records that I’ve been able to make or the greatest songs that I’ve been able to write, they do exactly that. They really connect me and whoever is listening in a way that feels like an intimate, honest conversation.”
With the song’s history in mind, listen to “Thousand Miles” ahead.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal ideation or are at risk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has several resources and a 24/7 lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.