Billy Ray Cyrus says his daughter Miley has ''risen to a whole new level'' since her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards last month.

The 52-year-old country singer is proud of his daughter despite her controversial stage appearance last month - which saw her gyrating up against Robin Thicke while suggestively waving around a foam finger - and thinks the former 'Hannah Montana' star is trying to leave her Disney image behind.

Talking on 'Piers Morgan Tonight' on US TV's CNN yesterday (19.09.13), he said: ''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. But there's no middle of the road for passion.

''She has risen to a whole new level. I thought I had seen it all - until these last couple of weeks.''

Billy thinks the 20-year-old 'Wrecking Ball' hitmaker is a ''real artist'' and despite the criticism she has faced in recent weeks she will always be ''my Miley.''

He explained: ''She's an artist. She's real. 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.''