The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Q&A | Pop and R&B artist Alyx Rush

Alyx Rush is one of four artists featured in the second season of Headliners, a concert video series by The Daily Iowan.
Emily Nyberg
Alyx Rush performs during The Daily Iowan Headliners in The Daily Iowan newsroom in the Adler Journalism building on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Four groups will be featured in the series’ second season. (Emily Nyberg/The Daily Iowan)

Alyx Rush is an Iowa City pop/R&B artist. Growing up in rural Iowa, choral church music influenced his voice which has since led his career around the country. Rush has performed in New York, Texas, and Atlanta. 

Rush was part of one of four groups of musicians The Daily Iowan invited to perform for the second season of a live concert series called Headliners, a recorded and edited version of these concerts, to bring Iowa City’s music scene beyond the community. Rush’s episode of Headliners went live on March 24. He performed alongside fellow musicians Blake Shaw and Dan Padley.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Daily Iowan: How did each of you get into music and when did you begin taking it seriously?

Alyx Rush: This is very cliche to say, but I’ve always been into music, ever since I was little. I was brought up in the church, so I would do a lot of church choir. But my parents saw that I had a knack for music and just a huge interest in it and saw it kind of growing inside of me, so they started providing me with the necessary equipment I needed to start writing my own music and songs, producing and whatnot. That’s where I kind of started being like, yeah, this is what I want to do. I felt like this was something that I was really good at and that I wanted to pursue further.

Blake Shaw: It’s always been serious for me because [music] has always been a need I had to fulfill. I just can’t remember a time when I wasn’t sitting in my room, learning a new instrument or any type of music, listening to any type of music, and deciding what was good about it. From there, I’ve always just put myself in situations with people playing music, especially since high school. Now I have a few degrees, and I’m teaching and playing it all the time.

What have been some career highlights so far?

Rush: One of my favorite festivals I did was Mission Creek; that was awesome. I [performed] at the Englert Theatre, which was kind of crazy to me because I was not expecting to [play] that big of a venue. I guess my most recent one that I’m excited about was getting placements on TV shows with some music that I was involved in vocally.

How would you describe your sound?

Rush: I definitely started in the pop area, but I feel like meeting so many new, talented musicians that have kind of established sounds for themselves has kind of leaked over into what I’ve been making. It’s really cool to see how the sound changes with whatever or whoever I am working with. I would say, right now, it’s R&B mixed with a little pop and a little jazz, and they’re a little spacey.

Dan Padley: It’s been fun to kind of hear these recorded versions that Alyx has done, and then we as a band get to take the essence of those songs, but then, especially with Justin Leduc, who sometimes plays with us and who’s a fantastic drummer, it’s fun to meld those tunes into what they become live.  It’s the same tunes, but they become something different. That contrast I think is really fun.

Who are your biggest inspirations?

Rush:  I’m really big on SZA, Frank Ocean, Cautious Clay, and Labrinth. I feel like my produced music has that kind of Labrinth-y, abstract feel to it, which is cool. I definitely see that pop up here and there.

What’s your experience with the Iowa City music scene? How would you describe it?

Rush:  I am originally from the Quad City area. It’s a great place; I did find that I felt like I hit a wall there doing creative things, working on music, and whatnot. So I relocated to Iowa City. Ever since, I just feel like things have skyrocketed past where I was, which is amazing. I love to see the growth of myself and my music and art. There are so many talented creative people here: Musicians, artists, dancers, whatever it may be. Not that there’s not in the Quad Cities; there are so many [creative] people there. But I feel like there are a lot more resources [in Iowa City] for artists. There have been so many people that I’ve met who have helped me with what I’m trying to do.

Shaw: Iowa City has a long history of really, really supporting the artists, and it has a lot to do with the [University of Iowa] because there’s just so much going on there. The UI has had a really good music program for a long time, and that’s grown into the community through the Summer of the Arts festival, the Englert — they’re all doing these wonderful things that are community-based, and they [put] artists first, which feels really good. 

What’s your favorite part of performing?

Rush: When it’s over; I’m a little bit shy on stage. I love being up there, I love it when the audience is giving energy, that always feels amazing; it just makes me feel more comfortable up there. I like when I get to the point when I’m in a song and I’ll hear Dan playing or Blake playing, and I zone out and kind of go somewhere in my mind. I’m not thinking, I’m not doing anything, I’m just singing, and my mind is just totally blank; it feels really nice.

Shaw: I like it because I’m not very good with words sometimes. But just like Alex said, just blanking out, and like just losing yourself in the song. You get to say more than you could ever say with words. And doing that with my friends — I mean, I hardly ever play music with people I don’t like or love — makes me feel so good.

Rush: When I’m up there, I tend to close my eyes. A lot of times, if you see me performing, I will have my eyes closed. It’s a way to block out the nerves of being able to see people perceiving you and looking at you. But also, it helps me get to that space where I just get lost in the music.

What does the future look like for you at this point?

Rush: I’ve got some things up my sleeve. Probably a lot coming in more of the spring or summer, but I’ve got some new work with Jim Swim who is also a local artist. He’s actually bigger than local but he produced and also co-wrote a whole new project with me, and we’ve put two songs out called “Fruit to the Knife” and “After the Last Time.” We have a new EP coming out this summer and I’m really excited about it.

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About the Contributors
Evan Weidl
Evan Weidl, Opinions Editor
Evan Weidl is a senior majoring in political science. He previously worked in the opinions section as a columnist.
Emily Nyberg
Emily Nyberg, Visual Editor
Emily Nyberg is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic arts. Prior to her role as a Visual Editor, Emily was a Photojournalist, and a News Reporter covering higher education.