WOODSTOCK – Psychology will have to wait. Scott Rusch is trusting his voice.
The Woodstock native and Woodstock High School graduate has grown up around music. He used to watch his dad, Paul Rausch, a music teacher at Woodstock High School, play piano, guitar and sing.
Now Rusch, 21 years old and technically still a Rausch, wants to turn what has been a lifelong interest into a full-on career as a performer.
Between psychology classes – for which he’ll earn a degree this spring – Rusch has been singing with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign a capella group Xtension Chords since freshman year.
A friend from that group helped get Rusch into a studio earlier this year, and a young music career was born.
Rusch’s “Hey Girl” – available on iTunes – has garnered more than 33,000 views on YouTube, a modest but significant push that has Rusch ready to give music a go.
Reporter Shawn Shinneman recently caught up with Rusch to talk about the influences of his father, the support of his at-first leery family, and whether the college senior is considering the reality TV singing competition route to stardom.
Shinneman: So tell me about your song, “Hey Girl,” kind of how that came together, and about going down to Nashville to put that on record.
Rusch: We took a trip down to Nashville and met with a couple writers and collaborators and came up with, “Hey Girl.”
It was a pretty fun process. We were just sitting in a room. ... He basically said, while playing a chord progression, “Ok, I’ll give you five seconds. You have to think of a catchy chorus. Keep it short, under 10 seconds, and 5, 4, 3...’
He finally got to one and started playing again, and I came up with the chorus of, “Hey Girl,” on the spot. And then we kind of wrote the song around the chorus with that tone.
Shinneman: How much did your dad influence your interests growing up?
Rusch: Growing up in a musical family, I basically started singing right when I started talking. ... Seeing my dad play piano, and play guitar and sing, I just kind of wanted to follow in those footsteps, but go along with the performance route instead of the teaching.
Shinneman: Is he cool with dropping the “a” in your last name? Does your family have any reservations about that?
Rusch: We had some talent managers or producers look at some different options for the most appealing stage name to an unfamiliar audience.
We talked with them and they gave us a whole explanation as to, we were going to take “y” off of Scotty and then take the “a” out of Rausch. It made a lot of sense.
I trusted their decision with that.
I called [my dad] up not really knowing how he was going to feel about it, although he understands that it’s a business.
Looking at the music industry and the entertainment industry, it’s surprising to see how many people go by different names.
But he understands. I’ll always be a Rausch to him.
Shinneman: So have you considered – or maybe you’ve already tried out for – any of the talent shows? American Idol, The Voice, things like that?
Rusch: I tried out for The Voice over the summer and I got pretty far through the audition process.
Thing is, I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to talk about the audition process because I got to the point where I had to sign confidentiality agreements.
Shinneman: Has the season not aired?
Rusch: No, the season started, but I just wasn’t supposed to talk about the audition process.
But I got through, basically, most of the audition process. So I was very close to being on the show ... it didn’t end up working out. But I’ve definitely kept that in mind for the future.
Shinneman: Where do you see yourself? Since you’re graduating in May, not only down the road five, 10 years, but even in the next year or so – what’s the plan?
Rusch: I think at this point my plan is to look at moving to Nashville after I graduate and try to pursue music down there.
That’s what I truly want to do, and I feel like at this point with the success of “Hey Girl” and how much hype and exposure it’s gotten, it’s a good decision at this point. I can always go back and go to grad school or focus on psychology down the road if this doesn’t end up working out.
But I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t at least try to do something in the music industry.
Shinneman: Does that make your parents nervous?
Rusch: I think at first they were a little bit hesitant, and understandably so. I went from having this whole plan of this psychology job, and kind of throwing that out the window.
But I think after the song came out and after the video was released, they saw that this is what I really want to be doing, and that it makes me happy. And that makes them happy right now.