From a little town on the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma, Lyrx seemed like any other girl. A middle child, a farmer’s daughter. On Sundays she’d travel with the family band, singing “He Leadeth Me” and, hours later, fall asleep on a church pew.
But Lyrx had a secret. “I’ve always been a rebel,” she says, laughing.
Monday through Friday she was smuggling records into the house by My Chemical Romance, Hinder, and Sick Puppies. At 17, she joined a Southern rock band and traveled the dive bars of the Southeast. “Country music would talk about what I knew,” she says, “but the rock would speak to who I was, the emotions and feelings.”
It was two long years of touring and a strained relationship with her parents before she, with younger brother Shay of Dan + Shay, moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, looking for a new start. Days she’d attend a bible college; nights were spent singing at clubs. “It made me tough, and it gave me the love of music,” she says. “It’s fun to tour. It’s fun to be a musician.”
It was at the encouragement of Shay, who himself had recently moved south, that Lyrx considered pursuing music in Nashville. Most importantly, with age came a peace with country music. “When I accepted who I am and where I’m from, then I loved country, because it spoke about everything I grew up on—riding four-wheelers and going to bonfires and being a mile from every neighbor we had,” she says. “When I write country music, it’s just me writing about my life.”
Lyrx pulled from her early years for the song “90’s Country,” which Monument Records artist Walker Hayes released in August 2018. Written by Hayes, Lyrx, and Grammy Award-winning producer Shane McAnally, its story hits all the high notes from the country smashes of the decade in which she grew up. “People talk about old country, about Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, but I grew up on Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain, and Faith Hill,” she says. “Walker and I were talking about the artists that inspired us to be country musicians, because all of them, at that time, were different than the old country. They were different, and now we’re different.”
That difference is evident with her debut single “Take the Money,” which was released independently on January 11, 2019, with a corresponding music video. While it may have a plunking banjo line, its chorus opens into big rock guitars and boom-crash drums ready for the arena. “You can take the money / I’ma take the country,” she sings.
Taken at face value, “Take the Money” celebrates Lyrx’s rural roots, but it has a deeper meaning after five years spent hustling in Music City. “I have a lot of respect for the music industry, but I also think they pass over a lot of people,” she says. “They’ll sign the next Miranda Lambert. They’ll sign the next Kelsea Ballerini. They won’t sign the first anybody.”
With her first single, Lyrx announces to both the world and country music that she’s her own woman with her own influences, and the only one that will write that story is herself. “I define me,” she says.