Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath Returns to College, Almost Goes Unnoticed By Classmates

The pandemic has allowed many a rock star a chance to pursue paths they might not have had time for otherwise, and Rise Against singer Tim McIlrath has used some of that time to return to college. But despite his level of fame, McIlrath says he's had a relative ease in blending in with his coeds, only pulling up one moment of recognition so far.

The vocalist was speaking with Stryker on the Tuna on Toast podcast about his college experience, revealing only one instance so far of recognition, and even then it was done by a fellow student who wasn't quite sure he was the singer of Rise Against.

According to McIlrath, it happened during a philosophy class on Zoom when he noticed one of the students had “a bookshelf behind him and he had books and records. And then one day he had a record turned sideways so you could see the whole cover, and it was a Rise Against record.”

The singer definitely took notice, DM'ing the student and stating, “Hey dude, I like your record.” The student responded back, “Thanks. It’s this album’s anniversary today.' But he didn’t say anything else, so I was like, ‘Oh, I’m overthinking this. He just has a Rise Against album up. He doesn’t know who I am.’"

"And then I waited a beat, because I didn’t know what to say," McIlrath continued. "And finally he wrote back in a flurry of texts, ‘Ok, dude! I thought it was you! I wasn’t sure! It was like, weird!’ And I was like, ‘Oh, dude. It’s totally cool.'”

As McIlrath's classes have all been of the Zoom variety, he hadn't had a chance to interact with his fellow classmates in person, but the student who recognized him eventually did make himself known at a record signing event last year. “He’s like, ‘Hey I’m your classmate from Philosophy.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s crazy!’”

According to McIlrath, he was a junior at Northeastern Illinois University when his music career with Rise Against started to take off and he dropped out. "I always told myself, 'I'm leaving behind three years of school, one day I'll come back and finish this up,'" said McIlrath. "It felt like unfinished business. It felt like if you built a cabin somewhere out in the middle of nowhere and you left it and you thought about it the whole time thinking, 'Why don't I just finish the thing?'"

When the pandemic hit, the band was wrapping up last year's Nowhere Generation album and rather than work toward a new album with one already waiting for release, he used the time to go back to school. At the time of his chat with Stryker, he was preparing for a Statistics and Probability final.

"It's been a rewarding process for me. It's been something to keep my brain going, keep it stimulated. I've learned a lot. It's been helpful as we navigate the crazy time we live in," says the singer.

Check out more of the chat with Stryker below.

Rise Against's Tim McIlrath Joins the Tuna on Toast With Stryker Podcast

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