22-year-old songwriter and vocalist Tucker Pillsbury produces hazy feel-good sounding pop songs that take on darker themes. Synth pedals and soothing broody vocals describe youth depression, casual relationships, chain smoking and getting high. Whilst Role Model has boasted a cult following, his reality is far more present in the mainstream as that would imply – having climbed to number 5 with Play the Part in the United States on Spotify.
For me, Play the Part evokes performative roles (playing a part) in relationships conceived by social expectations, but when questioned, the singer-songwriter would prefer not to comment. If Arizona in the Summer EP is a candid, unfiltered, coming-of-age moment, then, could the new EP Oh, How Perfect be a reflection on how far he’s come? The six-track work is out today via Polydor, so have a listen and decide for yourself.
Song themes trace your mood, sex and smoking. Where else do you find inspiration?
(Laughs) Sex and smoking sums it up nicely. I’m not sure exactly where inspiration comes from. I don't feel like I have enough day-to-day because I’m either in the studio all day or struggling to get out of my house, but there will always be little tiny moments that come out of nowhere where you can end up writing a hundred songs about. It’s kind of a waiting game for those moments.
Recent single Hello! sees you “searching for reprieve from the weight of feeling alone” accompanied by a beautiful, simple music video where you’re in a cabin in the middle of the woods. What are some of your remedies to not feel alone? Also, it’s sometimes a positive feeling. What are your favourite moments to be only with yourself?
I’ve lived alone for three years now and that’s crucial for me. That isolation obviously has its dark times, but it also makes you invincible. I can be a hundred per cent myself and be confident in public because if someone doesn’t like it, then I can happily go right back to being alone. I truly have nothing to lose by being myself. Treat yourself like you are your own best friend.
As a young artist who is part of a generation that’s working more and more for mental health, how does this issue inform your music?
I’m fully aware that theme is prominent in my music, but it is not a topic I am trying to drown people in. I don’t want to be a voice for it yet because I have no answers. My songs reflect exactly how I am feeling the day I write them, but I just want people to enjoy the music for what it means to them.
The glamourized image of a suffering male artist seems problematic. How do you navigate this potentially damaging stereotype?
Honestly, it’s a really sad situation. The people who are really going through it don’t speak much on it. And the people who are ‘depressed’ because they didn’t get enough likes this week are the ones speaking about mental health. I understand we are all battling our own demons, but it gets confusing when everybody is throwing that word around. I haven’t found a way to properly get involved in the discussion.
Would you say sharing your emotions rebels from expectations of masculinity?
Whatever expectations of masculinity are still lying around, I can assure that I am not paying any mind to. I share my emotions because that’s how you make real music.
You covered The Climb by Miley Cyrus. Is it a guilty pleasure of yours?
Strictly pleasure! That song has one of the most beautiful choruses I have ever heard. It’s my favourite part of tour honestly.
Fans can buy a lighter with Role Model printed on it. Is your moniker invested in irony?
The name is rooted in irony; perfection comes from imperfections. I’m trying to expand the expectations and guidelines of what a role model is. Or maybe just throw them out the window, who knows.