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role model

Under his Role Model moniker, Tucker Pillsbury has achieved a searing ascent in recent years. Honing a lyrical style that’s effortlessly relatable, the artist's music translates stories that rotate through joy, pain, and self-loathing. His power to translate such emotion, where each release highlights where Tucker’s life is in that moment, has created a special bond with his listeners. However, in April, those fans were treated to something completely new, in the form of his debut album, RX, which is designed as a devotion to the power of women, particularly that of his girlfriend. It tells a tale of falling in love for the first time, gone are themes of doubt and anxiety, replaced by a long-awaited sense of happiness. For the first time, we hear the artist unafraid of falling head over heels, instead highlighting the power of opening your heart to someone new. 




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Photography: Anthony Giovanni

Fashion: Edwin J Ortega

Grooming: Elie Maalouf

Cinematography:  Aramis Duran

Words: Jake Wright

Under his Role Model moniker, Tucker Pillsbury has achieved a searing ascent in recent years. Honing a lyrical style that’s effortlessly relatable, the artist's music translates stories that rotate through joy, pain, and self-loathing. His power to translate such emotion, where each release highlights where Tucker’s life is in that moment, has created a special bond with his listeners. However, in April, those fans were treated to something completely new, in the form of his debut album, RX, which is designed as a devotion to the power of women, particularly that of his girlfriend. It tells a tale of falling in love for the first time, gone are themes of doubt and anxiety, replaced by a long-awaited sense of happiness. For the first time, we hear the artist unafraid of falling head over heels, instead highlighting the power of opening your heart to someone new. 

From his earliest releases, Tucker showcased musical prowess, driven by a love for the art form, so it’s surprising to hear that it wasn’t his original calling, instead stumbling upon such a passion whilst studying film at college. Growing up in Maine, an area lacking any kind of a music scene, the artist originally dreamt of being a director, but at the end of his freshman year, he befriended two fellow students that introduced him to songwriting and production. “We used to just kind of freestyle and liked to read songs.” He explains, “They would leave their equipment in my dorm. And I saw that for like, weeks until they took it back and learned everything, YouTube tutorials, everything and just immediately started failing in school.”

The artist quickly became obsessed with making music and proceeded to teach himself everything. When he was in his second year, he invested whatever money he could find into his own home studio. It was an environment in which he excelled, delving deep into production and storytelling, Tucker found an outlet in which he could be himself. This was magnified by his willingness to do it completely alone - without outside input, everything he was writing and producing came straight from the heart, an aspect of his artistry that would later be the key to his success. “I finally had my own equipment, and I was doing it alone in a closet. I was not friends with the person I was living with. And I didn't have anyone to show my music to or ask questions.” The artist describes, “It was just like I did on my own and I would hit up or email all the venues in Pittsburgh every week and be like who's coming to town? And I opened for them. I was very hungry.” 

It was an organic learning process where the artist took inspiration from those around him. Tucker was an avid skater and snowboarder, and as a subculture, it very much looked to the 90’s and early 2000s for its fashion and music influence, much of which was focused on the world of hip-hop. A genre that played a significant role in his early work, and its free-flowing vocal style has stayed with Tucker ever since. “Everything in that world is influenced by old-school hip hop. That was like, the earliest influence of anything and like Wu-Tang was everything to me and Lil Wayne was like my first man-crush, and I used to like dress like him and obsess with him.” He explains, “Rap was the first music for sure. Which is probably why when I found music, I started off rapping by myself.”

In the years that followed, things appeared to move fast for the artist, at least from the outside. But in Tucker’s eyes, his journey to where he now has often felt like an uphill struggle. In between financial difficulties and an internal conflict at college, where his heart was no longer in the subject, and the inevitable failing of classes, but an unwillingness from the school to let him leave made everything seem like life was moving in slow motion. In fact, Tucker vowed to himself that if his career hadn’t taken off by the time he’d left college, then he’d call it a day. It was with the release of ‘Cocaine Babe’ in 2017, that things showed slight signs of changing. Now totaling almost 200 thousand streams on Soundcloud, at release, it was gaining 1000 a day, something that seemed crazy to the artist back then. “I guess it was more when I started putting out like my first songs on Spotify and Apple Music and they were getting playlists. Without a manager like it was just randomly happening.” The artist states, “So, I guess that was when I started to kind of be like this could work and there's actual money being made from the songs. I guess that was when I started to kind of like see the light at the end of the tunnel.” It was a time that was make or break for Tucker, particularly mentally. Holding onto his dreams by a thread, he found himself slipping into bad habits, which gave birth to the name ‘Role Model’. Almost out of pure irony, Tucker adopted the name, to sum up where he was in life at the time. Once his music took off, the name stuck.  

It was with the release of his debut EP ‘Arizona In The Summer’ things really began to take flight. Created during his final year of college, Tucker hedged all his bets on the EP’s success, with the hope the right people heard it. During its immediate release, it didn’t quite meet his expectations, despite being occasionally playlisted. What happened next proved to be a life-changing coincidence. Quinten “Q” Cuff, the manager of his lifelong hero, Mac Miller, shared the release on his Instagram story. As a result, this opened Tucker’s music to millions. “They flew me out. I got to meet them and work a little bit with them. And spend time with Mac before his passing, which I'm forever grateful for and that's kind of when labels started to hear about me or like want to get involved.” Tucker proclaims, “So, I'm forever thankful for that and that was kind of the tipping point which is kind of saved my life and threw me into this career.” 

It's impossible to overstate just how important that moment was for Tucker. At that time, he was a broken individual, close to giving up on his dreams and without a cent to his name. The promotion Mac’s team gave him was undoubtedly of huge benefit, but it was the time he spent with him shortly before his untimely passing that lit a real fire within the artist. Thereafter momentum steadily built, and his music began to reach millions of people across the globe. Having gained the recognition and respect of a personal hero, Tucker never turned back, and the experience was a true saving grace. 

Soon after Tucker signed to a major label: Interscope records. Where he’d deliver EP’s ‘Oh, So Perfect’ and ‘Our Little Angel’ in back-to-back years, the latter of which included the artist's hit single, ‘Blind’. Both projects were truly refined, and each track told a deeply personal story, in an effortless manner. Covering his ongoing battles with mental health troubles, alongside rejecting the essence of love and connection, Tucker built a reputation for his honest and heartfelt songwriting style that listeners could connect with. For the artist, the experience was a therapeutic one, which gave him an opportunity to release some inner demons. “I had found music and was introduced to depression after a couple of things that had happened in my life. I was just in a really bad place, and then at that point, all I had was music. So naturally, I'm just never going to be able to just write a song about something that's not happening, it's always going to be whatever I’m feeling sitting down in that moment.” Tucker explains, “There was no thought really about making it relatable or trying to be a spokesperson. That's still kind of the case. But it's incredible that it does touch people and build whatever this is.” 

Then, in April, the artist released his long-awaited debut album, RX. It was a moment that his whole career had been building towards. However, fans didn’t quite know what to expect when it was announced. Tucker had only released one single - ‘Death Wish’ – in the space of two years since ‘Our Little Angel’, and that single didn’t even make it onto the tracklist. This was because he’d been solely working on the project throughout that time, not only planning the concept and writing songs, but working with his long-term collaborator, Spencer Stewart, who executively produced the album. It was a signal of change for an artist who usually writes alone in the studio. “I've always been super closed off on having people in the room when I'm writing and stuff. So, I've tried to kind of be open and be more collaborative on those aspects.” He describes, “Just being in a room and making every one of these songs with him, being involved in the production and him being involved and tracking all my vocals and teaching me how to do four-part, five-part harmonies, which I would never be able to do on my whole life. Also, just being like, open to his ideas.” 

Such harmonies are the backbone of RX, where Tucker showcases a beautifully refined vocal range that perfectly projects the album's message. It was a focused effort on the artist's behalf, who undertook vocal lessons to take his artistry to the next level. Working with Spencer only pushed that further, and opened previously unopen doors on the production’s front, where bigger and better than ever before was the aim. “I think things like that make a huge difference. Also, just pushing Spencer on the production and making things sound huge.” Tucker states, “Even though a lot of the songs are not radio friendly the idea was to make everything sound like it could be on the radio and have these huge pop songs.”


Above all, the album has shown a totally different side of Tucker, one that’s found happiness and comfort within himself, largely thanks to someone else. If anything, it’s a total 180 from what he’s made in the past, as he remarks on the introduction of romance into his music: “I mean, it's horrifying to me, honestly.” When we spoke prior to the release, there was certainly an element of trepidation about how such a message of love would be received, but after some positive early feedback from fans, such fears were quelled. If anything, RX is the perfect illustration of his artistic development and shows just how honest Tucker is when it comes to crafting his sonic output. “I mean, my whole life I built from the start of this music. I built a brand off of being anti-love, anti-falling in love, and hating everyone. Like there's literally songs about hating everyone and everything.” The artist proclaims, “And so, for this to happen to me. It hit me like a bus. And like I said, I can't write about things that aren't happening to me, or whatever's happening in the moment, while I'm in the studio is like that's going to come out. It's at the front of my mind.”

Although by Tucker’s own admission, the affectionate manner of the album had been gradually toned down during its creative process, citing at one point it was “Love song, after love song.” Perhaps evidence of just how in awe he was of his girlfriend, Emma Chamberlain, who’s a beloved internet sensation herself. Tucker decided to take a different route, instead focussing on the power of women, and the immeasurable love and healing power they can have on a man who was, in every sense of the word, lost. “At a certain point, I was just like, I don't know if I would like to listen to a whole album, about just falling in love, like, that is so boring to me. And just like not anything revolutionary. So, I sat down with Spencer, and I told him like, ‘We need to re-evaluate what we're doing and how we're approaching this.’” Tucker explains, “So instead, I wanted to kind of write from the perspective of showing the power of a woman. And the fact that this girl took me from the basement to the ceiling, and the healing that she brought me over the past, whatever, two years. And looking back from where I was, and where I am now because of her it's insane. And so, I kind of wanted to express that more than just making ‘I love you baby drive me crazy songs.’ No one wants to hear that shit and neither do I. So, the whole album was literally about the power of a woman, how massive of a role that can play in a person’s life, especially a broken person.” 

Despite its extremely cohesive message, sonically it’s an incredibly vast journey that never repeats itself, making for an encapsulating listen from start to finish. It showcased just how many genres Tucker was inspired by, bridging elements of hip-hop with alt-pop, through to aspects of alt-rock, which marked the culmination of two years’ worth of research and experimentation. From the outside, he appears as a creative sponge, an aspect of Tucker’s artistry that he’s very much aware of, and something that’s been the key element behind his enticing back catalogue. “I want to make a whole album that sounds like Neil Young, but like I don't think I could ever just do that. As much as I love Neil Young, I'm inspired by everything.” The artist proclaims, “If 50 cent put out an album like I'd be like, ‘oh, shoot, I kind of want to rap right now.’ Everything influences me so just like the EPs, this album is extremely diverse production-wise. But I think lyrically everything is extremely cohesive. The message doesn’t get washed out, but I wish I could just make a straight rock and roll album, but I really can't.”

RX signals a new beginning for Tucker, whilst still honing much of what has made him special over the years. Throughout the album, he comes across as honest, sincere, and yet playful, with many subtle tongue-in-cheek moments situated across the project. Most prominent in the track titles of ‘If Jesus Saves, She’s My Type’, ‘Stripclub Music’, and ‘Masturbation Song’, whilst lyrically the project is full of trademark Tucker lines. Take ‘Neverletyougo’ for example, one of the most heartfelt songs on the album, where he’s pouring out his love for his partner, is driven by lines such as ‘Texting me, told you come have sex with me. Respectfully, I think about you sexually.’ Whilst the song’s hook see’s him sing ‘Boys mad, got the girl they dream ‘bout. Girls mad ‘cause I ain’t as free now. Ma’s glad ‘cause I show my teeth now.’ Two examples in the same track show just how Tucker hones the ability to project polarizing emotions and take the listener on a journey through his life. But one track stands out to the artist for its personal meaning, the album's closing, and title track, ‘RX’. “It in a way was kind of like everything I left out of all the other songs to really drive the message of the whole album into people's head.” Tucker proclaims, “And right at the very last bit of the last song on the album, is kind of when I tried to bring everything together and make people understand that. But also, just lyrically, like the verses and everything is a lot of stuff that I want to say and other songs that I didn't. The song is very special to me.”

Such stories display the power Tucker holds as a writer to set the scene, creating an immersive world that fans can delve into. RX, with its 11 tracks, gave the artist his first opportunity to properly tell a story without limitations. Whilst the message is certainly cohesive, he had the chance to jump between every side of his personality, from cheeky to heartfelt. Whilst many of his devoted fans fell in love with his honest take on the world, this album sees Tucker equally as honest, appreciating the joys of life for a change. “I think there's a general mood to this album. It's really hard to create a world around an EP. I've always felt like no one takes them seriously.” Tucker explains, “So, it's really hard to do like a proper rollout and make people feel like it's a world that they're like, immersed. And this is kind of, hopefully going to be my chance to create a mood and a feeling and a world around a body of music for the first time.”

Over the years, Tucker had never thought of the impact his songs had on people. Throughout his back catalogue, themes of mental health are prevalent throughout, and on more than one occasion the artist has spoken publicly about his own battles with depression. Many of his fans find themselves fighting their own battles with similar demons, and in Tucker, they found a pop artist who told the world they weren’t alone. Perhaps it’s the artist's humble nature that made Tucker avoid the thought of quite how his art impacts the world, but it was in the post-pandemic world, once gigs were starting up again, whilst on stage, he noticed its force. “If you had asked me a year ago, I think I would have said that it's not a part of the process. And it's not something that I'm striving to do. But I will say after the last tour, I think it changed a lot of perspective for me.” Tucker states, “It kind of showed me how important each word is to these people because they don't miss a word when they're saying it back to you. That took me aback. After the tour, I went straight to Spencer's every day for two weeks, and we finished the album. So I keep them in mind, I don't think I'm striving for relatability or sending a message about or being a spokesperson for mental health.”


Tucker has an innate ability to tackle the essence of vulnerability head-on and feel comfortable when doing so. It’s a rare trait in men who face society's pressure around what’s deemed as a weakness. But the artist has always rejected this connotation of toxic masculinity, part thanks to a group of like-minded friends he grew up with, who through pack mentality managed to avoid peer pressure to adhere to the status quo. However, it was the connection he felt with women that allowed the artist to delve deeper into his emotions. Especially when it came to those he looked up to. “I've always surrounded myself with women. Not to take that the wrong way. But I am more comfortable with women than I am with men, period.” Tucker proclaims, “So, like, in every scenario, I just feel much more comfortable around them. And I feel like there's much more that I can talk about and relate to. And I think at a certain point that starts to rub off on you and you start wearing girl shirts while you're lying on your couch.” 


Beyond the relatability that transcends Tucker’s music, the artist is also incredibly accessible on social media. Regularly interacting with fans on Twitter, Tik Tok, and Instagram, the latter of which saw the artist host the intimate coffee run during the thick of the pandemic. It was a series of live streams that allowed Tucker to interact with fans face to face, and stepping away from a keyboard brought a more personal way of interacting.  “I love being able to connect with people who listen to my music. I think my fans have the same sense of humor as me.” Tucker states, “I think that we connect very well on like Twitter and stuff. And we get into little fights. And it's cute, and I love them. It's like a whole friend group that I have that exists on the internet.” However, with so many eyes on your life at all times, certain expectations are felt by artists that can cause some rather mixed feelings. Tucker certainly falls into that bracket, and despite social media’s endless possibilities for self-promotion, the artist ignores the demands and handles it in a manner he’s comfortable with. “As far as social media in general, I don't love it.” He admits, “I don't love feeling pressure to like, film, everything that's going on in my life or whatever I really do value living in the moment and taking things in first-hand. So, it's love-hate.” 

During the hour I spent chatting with Tucker, he struck me as a humble individual who’s genuinely grateful to be making music for a living. The artist's journey to date has seen him overcome many obstacles, with such adversity fuelling his honest outlook on the world. RX is a notable change, but one for the better, with a concise storyline, and a voice that’s never sounded quite so refined, it’s a release that’s going to propel his career to new heights. With a standout performance at Coachella already accomplished in 2022, the artist looks set to light up stages across the globe in the months to come. It’s an exciting time to be a Role Model fan.

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