Role model on her ‘Rx’ album, her tour and her friendship with Omar Apollo

“I don’t belong here,” Role Model told Elite Daily. About half an hour after his the afternoon ends at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama, Role Model settled into a lounge chair facing the beach. The 25-year-old singer has released his first album Rx in April, and he’s in the midst of a world tour that’s taken him to uncharted territories, like Alabama. It’s his first time here.

He doesn’t quite know what to think of the Heart of Dixie and even told his audience if there was a state that wouldn’t like his music, it would be this one. He swore to himself to win them. Based on their raised arms and nods, it seemed like an easy win.

“They made me feel very welcome,” he says. That initial feeling of out of place with people who came to support himyes, him? “It was unnecessary, I don’t know, insecurity, I guess,” he says.

This would be the first of many times during our conversation where the role model voices her skepticism. It’s kind of his thing. He’s amassed nearly 4 million monthly listeners on Spotify thanks to his mental health-weary candor and his first love on Rx.

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There is a palpable dissonance with Role Model. Take its sound, for example. His songs, like “forever&more” and “who bless you,” border on melancholy alt-pop (think Kevin Abstract or Dominic Fike), but his performance style is energetic and free. “The juxtaposition is my favorite,” he says. He describes his vibe as pop music played like rock songs and played like rap.

Of course, the biggest separation with Role Model is her stage name. His real name is Tucker Pillsbury. While Role Model has a major career boost and just the right amount of tabloid attention, Tucker is a guy from Maine trying to figure out how he ended up in Alabama.

This journey began in 2017 when the The Pittsburgh bedroom rapper got support from the late Mac Miller, then moved on five years of transitioning into alt-pop with various EPs and singles along the way. It all culminated, for now at least, in his debut album and TOURx world Tour. Tucker is relieved to finally have a full album. “It was just stressful not having that,” he says. “It’s like not having a CV and trying to convince someone that you can work for them.”

I can’t imagine he must have been too persuasive. At Hangout, he flirts with his crowd, tilts his hips and holds hands with cameramen to sing straight into their lenses. He works his audience like Pete Davidson would in a comedy club. “I don’t know if it’s because we don’t have cool transitions between songs or if I’m just being fucking careful, [but] I just try to do stand-up comedy in the middle,” Tucker says.

It’s hard not to roll your eyes and then immediately smile at her. Tucker has the energy of white boy of the month with the year-round musical talent to outperform any internet label. He’s like a Disney prince who spent his high school years skating and getting tattoos in secret.

He also has Wife Guy energy, despite not being married. So, LTR energy, then? With songs titled “strip club music” and “masturbation song,” Tucker’s album is prima facie about sex. During his broadcasts, fans shout the lyrics of “neverletyougo”, “Respectfully, I think of you sexually”.

However, a large part of Rx is about a woman: her first love. There are rumors about the identity of the (perhaps well-known) woman Tucker is dating, which makes his candid music all the more intriguing. There is still this dissonance. His music is racy but shrouded in secrecy.

We are talking about attending the vanity lounge Oscar party in March, but don’t mention the famous person he stood next to on the red carpet. Tucker has rarely spoken publicly about his relationship, and he hasn’t started now. “I don’t know why I was there. Well, yes, but it wasn’t because of me,” he said.

Tucker downplays his growing popularity. Our conversation is interrupted Three times by fans and fellow performers alike, and each time he easily engages in real small talk. It is reachable. That must be the charm of Maine.

Tucker seems wary of his growing fame, but that’s probably a good thing. What struck him the most in the vanity lounge the party was the conversation he had after the end. “The only person I can brag about is my mom,” he says of industry happenings. It occurs to me that Tucker wears a gold chain that says “MOM”. “I’ll call my mom and say, ‘I fucking saw Blake Shelton at the Vanity [Fair] party,” he says.

This connection to home is essential. “I don’t have any friends in LA,” he says, over which he sings “can you say the same”. His closest friends live elsewhere and he says they FaceTime every day. “I think those things keep me very grounded,” he says.

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As his star rose, Tucker found a few musician friends, like Omar Apollo. The singers simultaneously rose to the alt-pop scene. “I think he and I have moved past this music talking thing to the point where we can walk into a room and just talk shit,” he says.

Tucker also found a mentor in Este Haim. Both are musicians with type 1 diabetes. His mother first suggested he contact Haim’s older sister, and they eventually met at Paris Fashion Week in April. “I’ve never done such a major tour, and with diabetes it’s horrible,” he says. “She was like a mother to me and put me in touch with all these people doing shit that’s like stuck in our bodies.”

Tucker and Este stayed in touch. “We send shit to each other from our little machines,” he says. “She is incredible.”

I ask him what it’s like to integrate into a community of artists. Tucker is tired again. “Artists are tough, man. It’s like trying to be friends with yourself,” he says, stopping mid-word.

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That might be the best way to describe where Tucker is right now. He seems to be trying to figure out how to be a friend – a role model – for himself. He describes himself as “busy”, “inspired” and “motivated.” He’s writing songs on his tour bus again because the Wi-Fi can be spotty. “I had a lot of things about falling in love that I just wanted out,” he says of his debut album. “So I think the writing angle is going to change in the future.”

What this angle will be, he does not say. For now, Role Model is focused on spending the year on tour. He’s conquered Alabama, and he just might win the world.

Rebecca R. Santistevan