“I do not belong here,” Role Model tells Elite Daily. About half an hour after his afternoon set wraps at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama, Role Model has eased into a lounge chair facing the beach. The 25-year-old singer dropped his debut album Rx in April, and he's in the thick of a world tour that’s taken him to unfamiliar territories, like Alabama. It’s his first time here.
He isn’t sure what to make of the Heart of Dixie and even told his audience if there was one state that wouldn’t like his music, it’d be this one. He vowed to win them over. Based on their raised arms and head nods, it appeared an easy victory.
“They made me feel very welcomed,” he says. That initial feeling of being out of place with people who’d come to support him, yes, him? “It was unnecessary, I don't know, insecurity, I guess,” he says.
This would be the first of many times during our conversation when Role Model expresses self-skepticism. It’s kind of his thing. He’s amassed nearly 4 million monthly listeners on Spotify thanks to his weary candor about mental health and first love on Rx.
There’s a palpable dissonance to Role Model. Take his sound, for example. His songs, like “forever&more” and “who hurt 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 as rock songs and performed like rap.
Of course, the biggest separation with Role Model is his stage name. His real name is Tucker Pillsbury. While Role Model has major career momentum and just the right amount of tabloid attention, Tucker is a guy from Maine trying to figure out how he ended up in Alabama.
That journey started in 2017 when the Pittsburgh bedroom rapper gained the late Mac Miller’s support and then spent five years transitioning to alt-pop with various EPs and singles along the way. It’s all culminated, for now at least, in his debut album and TOURx world tour. Tucker is relieved to finally have a full-length record out. “It was just stressful to not have that,” he says. “It's like not having a resume and trying to convince someone that you can work for them.”
I can’t imagine he had to do too much convincing. At Hangout, he flirts with his crowd, cocks his hips, and holds the hand of camera operators to sing directly into their lenses. He works his audience like Pete Davidson might at a comedy club. “I don't know if it's because we don't have cool transitions between songs or if I'm just an attention whore, [but] I just try and do standup comedy in the middle,” Tucker says.
It’s hard not to eye-roll then immediately smile at him. Tucker has White Boy of the Month energy with the year-round musical talent to surpass any internet label. He’s like a Disney prince who might’ve spent his high school years skating and secretly getting tattoos.
He’s also got Wife Guy energy, though he’s not married. So, LTR energy, then? With songs titled “stripclub music” and “masturbation song,” Tucker’s album is at first glance about sex. During his shows, fans shout the “neverletyougo” lyrics, “Respectfully, I think about you sexually.”
Really though, much of Rx is about one woman: his first love. There are rumors about the identity of the (possibly well-known) woman Tucker is dating, which makes his frank music all the more intriguing. There’s that dissonance again. His music is racy yet shrouded in secrecy.
We talk about attending the Vanity Fair Oscars party in March but don’t mention the famous person he stood next to on the red carpet. Tucker has rarely spoken about his relationship publicly, and he didn’t start now. “I don't know why I was there. Well, I do, but it was not because of me,” he says.
Tucker is downplaying his growing popularity. Our conversation is interrupted three times by fans and fellow performers, and each time he readily engages in genuine small talk. He’s approachable. It must be the Maine charm.
Tucker seems wary of his growing fame, but that’s probably a good thing. What stood out to him most about the Vanity Fair party was the conversation he had after it was over. “The only person I get to brag about it to is my mom,” he says of industry events. It dawns on me that Tucker is wearing a gold chain that says “MOM.” “I'll call my mom and be like, ‘I saw f*cking Blake Shelton at the Vanity [Fair] party,’” he says.
This connection to home is essential. “I have no friends in LA,” he says, which he sings about on “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.
As his star rises, Tucker has found a few musician-friends, like Omar Apollo. The singers simultaneously rose in the alt-pop scene. “I think me and him have gotten past that talking about music thing to the point where we can get in a room and just talk sh*t,” he says.
Tucker also found a mentor in Este Haim. Both are musicians with Type 1 diabetes. His mom first suggested he reach out to the eldest Haim sister, and they finally met at Paris Fashion Week in April. “I have never done a tour this big, and with diabetes it's horrifying,” he says. “She was like a mom to me and connected me with all these people that make the sh*t that's like stuck into our body.”
Tucker and Este have stayed in touch. “We send sh*t to each other from our little machines,” he says. “She's amazing.”
I ask him what it’s like to integrate into an artist community. Tucker is weary again. “Artists are tough, man. It’s like trying to be friends with yoursel–,” he says, stopping mid-word.
Perhaps that’s the best way to describe where Tucker is right now. He seems to be trying to understand how to be a friend — a role model — to himself. He describes himself as “busy,” “inspired” and “motivated.” He’s writing songs again on his tour bus because the Wi-Fi can be spotty. “I got a lot of things about falling in love that I wanted to just get out,” he says of his first album. “So I think the angle of writing will change moving forward.”
What that angle will be, he doesn’t say. For now, Role Model is focused on spending the year on tour. He won over Alabama, and he just might win over the world.