"Always been one for biting my tongue," Role Model (born Tucker Pillsbury) sings in the opening line of his brutally honest song, 'say it first', lifted from his recently released EP 'oh, how perfect'. It's this honesty that makes his music feel so relatable, with him telling us that, "I write those lines specifically because I want to hear a whole crowd screaming those parts of the song."
Having only released music since 2017 - he started creating at the end of his first year of college - Role Model's profile has been rising ever since. Releasing a slew of singles in 2018 (as well as an excellent cover of Miley Cyrus' 'The Climb'), 2019 saw Role Model share his second EP, which included a feature from New Zealander Benee on 'notice me', and saw him explore his lush sound further, with live horns and string sections featuring throughout the six songs.
Having toured with LANY, embarked on his own headline North American tour in 2019, and with just under a million monthly listeners on Spotify, it seems that Role Model will only continue to grow in 2020.
MUST-LISTEN: 'say it first', 'that's just how to goes', 'not a fan', 'minimal'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Dominic Fike, Cautious Clay, Omar Apollo, Roy Blair, Kevin Abstract… and spontaneously getting a new tattoo with your friends.
COUP DE MAIN: The sentiment of ‘say it first’ is so relatable (“I wanna say you feel the same / I hesitate 'cause I'm afraid you don’t” is particularly powerful). Why do you think that sometimes sharing what we feel can be such a difficult thing to do?
ROLE MODEL: I think it just has to do with vulnerability and I think especially now people are definitely a lot more scared to be vulnerable and say those things in person. Everything verbal is just a little bit scarier now, so I think those words are going to mean more and more as time goes on. That's kind of the-- it's a modern love song, but at the same time it kind of dates back throughout history and everything.
CDM: Is there a song on 'oh, how perfect' that you feel most proud of at the moment?
ROLE MODEL: Hmmm. I think 'that's just how it goes' is probably my favourite as far as songwriting goes. I've always wanted to make pop music, it's the challenge for me; how do you make a pop song cool? I try to avoid all the corny stuff in pop and I think that was my attempt, and I'm actually really proud of that. It's probably my favourite to perform live too as well, it's definitely the most upbeat song.
CDM: The horn sounds in 'hello' are so fun! Have you been enjoying experimenting and exploring your sound more with this second EP?
ROLE MODEL: Yeah! I mean, for this EP we brought in a full string section, we had real horns on everything, and it was cool to actually explore what you can do - because music is still very new to me, I'm in the studio every day but normally I'm there by myself, so being able to bring in a string section and people to play horns, all that live instrument stuff is very new to me, but it was really cool. I think it worked well throughout the whole EP, it kind of connected everything.
CDM: The lines, "It's hard when everything is numb / I'd like to try and feel okay," do a really good job of encapsulating that feeling of knowing you're not okay, but trying to convince yourself otherwise. Do you find music is a good place for you to be able to reflect on ideas, and deal with things like loneliness and numbness?
ROLE MODEL: Totally! I think I tend to plan ahead when I write those lines specifically, because I want to hear a whole crowd screaming those parts of the song. I think it's really cool to have that group mentality, and to have everybody sing it back to you is very therapeutic. So I think the whole thing definitely helps, just writing music in general and getting everything out of your head.
CDM: It was exciting to see New Zealander BENEE on 'notice me'! How did that collaboration come about?
ROLE MODEL: I was a fan of her! I had heard her EP, and I had 'Glitter' on repeat every time I got into my car - her sound and everything in general is super inspiring to me. I've learned a lot from listening to that EP. I had been trying to find a feature for that song forever, there are a ton of different versions of it, and after I'd been listening to her stuff I hadn't even thought about asking her for a feature. We ended up contacting her and she liked it enough to be on it, and I was super stoked. I wanted to have one super strong feature on the EP and she killed it.
CDM: What was it like working on 'that's just how it goes' with Alexander 23?
ROLE MODEL: That was really cool. We basically had been trying to get a session in for a long time and then we did it. The idea was to make a bunch of beats and I'd take it back to the studio, so we made like three beats together. Then I went to the studio the next day and I wrote 'that's just how it goes', and he was really stoked with it. We did back-and-forth together on it, but it was really cool. He's an amazing producer, but also an incredible songwriter, so that was really cool.
CDM: The closing track 'thank you for coming' is really reflective about how people around you can shape who you become. How much of who people are do you think is impacted by the people who surround them?
ROLE MODEL: 100%. I was just thinking about this the other day, but I think that the people you go to school with from first grade all the way through to college, they shape you more than your parents and your family do. Those years when you're in school are the most formative for your personality, and there's definitely some references to high school in that song too.
CDM: I really like the EP artwork, it makes it feel so much more vulnerable. Do you enjoy being able to explore the visual side of your music like that?
ROLE MODEL: Totally! I'd been saving that cover idea for a long time, and I think it was probably a year and a half ago without even knowing I was going to do an EP or an album or singles for a while, but I knew that was going to be the EP cover. It finally came time to make it happen, and we had the heart 3D printed and everything; we made it happen. This photographer Dylan Knight who's really talented shot it.
CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
ROLE MODEL: I don't do a lot of free writing, I feel like I should, I think it would be a really cool way to just start songs. I pretty much always have a bed of music and then go wherever that takes me, because usually there's a pretty strong feeling and then you can take that wherever you want.
CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
ROLE MODEL: Whether or not the person singing it means it or not. Whether they wrote it or not, I think you can hear if they mean it, and then I think that makes for a great song inevitably.
CDM: At what age did you write your very first song ever, and what was it about?
ROLE MODEL: <laughs> That's a good question. I mean, I didn't get into music until I was at the end of my first year of college. So it was probably during that year, and it was probably some rap song that I made with my two friends in my dorm. It definitely wasn't good.
CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
ROLE MODEL: It's definitely been oversaid, but I hope that people can relate to it, because that's a really strong thing to have your listeners take something away from it; to have them be able to feel like someone is speaking for them.
CDM: Have you managed to hug SZA yet? Or is that a goal for 2020?
ROLE MODEL: No, not yet! It has to keep going. I have this thing about that. Everyone is talking about their year recapped, and I was just talking to my manager that I'm still pretty mad about it. <laughs> Hopefully it'll happen in 2020!
CDM: What’s on your bucket-list?
ROLE MODEL: Honestly, I think that might be the one goal. I have to keep one main goal or else it's not going to happen.
CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence, what would it be?
ROLE MODEL: I would steal whatever songs Kacey Musgraves has lying around; I would love to take those.
Watch the 'hello!' music video below...