Role Model on His First Coachella Set, How Love Inspires His Music and Why Este Haim Is Like a 'Mother' to Him

The 24-year-old singer chatted with PEOPLE about his new album Rx, touring with Type 1 diabetes and falling in love for the first time

Role Model
Role Model. Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty

Role Model has a motto: "Go into everything with low expectations."

"I think it's been working in my favor," the 24-year-old singer told PEOPLE last Friday, just ahead of his Coachella weekend two performance.

It's hard not to agree when you look at Role Model's past month alone: in addition to completing two successful sets at Coachella, he also dropped his debut studio album Rx on April 8 and kicked off a tour five days later.

"It's insane," he said. "At Coachella, there were far more people than I would've expected. It felt a lot like our shows on tour, which is cool. It's very inclusive, and we're all singing together. Our first show on tour was in Pomona [in California] right before Coachella. It was days after we put out the album, and the fans knew every word. I didn't even know the words yet!"

Since its release, fans have been connecting to all of the ultra-personal touches on Rx, which Role Model (born Tucker Pillsbury) said he started working on "at the same time I fell in love for the first time in my life."

"I was a little bit late on that," he said with a laugh. "I was very closed off to love and relationships my whole life. In the beginning, I was like, 'I hate everyone. I don't want to fall in love. I like being by myself.' But when it happens, you can't really help it. I don't think it hurt the music. I think I tried to adapt to it and made it sound like the music that I always made, and will always make."

Role Model
Role Model. Scott Dudelson/Getty

Role Model — who recently attended Vanity Fair's Oscars party with YouTube star Emma Chamberlain, his rumored girlfriend of more than a year — said his relationship inspired "a lot of love songs" when he first started writing.

"At a certain point, I remember sitting down with my producer, Spencer Stewart, like, 'I don't even want to listen to this. This is boring. There's enough of these in the world,'" he recalled. "We scrapped a lot of songs since we probably had two albums worth of music. I was just like, 'Let's be creative about this and not so straightforward.' There's songs on the album like 'Die for My Bitch' and 'Strip Club Music' about expressing the power of a woman and treating this person that I fell in love with as a godly thing."

"The whole album is very dramatic," he added. "But [love] was new to me. It hit me like a train."

One song from the album in particular that drew a lot of attention was "neverletyougo," the music video for which features the back of a woman fans have guessed belongs to Chamberlain, 20.

"I wanted the most simple video, and I wanted genuine reactions and emotions, and I think we got that out of it," Role Model said. "It's one of my favorite songs, and now it's one of my favorite videos. It's always the simple ones, I guess."

That same sentiment can be applied to Role Model's 2017 debut EP Arizona in the Summer, an emotional four-song project that he released while a student at the University of Pittsburgh.

"Honestly, that is still some of my favorite music because of the fact that I didn't know what I was doing," he said. "I didn't have anyone helping me or telling me anything. I put that out and was trying everything to make a name for myself at that point. I was hitting every venue in Pittsburgh, like, 'Who's coming to town? Can I open? Here's my music.'"

"I was at a point in school where I was failing for probably two years," he continued. "I was like, 'Shoot, I'm going to give myself a month because I can't let this ruin my life.' I was a scared and broke college kid."

Within the timeframe of that month, Role Model caught the attention of Mac Miller's manager, who ended up flying him out to Los Angeles to meet with the late rapper.

"That gave me the motivation to keep going," he said. "I owe everything to Mac [and his manager], because I think I would've probably given up at that point."

With Rx now out, Role Model said he's looking forward to writing more songs on the road. But touring is still a bit of a learning curve, especially with the added responsibility of managing his Type 1 diabetes.

"This is the first tour where I really had to think about it," he said. "I felt super lost a couple months ago with it. It's definitely a hard thing to try and get the crew educated. It's a small window of time and there's a whole lot to learn. I'm still learning, and it's been 10 years."

A saving grace though has been finding a mentor in Haim's Este Haim, who also has Type 1 diabetes.

"She is incredible," he said. "We met a while back in Paris, and she has been really helpful. She put me in contact with all these people from [diabetes management companies] Dexcom and Tandem. She's been like a f—ing mother to me."

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As he looks to the future, Role Model said he wants to take his music career to even greater heights.

"When I got into music, my music was made in a bedroom, and people like to label it as bedroom pop, but I just didn't know what I was doing back then," he said. "I never wanted it to be an indie, underground thing. Why would any artist not want as many people to hear their music as possible? I think that's kind of the point."

He's also considering trying his hand at acting.

"Austin Butler just took Elvis Presley [in Baz Luhrmann's upcoming film], which probably would've been my dream," he said. "As a kid, I dressed up as Elvis for Halloween three years in a row. But no, I'm not fishing for it. I'm not trying to be in a comedy or anything, but if something speaks to me and I identify with it, for sure I'll try."

No matter where life takes him though, Role Model said he'll always stay true to himself.

"I don't go out much. I don't party a lot. I'm not in the L.A. scene, whatever that is. I keep in touch with all of my friends from home, and I talk to my parents," he said. "I don't see much of a difference in my life. I'm still doing the same s I've always been doing. Just a couple extra phone calls here and there, I guess."

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