Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with TUCKER. Together we discussed growing up with music, working with artists such as Carole King, social media, and their latest single “MANIPULATORS.” Check out the interview below!
Before we begin, Mustard would like to thank you for joining them! How are you doing?
Mustard, I’m so excited to speak with you: we must(-ard) ketchup! I confess: I’ve only ever spoken to a condiment in the privacy of my own home before, so to be doing so with you on such a public scale is an immense privilege. Thank you for having me!
Mustard wonders what role music played in the early years of your life. Has anything you learned from the past stayed with you in the present?
I grew up with a mother who won an ASCAP Award for her song “Sweet Life” and a father who created sonic branding for Disney, Bravo, and more. My paternal grandmother was my piano teacher from the time I was six and my most influential mentors are my “Rock & Roll Godmother” Ellie Greenwich — a pop songwriting titan who created milestone American classics like “Be My Baby” — and my “Rock & Roll Godfather” Paul Shaffer — who was David Letterman’s bandleader. All to say: I absorbed the most direct and indirect education about music from a very early age. What all of my trusted musical advisers taught me in their own unique way that has stuck with me in the present is the importance of authenticity: of being the artist that only you can be. On the musical journey it can be so easy to fall into a mode of trying to be someone you’re not, or to compare your own trajectory to other people’s. But every time in my life I’ve chosen to trust that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be moment to moment — to embrace my talent, where I am right now, and what I’m capable of on my path to where I’m going — I’ve found that I’ve welcomed the opportunity to move toward the results that I’m going for in my artistic evolution while feeling emotionally fulfilled in the process. I’m grateful to have learned this lesson from some of the best and to find myself continuing to learn it all the time!
Who (or what) influences you?
I love melodic music with lyrics that reveal intense emotional depth: songs that say something important that simultaneously masquerade around as singable bops. Contemporary artists like Lizzo, Bruno Mars, and Meghan Trainor are some of my favorites that do this kind of thing, though I find I tend to gravitate toward ‘60s and ‘70s pop as a listener, which has deeply influenced all of the music I create: artists like The Ronettes, Bread, Lesley Gore, and The Stylistics are some of my favorites.
Mustard has observed that you call yourself “The Retro Contempo Artist.” Could you elaborate more on that?
I like to think that my influences from yesterday and today show up in my music! I feel my songs are inherently infused with something simultaneously nostalgic but current; timelessly retro yet completely brand new.
You’ve worked with artists like Carole King and LeAnn Rimes, and have sung on multiple seasons of Saturday Night Live and on TV channels like Nickelodeon. Could you describe or share any special memories from these moments of your career? Did you learn anything from these artists that you use today?
Singing with my idol Carole King on The Today Show’s Election Day 2018 coverage was one of the best days of my life; and backing up LeAnn Rimes at Carnegie Hall was also truly one of the greatest experiences I’ve had as an artist. What’s so special about working with artists like those two who have been around the block so many times is not only how talented they are, but how much humility they possess. I really admire that they come into the room with a smile on their face, ready to whip out the musical goods and spread good vibes in the process, emanating just how much they love what they do. And what I so enjoy about singing at places like Saturday Night Live and Nickelodeon is the high-pressure environment of it all: you’re really required to stay on your toes at all times, particularly at SNL where the scripts are constantly changing and evolving. I remember once a PA gave me and the three other singers an updated script when we were entering the vocal booth at 11:30pm, about to back up a host on live TV in front of millions of viewers. I remember asking quickly: “Ok, how does it go now?” And their response was: “Figure it out!” It’s truly that chaotically quick and I live for it!
Mustard first discovered you via your TikTok Live. You were very supportive of a random condiment bottle joining your Live. How has TikTok and other social media outlets helped you? What advice would you give to other independent musicians using these platforms?
I’m so happy TikTok Live brought us together, Mustard — I very much relish the joy you spread in the comment section. It’s funny, because I often find the algorithmic aspects of the online world to be so exhausting: trying to get attention amidst the vast sea of creators out there on the great wide web is totally time consuming and can lead to a lot of self-doubt, especially when you’re proud of the work you create and feel it’s not being pushed out to the hoards of consumers who you imagine might enjoy it. But I love going on TikTok Live with strangers and getting them to live-react to my music: it’s fun for me and for my followers who are watching along, since we all obviously think the stuff is good and are eager to see if other people wanna join our small but mighty online family. The biggest piece of advice I would give to other independent musicians who are using these platforms is that while it can be fun to chase trends and do whatever’s popular, you’ve gotta be putting out content (hopefully constantly!) that’s exciting to you. If that’s the trends, awesome! But if it’s not then it’s not. And if TikTok or any social media platforms aren’t for you either, that’s totally fine too. I can guarantee there’s a brilliant artist in the middle of nowhere right now who isn’t on TikTok who’s making some profound music that we’ll all end up hearing, simply because it’ll be exciting enough to cut through the noise once it’s released into the world. We don’t need likes to determine the value of good work.
Your first single “KNOCKOUT” was inspired by self-reflection. Is this something common humans do? Has this self-reflection followed you with your more recent singles?
Well, like anybody else there are days when I don’t want to get out of bed; moments when my mental health gets the better of me and I just can’t put on the game face. But the thing that I love about music and all caps TUCKER (who is definitely an idealized version of initial caps Tucker) is that they both provide me the chance to be the person that I aspire to be: the version of myself who’s daring enough to put his name in all caps and put songs into the world about owning his power. I try to channel this energy in all of my songs.
In “NO COMPARISON“ you declare that you know your worth (“and that’s a fact!”) For other humans who may not know theirs yet, or lack confidence, what advice would you give them?
I think we all have the opportunity to declare that we’re unstoppable forces, because the reality is that while there are so many things that unite us all as human beings, we’re all simultaneously unique individuals for whom there’s NO COMPARISON. Every day is a day during which we can condiment — I mean compliment! — ourselves.
Mustard loves the statement you make on your newest single “MANIPULATORS” — love is love is love is love. Could you elaborate more on that? What inspired this single?
I wrote the lyrics of “MANIPULATORS” with my pal and collaborator Lily Lane. When we got together for the session we were talking about how a true manipulator is someone who’s capable of saying one thing on the surface when their actions indicate the opposite: some people preach “love is love is love is love,” but some of those same people in time can prove that “love’s not what [they’re] made of.” “MANIPULATORS” is a song about cutting toxic strings from people who attempt to control you. When I’ve done so in my life, and especially when I’ve put it into song, it’s helped me cope with the aftermath of abuse and find a way to healthily move forward. My hope is that this song becomes part of the empowering soundtrack for listeners who are going through something similar.
Besides creating your own music, you also write and produce for other independent musicians, such as Eden Gates. What is this process like? Does this help your own creative process?
I love writing for Eden and other independent artists like Yianna, Brad Gibson, and many other fabulous talents. What I love about indie artists is that we’re all in it because we really love music and collaborating with each other. Every process is different depending on the artist, but I find that regardless of who I’m working with I come at each song with the aim of creating singable tunes with relatable words. Melodically, I’d like to think I create top-lines that sound accessible, memorable, and ear-catching. My goal is to write songs that can compete in today’s commercial landscape while expressing how we all love in a rapidly changing world. To me that’s what interesting music is really about.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
I’ve got more music coming out very soon — follow me on my socials and anywhere you listen to music for updates!
Where can readers listen to your music?
I’ve got music available on all streaming platforms! And Mustard, I mustard-mit that this has been a highlight of my musical journey. Thank you again for having me!