Tucker Rivera is a 21-year-old independent, alternative singer-songwriter from Denver, Colorado. Rivera draws comparisons to other artists like Frank Ocean, Daniel Caesar, John Mayer, FINNEAS, and Ritt Momney. His melodies and lyricism ooze hopeless romanticism; bringing you forward or taking you back to a time when you were also a 20-something - broke and single. In addition to his art, Rivera studies Political Science and Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. He dreams of being in one of those Buzzfeed Articles where they write about, “Famous People Who Are Probably Smarter Than You,” and making enough money in music to pay off his student loans.
Unheard Gems: We are so excited to get to talk with you on Unheard Gems! How are you?
Tucker Rivera: Howdy, I’m excited too! I’m craving some social interaction, but at a time like this it’s a touch silly to complain about things like that, knowing how much worse they could be.
Unheard Gems: Just for our readers to get a little bit of background on you, when did you first know you wanted to pursue music and what was your journey like?
Tucker Rivera: I’ve loved singing for as long as I can remember - I know it’s an overused cliche for people trying to break into the industry, but it’s true.
When I was 10 I started playing rock guitar AC/DC, Metallica, Aerosmith type stuff. Around middle school and my voice started to develop, I recognized that I seemed to prefer writing and singing my own poems.
In high school I started writing and doing smaller gigs around the Denver area, before really coming into my own as a performer in Chicago while being in college.
I’ve spent a lot of time honing my craft in songwriting over the past two years or so - thanks to some bouts of butterflies and heartache. Over the past year I’ve tried to teach myself production, and a splash of music theory - I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of effort it took me just to understand the basics. I love the process, and I’m excited to see what the future holds as I try to release music that’s truly just mine.
Unheard Gems: Your 2018 single “Cuffin’ Szn” is definitely a crowd favorite with over 150,000 streams on spotify wow! What was your inspiration and how was that abrupt launch into stardom?
Tucker Rivera: It was definitely a shock for sure - I wrote the song during after a friend of mine teased me for succumbing to peer pressure and downloading Tinder, even though he knew I already had feelings for a particular lady friend.
Cuffin’ Szn is definitely the most “pop-y” song I’ve released to date, best part about it by far was hearing my own song at frat parties on campus.
Unheard Gems: How would you describe your sound and style as an artist? Would you say that it matches your personality in real life?
Tucker Rivera: I would say that (like me), my music over the past four years has kind of been all over the place; but, we’re starting to settle down a little bit.
If I had to label myself with a “style,” I definitely stray towards the storyteller type of music - I rarely perform a song I’ve written that isn’t based on or inspired by true events, and I rarely feel compelled to write about anything other than girl problems.
Forgive me, though, I’m a 21 year old dude who’s prone to heartbreak, and has a talent for writing poetry.Think FINNEAS, or Ritt Momney, or Rex.
Unheard Gems: Your two recent quarantine songs “Dancing Alone in Paris” and “Simple” are also some of my favorites. The slow beat really highlights your unique tone. Can you describe your creative and production processes of making these songs while in lock-down and did quarantine add any challenges?
Tucker Rivera: I love these two songs, and “Simple” has been a fan favorite on my instagram for over a year now. Neither have any percussion in them. I wasn’t in the mood, at the time, to distract from the lyrics with my (then) sub-par beat making skills. I’m planning on a re-release of “Simple.”
Quarantine has actually made production processes much more enjoyable for me. It’s forcing me to depend on myself, and to rely on my own creativity and capabilities. Finding my own limits and understanding how to work within them is “challenging,” but I love it.
Unheard Gems: On top of being a musician, you are also a current student athlete, a swimmer, for the University of Chicago. How do you balance it all and how does each aspect of your life contribute to your music?
Tucker Rivera: The way I look at it, the busier I get, the more productive I am. What better way to address my tendency to procrastinate, than to spread myself as thin as (is reasonably, healthily) possible?
Music is among my few escapes from the grind of being a student athlete at one of the country’s most obsessive, competitive undergraduate universities. As most artists will tell you, creating and performing are intoxicating feelings - they help you get through the day. For me, I feel like music doesn’t need to be “balanced,” with anything else, because it’s a catalyst of balance.
Unheard Gems: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming musicians or any life advice in general?
Tucker Rivera: Get a damn manager, and create music. Do it much sooner than I have/will continue to. Have a back-up plan for your back-up plan, and make sure that you’d still be content with yourself.
Unheard Gems: Do you have any upcoming music or projects you’d like to talk about?
Tucker Rivera: I’m working on a lot of music right now, don’t worry :)
Unheard Gems: We love hearing what the artist we talk to are listening to. Who are some artists you think deserve more attention in the music industry and why?
Tucker Rivera: That new album from Quinn XCII is fire. And if you’re not listening to Ella Jane, Young Friend, Abigail Barlow, and CASSIDI, you should probably start so you can say you were there first.
Unheard Gems: Lastly, for all of our readers, where can they find you and your music and is there anything else you want to leave us with that we didn’t talk about in our questions?
Tucker Rivera: Stream me on anything and everything, anywhere and everywhere. Use my songs on Tiktok before Trump gets us all grounded lol.
Interview by Annika Johnson