In conversation with Tate McRae
Tate McRae, Canadian singer, songwriter and dancer, caught the attention of multiple record labels after her original song “One Day” went viral on her YouTube channel with over 37 million views. She gained her worldwide recognition with her international hit “You Broke Me First” and got featured as the youngest musician on Forbes’30 under 30 list in 2020. At the young age of 18 she is one of the biggest breakthrough artist at the moment.
Tate, you started as a dancer before you recorded your first song. You danced at YYC Dance Project, a dance company owned by your mother and did also ballet training at the School of Alberta Ballet. After that you placed third on the 13thseason of US reality show “So You Think You Can Dance”. What does dance mean to you in your life?
Dance means everything to me. I mean, I feel like it was my first found passion in life. So obviously, that's going to be so special to me. And it felt like for the longest time it was the only thing that I could do that helped me escape from the world. It wasn't until I found writing that I realized I had two passions that were like super, super close to me and I just always wanted to keep working towards.
Your YouTube channel “Create With Tate” is actually where you introduced your first song ever, “One Day” at the age of 14. How did it feel when the song attracted over 37 million views and caught the attention of 11 record labels? Did you ever dream of doing music before that?
In my head, from a young age, I was like “I want to be a pop star”. I always said that to my mom. When you're young, there's always that vision in your head, but you're just like “I have no idea how to get there”. And as a dancer, I was asking myself how am I gonna become a pop star from literally not even singing. I feel like once the music thing just naturally started to happen and naturally came into my life, it was all very in the moment. The exciting, surreal moments that were happening that I would have never really expected because I was just writing because it was fun for me.
You write your own songs. Where do you draw inspiration from for your lyrics?
I draw inspiration from a lot of different aspects, but especially from my own life. I always say that I'm really bad at explaining myself and explaining my emotions. So the only way that I can actually feel like I get a weight off my chest is if I write it down and put it into my notes or my journal or into some sort of song. And that's also how I solve situations in my head. It makes it a lot more clear if I can just put it down on paper, otherwise I would be a ball of problems and would not know how to get them out of me.
Who and why are your biggest influences in the music industry?
That's really tough. I grew up listening to so much music because my mom was a dance teacher and I was a dancer. So I was just constantly surrounded by music my entire life. I think in the music aspect, I couldn't really nail down who or what I take reference from because I referenced so many different genres in my music, like hip hop music and then also country music and pop music. I feel like the spectrum is so wide. But then obviously as a dancer and a singer, I've always looked up to on stage performances from Britney Spears or J.Lo, or Ciara, dancers who fully bring a performance on stage. As a dancer, I definitely look up to that and want to be able to do something like that when I'm older.
What about in your life. Who and why are your biggest idols in life?
My parents are a really big inspiration to me. I don't know how they do it, but how they support me through every single dream I've ever had, even if it is the most crazy thing I've ever said to them, they were always like ”Okay, go ahead”. They gave me the ability to do that and have always supported me since I was super young. Even when I didn't have anything in front of me at all and I was at the bottom, they've always supported me to keep working and keep going for it. And that's exactly how I think kids should be raised, being able to chase their dreams and not feel afraid to do so.
2020 was a big year for you. You were featured on Billboard’s 21 Under 21 One to watch list, named as the youngest person on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list and as one of Rolling Stones’ top 10 biggest breakthrough artists of 2020. You achieved all this at a very young age. How do all these achievements make you feel?
I think it's really exciting. Obviously it's such an honor to be amongst all those artists and recognized like that. I feel very blessed, but also the more things I see like that on the internet, the more pressure I put on myself to keep pushing to go farther. And I think I've always been like that, if something happens it’s all right, now I have to level up. And now I have to challenge myself even more in my writing and even more in my music. But yeah, really such a huge honor and I still can't even wrap my head around half the things that have happened in this year.
Your breakout hit “You Broke Me First” came out during the pandemic, the weirdest times of our lives, when everything was completely digital. How challenging was it for you to launch this hit and go through the success of it in such unusual times for the artists?
I think because it had never happened before, it was very foreign to everyone, myself and everyone around me. I didn't really realize the weight of having a global hit. I feel like I was sitting in my bedroom in my small town in Canada, literally not quite understanding what exactly was happening. I was seeing myself on TV, but it was all pre-taped and I was sitting on my couch and I was on the radio apparently every second. And I wouldn't have known because I was in my house. So it was a very weird moment because I was getting all these texts and all these congratulations and I couldn't even wrap my head around what was going on, I had no idea. And then I finally got to LA and I was like “Oh, this song was big”. That was a weird moment for me because I didn't even know, I felt so naive throughout the whole thing. I'm very grateful that now I'm able to see it on people's faces when I perform finally.
How does it feel now that you’re actually able to perform live? How different of a feeling it is comparing to digital performances? How are you experiencing this transition?
I fell in love with it. I've been doing so many festivals this summer and literally nothing compares to the feeling of being on stage and fans screaming your songs back. It’s honestly the most validating experience and rush of emotion as an artist. I can't describe how amazing it is to be on stage. And I'm so excited for many years of performing ahead of me, cause it's my favorite feeling. I mean, it's so fun for me. I'm getting to live my dream of dancing and singing at the same time and people actually watch, it's really cool.
This May you performed a global virtual show “Too Young to Be Sad”, which featured a two piece band and background dancers. I know you’ll be on tour with Shawn Mendes next year and probably have a lot of your own concerts as well. If you had to describe your excitement to perform live in front of your fans, how would you describe it?
I don't think I ever really thought of the day that I would be going on tour with Shawn Mendes. Honestly, it's all so surreal to me. I always thought it would be a dream come true to go on stage with a big artist and to be able to tour around the world. I'm just so grateful, I literally don't know how to explain it. I met Sean the other day and he was the sweetest guy in the entire world. It’s just crazy, I'm 18 and I'm about to go on tour with Shawn Mendes.
None of it feels real. I feel like I'm living in a fever dream. It's all very foggy and I feel like I'm going through it and just trying to be as present as possible because me and my family have no idea what's going on.
You have a huge following and fan base on social media. This is where people got to meet and know you. How do you look at social media now? Do you feel like privatizing your life more than before?
I'm already a private person enough. Even with my friends and stuff, I keep to myself a lot. I'm kind of a loner, but I feel like when I go on a social media, I just share every single moment that kind of happens in my career and every exciting thing that goes on and I try to be as connected with my fans as possible because I feel like they're my friends. They're people that are my age, I see them at concerts and that's cool, so I just get to share everything with them.
I think you definitely have to pick and choose what moments you put out on the internet, because once it's on the internet it stays on the internet forever and then you can't take it back. Honestly, there's so many moments in life that don't need to be caught on camera. There's so many moments when you're with your family or you're with your friends and you don't need phones out. You don't need anything, you don't need social media. And those moments are amazing as well as the moments that are being videotaped. It’s finding the balance between being a regular person and living your life and enjoying it and enjoying the people around you and then finding the moments you want to share with the world.
When do you feel the most free? What does freedom represent to you?
Actually one of the only times I feel free is when I'm on stage. It's very weird and funny, because I'm really bad at talking in big groups. If I'm in a big group of people, I will not speak, I'm pretty quiet. But for some reason when I'm on stage, I have a literal blabbermouth, I literally can't shut up and it's thousands of people. I feel like on stages, it's that weird feeling of there's so much love in one spot that you feel like you can do anything. And that's how I feel like on stage, I feel like I could literally fall over and people would still be happy. All I want is just being on stage, it's so fun. It's the biggest adrenaline rush and high of your life.
What are the next projects we can expect from you that you can tell us about?
I'm writing an album right now and it's almost finished. And I'm releasing my first single very soon actually. I've been teasing it on TikTok and I'm really excited. It's all based on real stories and situations that I've gone through in the past five months of moving to LA as an 18 year old. It's pretty cool, it just kind of sums up my life and people I've met and it's going to be released next year. I'm very pumped because we've just shot the music video.
Is there one particular project that is coming up that has you the most excited about?
Music wise, all I want to do is get out everything I've been writing. And obviously tours and everything that's going on next year for travel is going to be incredible. But there's this one song I wrote and I think it's the most personal and vulnerable song I've ever written in my entire life. Every time I listen to it, it literally makes me cry. I'm curious to see what happens if I were to put it out and see how people react, because it feels like it's also a bit of a risk because it's so vulnerable. It will be a ballad, it's so sad. It's insane.
With so many emotion people can easily get lost in the music. Just forget about everything else going on in the world or in your life. It's like an escape from reality.
Oh, I hope so. I hope my album is as an escape from reality, for a lot of people.