Tate McRae is a force like no other. She’s released a project every year since 2020, appeared on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, won countless awards, embarked on sold-out world tours, and accumulated over 4 billion streams in just half a decade. And considering the fact that she’s still only a teenager, McRae literally has the world at her feet.
At the time of our chat, summer is coming to an end and McRae has recently performed her final festival show for the season in Philadelphia. It was Jay-Z’s co-founded Made In America, and, for this rising star, certainly no biggie. In fact, McRae is so in demand, she’s already moved on to the next thing when we speak. McRae is in New York where she’s just made her Fashion Week debut. Like any 19-year-old embarking on a new adventure, she documented the experience with her 2.1 million followers via her Instagram Story. McRae can be seen on her way to Revolve’s annual party where she appears to have been stopped by a series of paparazzi on the street who want to take her photo. McRae’s red carpet experience proves the situation isn’t daunting as it’s clear that she’s a pro in the posing department. “Slay queen!” an eager fan shouts at her before McRae turns around and laughs.
While the opportunity is all exciting for McRae, watching models strut their stuff down runways and being snapped wearing designer ensembles isn’t exactly what her autumn initially entailed. The 19-year-old is supposed to be on the road performing in arenas every night with fellow Canadian Shawn Mendes across North America. However, due to his mental health, the tour was completely canceled after originally being postponed.
“I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason,” McRae tells EUPHORIA. “I also genuinely have a lot of respect for someone like Shawn. Obviously, he’s a really hard-working and driven guy and he’s been my idol for so long.” Most importantly, she applauds Mendes for being so transparent with fans and being an example for others under heaps of pressure who might also be struggling. “I have respect for him to be able to put his mental health first and set a standard for artists to be able to speak up about how you’re feeling and what you need to do for yourself,” McRae continues.
The support slot would have been in promotion for her debut album, I Used To Think I Could Fly, which was unleashed at the end of May. Filled with emotion and angst and existing in a space where Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo have made sad pop songs the standard, McRae received high praise from critics for her ability to stand out amongst her peers. Commercially, the album also performed well, peaking within the top 10 in seven countries from three continents. As a result, she couldn’t be happier with how everything worked out. “It’s crazy because when you’re holding onto that many songs and they define a certain period in your life, it feels like you’re like holding onto like a huge weight on your shoulders. And when it gets released into the world, it’s like that weight drops,” McRae explains. “The album feels like it perfectly captures my whole mental head space last year as an artist and I’m happy it’s out and I can start fresh.”
The writing process for the LP started last July after McRae moved to LA. The album hit shelves 10 months later, admitting it felt like a quick turnaround, especially for a debut. Despite that, it doesn’t mean everything was smooth sailing for McRae the whole way through. “There were a lot of songs that I thought wouldn’t make the album. I think I was in a headspace where I felt like a lot was changing in my life,” she says. “I had written so many songs of the summer that narrowing it down was the hardest part. And you know, there were so many songs that were genuinely so vulnerable and personal to me that it was really terrifying to release.” Now that several months have passed, McRae can gladly say that all her decisions paid off. Not only that, she credits herself for taking more risks than she originally planned to.
Performing to crowds across various continents appears to be something that McRae still can’t wrap her head around. At the top of the year, she headlined a 20-plus date tour around North America which was swiftly succeeded with a sold-out European and Oceania leg, the latter of which sold out in just four minutes. “We were in Australia and I was playing my biggest headline venues. It was really wild. It was just like playing at festivals where there are 25,000 people, and in a foreign country is a really surreal feeling. You’re like, how do people know me across the world? I didn’t even know my music reached this far,” McRae explains.
One of the main reasons McRae’s music has been able to reach audiences from across the pond is because of her breakthrough single, “You Broke Me First.” The hard-hitting ballad about an ex-partner first dropped in January 2020 and quite literally put McRae on the map in a major way, thanks to the impact it had on TikTok. To date, the song has over 1 billion, yes, a billion (!!), streams on Spotify alone, a platinum certification in over 10 countries, and was the second most streamed and the longest charting song released by a female on the US Billboard Hot 100 of 2020. Reflecting on the time she wrote the track, McRae admits she never anticipated that her career would blow up so fast from this one song. Although, she was keen for it to be released.
“I remember writing that song, it took us like an hour and a half,” she says. “It’s so funny because the people I wrote it with, this girl Victoria and this producer Blake, who I was meeting for the first time, they’re honestly the most chill people. We’re not very reactionary people [laughs]. It wasn’t like everyone was screaming in the room and the energy was crazy. I just remember getting in the car after and showing it to my mom and I said, ‘I think this has something special to it.’ My mom was like, ‘Damn it, you’re on about the same boy again.’”
McRae put the song aside and didn’t listen to it again until six months later when she received a new version back. It wasn’t until then that she knew it needed to be heard by the masses. However, not everyone from the jump was in complete agreement with her. “It took a lot of convincing from the people around me that I could actually release it, which was crazy,” McRae shares. “I remember trying to convince my label and my managers that I should release this song and get it out into the world.” Still, she had no idea what was to come.
Ballads and sad songs have somewhat become McRae’s staple. When questioned whether it’s easier to bare her soul and pen vulnerable lyrics, she confesses that she’s typically a happy person and likes to present herself that way. With that said, she has a lot of inner thoughts that she often closes off that she prefers to express in her music. “I don’t like to talk about my life. I feel like that’s what I, as a person, push down, and so my music is just everything I’m truly feeling. If I’m not in a happy, jolly head space when I walk into the studio, I’m not gonna write a happy, jolly song. It’s whatever comes genuinely at that time,” McRae says.
It has been well-documented that McRae’s first love is dancing. Before living the pop star dream, she began recreational dance training at age six before learning all styles of dance at her mom’s own company, YYC Dance Project. In 2015, she participated in So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation and made it all the way to third place. Her resume as a dancer also boasts appearances on Dancing With The Stars and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, as well as serving as a backup dancer for Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato.
Two years after getting her big break on So You Think You Can Dance, McRae was a full-time dancer but knew she wanted to pursue another passion of hers: music. “I used to write songs all the time around my house, like little stupid ones that I would play for my parents,” McRae admits. However, she remembers “the first official” song she wrote, “One Day,” was when she was 13 years old. The piano ballad ended up becoming her first-ever single release. Uploaded to her YouTube channel in October 2017, it was the attention from that song alone that had major labels knocking on her door and wanting to sign the fresh-faced teen. McRae recalls, “I posted the video, I wasn’t even a singer or anything. Then two weeks later, I had been contacted by like 11 record labels and my family was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’”
It’s her ability to dance and sing on stage that has been setting her apart from the other Gen-Z musicians she’s being compared to. But for McRae, it’s a no-brainer to blend the two together. “I’m really lucky to have found two things that I’m super passionate about,” she says. “I’ve always thought of the two going together. I think the fact that I was a dancer, I always wanted to sing, but I didn’t know how to connect it. That’s where I feel really fortunate because I get to do something I’m so in love with.”
McRae is keeping the wheels in motion. It’s not even been a whole year since she put out her album and she is already eager to keep putting out new music. After teasing various snippets of her single with her passionate 4.2 million TikTok followers, she finally gave fans the highly-demanded “Uh Oh.” A little over a month later, she has since followed-up it’s release with a Tiësto collab titled “10:35.”
“I feel like it’s like a new era for me,” she says. “I’m at a different stage in my life. It’s wild for me to think about it because I feel like, through the ages of like 16 to 20, you change so drastically every year. It’s so bizarre to look back at my life on social media or at my songs and just see how much I’ve evolved. I think for this next phase of music, I just wanna do something totally different and spice it up a bit and start writing about concepts that I was kind of afraid to talk about before.”
“Uh Oh,” which she agrees sounds like one of her poppiest songs to date, showcases her perspective as a more-mature 19-year-old. Over the past few months, she has been hard at work in the studio and reveals that she has already written around 16 new songs. Fans will be eager to know if McRae is mapping out another project. She’s not. For now, she is just focusing on songs.
For someone who has released two EPs, an album, and a lot of singles and collaborations in between, McRae still finds herself getting anxious about putting out new material. “The thing about music is that it’s not a black and white thing. There’s not a yes or no, there’s not a right answer. People never know what’s gonna work, what’s not gonna work or what people are gonna relate to,” she explains. “I think it’s just trusting what makes you feel the most and then just going with your gut at the end of the day.” The same goes for teasing unreleased material on TikTok that she hopes fans will enjoy and want to be released.
Music and dancing aren’t where McRae’s ambitions end. Like a lot of the younger generation who have learned from the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani, her main goal from here out is to build a brand for herself. “I wanna start dipping my toes in so many different genres and avenues,” she says. Having previously provided voiceovers for Lalaloopsy, she is keen to take her acting career further in the near future. Since recently making her debut at New York Fashion Week, McRae also wants to have her own clothing line one day. “I feel like honestly, the more you do, the more inspired you get,” she adds. Just recently, she announced her own self-designed jewerly collection for Vitaly.
Right now, a day in the life of Tate McRae sees her juggling a hectic workload. “I wake up in the morning, I go to work out and then I come back and have a couple of meetings. Then, I usually go to a writing session for seven hours or I’ll go to a shoot or I’ll do an event or something,” she says. But, a jam-packed schedule is exactly how she prefers it to be. “I like to keep it pretty busy so I’m not just sitting on my couch.”