If I had a nickel for every time a Canadian singer-dancer went viral on YouTube as a teenager and was catapulted into fame, I'd have two nickels. Which isn't a lot, but it's weird that it happened twice, right?
Justin Bieber was the first to experience this pipeline. Up-and-coming pop star Tate McRae is the second. And while McRae’s YouTube channel is still very much in use, she doesn’t upload covers and dance routines on it anymore. Now, she posts music videos for chart-topping songs.
Related | Backstage With Tate McRae on Tour
At only 18 years old, McRae just took her biggest step as an artist yet. Her debut studio album, i used to think i could fly, dropped May 27. Currently headlining her own international tour and set to join Shawn Mendes on his tour this fall, the "she's all i wanna be" singer is booked and busy.
McRae took a break from the chaos of tour to sit down with friend and fellow singer/songwriter Alexander 23 — who is also releasing his debut studio album this year on July 15 with "Somebody's Nobody" — to talk touring, songwriting and, most importantly, what kind of cookie they would be.
Alexander 23: We're in Dublin right now and we're on tour together. And my first question of the day is, how are you?
Tate McRae: I'm doing great. Yeah, I mean, we have one more show left in the UK, which is crazy. I've been having a blast, I think because this tour is really short, it feels like it went by really fast.
Alexander: This next one is going to be a compliment, so don't get too used to it because the rest are not.
Tate: Okay [laughs].
Alexander: I'm very lucky to know you super well. Most people only know you from the internet. I'm sure they assume that you're super kind and goofy and positive in real life, and they're actually right that you are. You have so much going on, so much pressure. How do you make sure that you still feel good?
Tate: Wow, Alex. So sweet of you. I think honestly, I feel less pressure from the internet and from outside people. I just feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself mentally. And the only way to dodge that is to sometimes completely not think about anything music-related or anything. It's nice to just do normal things and realize that there's [life] outside of the industry.
Alexander: What's one thing that you think Canadians get right and Americans get wrong?
Tate: So much.
Alexander: Okay, well give me one thing, and then stop after that because I don't want to know the rest.
Tate: Well, I think we get driving. If I would ever try driving in the States, I would be hit.
Alexander: You don’t drive in LA?
Tate: No, I have my car there but–
Alexander: Wait, didn't your mom drop you off at our first session?
Alexander: That’s hilarious.
Tate: I refuse to drive in LA because I would get hit from every single angle. Because in Canada, it's so polite. You're at a four-way stop and it's like, “No, you go.” There's a bit of compassion on the road. It's such a cliché thing to say, but I think Canadians are generally nicer.
Alexander: All the Canadians I know and playing shows in Canada... Everyone's very, very sweet. I honestly think it might have something to do with "eh." It's a very courteous part of the language. You know, very inviting and agreeing to be like "eh."
Tate: We have a very welcoming language [laughs].
Alexander: You live in LA now. What's one thing you really like and one thing you really hate about living in LA?
Tate: I love my apartment. I like having my own place and I love being able to go to a studio and write all the time. I don't like the vibe of LA. I feel like everyone has FOMO in LA.
Alexander: I feel that.
Tate: That's the one thing that I do miss about Canada. People are fine just being with who they're with and doing what they're doing. In LA, there's always a need of more and wanting more.
Alexander: What made you feel ready to make and release your debut album?
Tate: The fact that I haven't released an album yet is really crazy to me because I have so many songs. I was like, “Okay, I want to release some sort of body of work and I want to make sure it talks about how I have been mentally over the last year in my life.”
Alexander: Is there a song on the album that you feel most succinctly sums up how you feel about your life right now?
Tate: I feel like “chaotic” was a big one.
Alexander: I told you last night, that's in my top three.
Tate: “chaotic” definitely. Honestly, because I had been in so many writing sessions with so many producers, I wasn't talking about anything that I actually believed, so I was writing shitty songs. And then I got into a session with Greg Kirsten and he was just playing piano and I was like, “Okay, I can now actually write something that I actually think about.”
Alexander: I don't know Greg personally, but he seems like a very emotionally inviting person.
Tate: He genuinely just let me do my thing.
Alexander: Okay, now on to my other top two favorite songs, “what would you do?” and “boy x,” both of which we worked on together, which was very fun. I think something that your fans love about you and your music, and I know I do too, is that you can do both ends of the spectrum. From that really rocky/dancey, up-tempo stuff to the more ballady “boy x” stuff. Not to toot my own horn, but “boy x” is definitely one of the best songs of the show.
Tate: So good.
Alexander: When you're going to make your album, is that intentional?
Tate: I honestly have an ongoing battle in my head of who I want to be as an artist because sometimes I'm like, “I'm a dancer. All I want to do is dance to music and I don't want to sing, I don't want to do anything else, I just want to dance.” And then I'm also fucking emotional. There's a whole other side of me as a person where I need to write for myself, just to get shit off my head.
Alexander: I think it works. I mean, I know it works because I've seen the show so many times, and you can go from having people jumping up in the air and the next song is “boy x” and they're all crying screaming every word.
Tate: And I love that too.
Alexander: I just made my album, so I have definitely felt this: Were there any songs on the record that fought back? And by that I mean you had to fight for them to work. You loved the seed idea, but it was really hard to get them finished.
Tate: I feel like all of them were such a work-in-progress. Even “what would you do?” The place that that song started...
Alexander: ...very different.
Tate: Whew. I listen back to that and I'm like, “This is rough.”
Alexander: I want to listen to that. I haven't listened to that in a while. But I remember thinking like, “I know this is really good, but we need to get it there.” And I think we did.
Tate: Usually it's opposite. I'll create a song that’s super stripped back and be like okay, “I know the core is there and I want to make it something. For “what would you do?” we had so much stuff in that song. So many instruments that I was like, “I don't even know what this song is.”
Alexander: No, that's very fair. And it usually goes this way where eventually the answer is the simplest answer. Something I really liked that you said in another interview was that “boy x” was a way of us getting to know each other, which I thought was really cool because I've never heard it put like that. It is a really nice way of getting to know someone.
Tate: It was interesting because I remember we started writing and we were just freestyling a bit. I thought it was so cool because me and you came to the mutual agreement that the song was written about me, but the whole time I was just explaining to you how I act in a relationship. I was like, describing this girl hypothetically and then by the end you were like, “Oh, wait, this is her.”
Alexander: I want to talk about tour a little bit. What's your favorite part of putting together a live show?
Tate: Coming from dancer instincts, it's the dynamics of it. I love to see how a crowd will react to dynamic changes in a show. I love when I'm sitting down and singing a really slow song that’s super intimate and then all of a sudden I'm moving like crazy. I think that's cool to watch.
Alexander: What's the moment of the show where you do standing-up splits?
Tate: Oh, “all my friends are fake"?
Alexander: Yeah, they go insane. When you're planning those moments, do you know before you go on tour the moments that people are gonna go crazy?
Tate: You can usually tell, just because you know what feels cool.
Alexander: You are truly one of the busiest people I know. It's insane. I just want to know if you do feel burnt out and if so, if you have any mechanisms of dealing with that.
Tate: I think because I'm a workhorse, I feel like I don't get burnt out really easily. But there was one point last tour when I was in Europe. I was in Berlin, I had a full day of press and I was like, “This is the first time that I feel genuinely so burnt out.” That's why right after the tour, I went right back to Calgary for a day and a half, talked to my brother about hockey, talked to my dad about his friends. I needed to talk to normal people and realize that the world doesn't revolve around [my] tour.
Alexander: It's kind of a double-edged sword not having a nine-to-five — I’m sure you feel this way too — because I get to do things I want to do and create my own hours a little bit more. But like, if you're really passionate and really driven that can lead to creating your own hours and the hours are all the time, which can be a good thing for spirits, but obviously is difficult to maintain.
Tate: There’s one thing about shows that I've noticed is being the artist on stage. When [I] look into a crowd, I can soak in every single person's energy. And if someone has an off energy in the crowd it'll brutally affect me as a person.
Alexander: Obviously, you're getting more and more famous by the day. Is there anything about that relationship with the public that has surprised you in a positive or negative way?
Tate: There's one thing. Okay, have you ever like, walked out of a grocery store and even though you didn't steal something, you're like, “I don't want someone to think I'm stealing something.”
Alexander: I saw a TikTok about this the other day.
Tate: I saw a TikTok about this the other day and that exactly relates to how I feel because a lot of people can convince me just by a certain comment or something what type of person I think I am.
Tate: I know I'm a good person and I know who I am and what I believe in and all these things, but people can be like, “Oh, this is the type of girl she is.” You can start to believe it after a second. And that fucks with you mentally because there's so many things that I love about myself and then I'll convince myself that they're not true because other people don't see it.
Alexander: It’s almost like, as you get more famous there becomes two of you. There's you that's here, and then there's the you that exists all the time everywhere for everyone else.
Alexander: That's strange, wow. Great answer. The grocery store TikTok was so funny.
Tate: It was hilarious. I go through that every day.
Alexander: What are you most excited about the rest of the year? Is there anything in particular?
Tate: I'm excited to go to Australia. Those are my biggest headline shows yet, which is cool. I'm excited for that. I'm also excited to write again. I haven't written in forever.
Alexander: That, honestly, is underrated. I've spoken to other artists about this too and they feel the same way. Finishing an album is great because you get to put the music out, but it's even better because then you get a clean slate.
Tate: I know. And you get to start the new sound. That's the thing that I've been struggling with. Usually writing is my cleanse time to talk about stuff and I just haven't had that.
Alexander: Yeah, I feel that. All right, one more question. Somebody asked me this outside our London show a couple days ago, so I thought it'd be fun to end with: If you were a cookie, which cookie would you be?
Tate: Oh, they asked you this too.
Alexander: Did you have an answer?
Tate: Yeah, I said double chocolate chip.
Alexander: Did you have a reason or you're just going with double chocolate chip?
Tate: I'm just going with double chocolate chip.
Alexander: You heard it here first; Tate "Double Chocolate Chip" McRae.
Tate: Wouldn't it be horrible If I said oatmeal raisin?
Alexander: I said oatmeal raisin.
Alexander: Yep, because — I have a good reason — I think I'm not for everybody but if I'm for you, you love me.
Tate: You're a psycho. I would never say that you're an oatmeal raisin.
Alexander: I don't actually feel that way. I just thought was a witty response.
Tate: Yeah, it was good response.
Alexander: Thanks so much.
Tate: Yeah, you had a reason at least. I just went with double chocolate chip [laughs].
Photos courtesy of Tate McRae/Lissyelle
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