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The Year of Tate McRae

Following a recent collab with Khalid, the prairie pop transplant is working overtime.

by Candy Thomas

Recently relocated to sunny Los Angeles, Calgary native Tate McRae has just wrapped a photoshoot and is en route to her next meeting when she calls us up, beaming with energy. The week prior, the teenage pop star owned The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon stage—for the second time— alongside Troye Sivan and Regard, performing their rhythmic radio dance hit, “You.” Her most recent collab, featuring R&B superstar Khalid on the infectious single, “Working,” proves she’s putting in the overtime and getting the success she deserves.

Since McRae’s 2019 debut, the prairie pop star has been crafting an impressive, record-breaking repertoire. All the while maneuvering the challenges of the pandemic and earning her high school credits, graduating with the Class of 2021 in January. Catching the eye of Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, the dynamic brother and sister duo helped pen the tearful track, “Tear Myself Apart,” from her All The Things I Never Said EP. 

Coupled with her undeniable artistry, the teen’s resolve is part of her allure. McRae navigates stardom with the precision and confidence of someone who has done this in a past life. The other end of our Zoom call suddenly comes to life as she hops on the line.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and congrats on all your recent success! How’s it going?

It’s been really rejuvenating being in writing sessions and the studio again. It fulfills me more than I thought. I didn’t think Zoom was so bad until I got back with people again.

What would you say was the biggest change you had to adjust to, in making the move to LA from Calgary? 

I travel back and forth from Calgary to Los Angeles. There wasn’t a lot that I had to adjust to. It was basically just taking my whole life, virtually this year, then flipping to in-person, continuing to be really COVID safe and cautious. But it’s just basically been blowing it up a bit more and making it feel more like real life.

What do you miss most about Calgary?

My friends. It’s always hard to leave them behind and not see them for a long time.  Throughout the pandemic, I couldn’t see them very much at all. We’ve been waiting a long time to be able to hangout.

What is your favourite spot to hang out with your friends back home in Calgary?

We either hang out at each other’s houses, having fires in our backyards. Or sometimes we’ll go down to Invermere, we’d hang out at our cabins and go boating and surfing. It’s really fun.

You graduated from high school earlier this year. How did you balance work, school, and the pandemic?

I feel like I’ve been doing it my entire life, so I kind of have a grip on maintaining a busy schedule. There are some moments where it can get really hard to balance for sure. Especially when I was stuck at home and couldn’t see my friends to balance out my social life. But I got school done. Thank God. The best part is I don’t have to worry about that.

You’ve been singing and performing since a young age but people are definitely paying attention now. Was there a particular moment when you realized you had found success?

I’m definitely still processing everything that has happened over the past year. A big moment where things definitely felt crazy was my song “You Broke Me First” reaching number one on Pop Radio. That was a big milestone. It took a lot of work to get there but it was really exciting when that happened. 

How do you celebrate such amazing milestones?

The best part is being with family and friends. Being able to just take a night where you don’t have to work, don’t have to do anything. Just being proud. That’s a hard thing for me to do, look back at something and feel satisfied and proud. I’ve been working on trying to take nights to just appreciate everything that’s going on and being happy. I think that’s what I’m gonna do for my birthday, Juno nominations, and graduation. It’s like a time of change, which is exciting.

What would you say is the best advice you’ve been given?

One of my favourite quotes right now is, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint”. It can be hard to be patient, but it’s really important to be present wherever you are, and just be grateful. Take in who you’re with and what you’re doing.

What is the most played song in your playlist right now? 

I’m a big fan of Jesse Reyes. She’s a very talented soul and on my playlist on repeat.

How would you say your family has adapted to your career as it takes off?

My mom has been travelling with me since I was nine-years-old. Not much has changed. We’re still on the same grind, striving for the best possible art. My parents have been supporting me throughout the entire journey. I don’t know what I would do without them.

What advice would you give to other teens/young adults who want to follow in your footsteps?

To follow your dreams, you’ve got to put the work in, put your time, your dedication and your patience all into one thing and really work your ass off. And I felt like I’ve been doing that since a young age. Motivation is what took me places. Even if I didn’t have all the resources and the connections, I would always push through with my motivation for things. So, if anyone wants to pursue a passion, they just have to work at it as much as they can.

Tate McRae’s new single, “Working,” featuring Khalid is out now.