Tate McRae was recently scrolling TikTok when an old interview she did at 16 came across the screen. “I was the most awkward person ever, and I was like, ‘There’s no chance that this is the same person,’ ” she says with a grimace. “You evolve so much, and not only am I seeing it, but I’m documenting it in my music in real time.”
Now 20 and living in Los Angeles, the native of Calgary, Alberta (which she calls “the Texas of Canada”), has spent much of her life thus far on screens — both her own, while navigating TikTok like a promotional pro, and others, whether on network TV or YouTube. As a teen, McRae placed third on the 2016 season of So You Think You Can Dance and soon after, in fall 2017, launched the weekly YouTube series Create With Tate, which she used to share new choreography and music covers. She thought she would go on to become a backup dancer, but she felt equally drawn to songwriting, covering her bedroom walls with lyrics, quotes and poems that her mother has since painted over in a shade she describes as “serial killer white.”
One of the first videos she posted was a song that proved she wasn’t destined to be anyone’s backup — and could very much hold pop’s center stage on her own. The lovelorn piano ballad “One Day” (which McRae wrote herself) gained traction online, and by early 2018, she and her parents were flying to New York for label meetings (accompanied by McRae’s dance manager at the time); just a year later, it was announced that she had signed a record deal with RCA and a management deal with Hard 8 Working Group. As her high school graduation in Calgary neared, McRae was splitting her time between midterms and awards shows.
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