Meet Tate McRae, the Calgary Teen Who Blew Up During Quarantine

Calgary pop artist Tate McRae talks about being Apple Music's Up Next artist of the month, her upcoming EP too young to be sad, and blowing up in quarantine.

Things don’t seem to be slowing down for pop sensation Tate McRae. The 17-year-old Calgary native was just announced as Apple Music’s Up Next artist for this month, making her the fourth Canadian to be featured and joining a roster of talented artists like Daniel Caesar, Megan Thee Stallion, Jesse Reyez, and Billie Eilish. This, after she made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in December.

McRae is also planning on releasing her upcoming  too young to be sad,​​​​​​ on March 26, which will include fan favourites like her 2020 track “You Broke Me First.” Although she’s been producing her music in isolation due to the pandemic, McRae has been connecting with countless Gen Z fans worldwide through her singles that are routinely played on TikTok. Amassing 5 million-plus followers and counting, she’s connected with fans on the platform through her mature songs about love, heartbreak, and relationships and transforms her honesty and vulnerability into art that fans can relate to in their daily lives. You can hear it all over her instantly relatable new track “slower,” which just dropped today.

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This week, McRae talked to us about what it was like winning a place on Apple Music’s Up Next roster and the emotions that come with her new EP. Complex Canada’s Alex Narvaez caught up with the singer to talk about her TikTok following, blowing up in quarantine, and her love for the ’90s.

Talk to me about how quickly this has all been happening for you and how that feels. 
I think it doesn’t actually feel like a really quick process because it’s been a gradual growth for like a couple of years. But I mean, definitely over the pandemic, I’ve done some things that I’ve always wanted to do and some of my biggest goals have happened, which has been pretty cool. But yeah, I think it’s been mostly hard to think about because I can’t go anywhere and I literally can’t experience things for real and to the fullest extent. So it’s weird to attach your head to it and believe it’s actually happening sometimes. 

I recently came across some stats and you have over one million TikToks created with your song, “You Broke Me First.” When you think about something like that, going viral, but not only people screaming and listening to it, but they actually helped to create something with it, how does that feel? 
I mean, I think it’s just inspiring as an artist because when people create videos to your music, it just feels like they’re interpreting it and they just connect with it in some sort of way. And that’s literally all you want to do, is for people to be able to relate it back to their own life. And I feel like people were able to do that when they heard the song, which made me so happy because it felt like such a small, little baby of mine that feels like your own really personal thing. And once you get to share it, all you want is for people to be able to take you back to their own life and feel the exact same way.

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That was such a big song. I’m sure fans are going to be happy to hear that it’s also on the new EP, right? Tell me about the new EP and how that all came together.
I’m so excited. We’ve been wanting to create this EP for a really long time. But because of this pandemic, random things have been happening that I’ve just cut the process to be longer. So I had to choose six of my favorite songs that I’ve been writing over the past seven months and the strongest ones that are all cohesive. And that’s kind of hard to do when you’re by yourself and everything’s virtual because you can’t see people in real life and let people listen to things in real life. Like, my old team can’t be with me to vibe on things, so it’s definitely been hard to choose, and that’s why it’s been pushed back so much. But it’s like finally going out and I’m excited.

The last track, “The ’90s.” Tell me about that song.
I have this thing in my brain that I just wish I lived in a different time era. And I think that’s honestly just because of social media and everything, like phones and the whole shebang. I feel like relationships are more superficial. I feel like things online just don’t feel like real life to me sometimes. But, I have this idea in my head that living in like the ’80s or ’90s would be the best, even if it wouldn’t be. I just have this idea in my brain, I’m not getting rid of it. And I was just imagining like, how would a boy walk to a girl? Like, now guys will text you and be like, “I’m here”. And if you lived in a different era where you didn’t have phones, they’d have to, like, walk up to your door and give you flowers. They’d have to open the door and face your parents. There’s that whole other idea that I feel like our generation has completely missed out on, so I started to write a song about it and that’s how I felt. 

You’re also Apple Music’s Up Next Artist, which is super cool. It’s such a big honour. You know, people like Jessie Reyez, who came out of Canada, have been featured. Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish. All of these people have been featured. And you’re the artist being featured in March. Talk to me about that and what that means to you. 
It’s crazy. I mean, I’ve been watching these documentaries forever. I’ve seen these, I’ve done my research. I knew them all from before. So, when I got this, like, when they said I was going to be the Up Next Artist, I was kind of like, “Oh, shit, no way.” And I think it’s cool because Apple’s such an amazing brand that I’d always dreamed of working with. And to be able to create a video with them and be able to work with them, talk with them, have meetings, and be able to just understand their process on things has been really cool. It’s also has forced me to push my creativity a bit to work with them and collaborate.

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