Tate McRae is a global superstar. And with the release of her debut album ‘i used to think i could fly’ she is proving why she deserves that status with a body of work that is equally vulnerable as it is a celebration of her coming of age moments. The Canadian raised and now Los Angeles based singer-songwriter had global breakthrough success with her viral smash hit ‘you broke me first’. From there every song she’s released has gained critical acclaim and mammoth success with songs like ‘feel like shit’, ‘chaotic’ and ‘she’s all i wanna be’ heralding in this highly anticipated record.
Noting a confidence in her songwriting, this record hears her finding all the words she’s always wanted to say. From dating, to heartbreak, to mental health, and navigating the coming of age moments in her life, it plays as a snapshot of everything that has led her here.
I sat down with Tate McRae over Zoom in the middle of her US tour to chat about finding the confidence to say what she needed to on ‘i used to think i could fly’, explored some of the key lyrical moments on the record, and discussed her upcoming sold out Australian tour. Check out the full chat BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut album is something that has been in fruition for a few years now. Has your conceptual vision of what you wanted this body of work to be evolved throughout time to where ‘i used to think i could fly’ has aesthetically landed?
TATE MCRAE: Honestly I think the album process actually started in June last year, as that’s when I felt like one of the first songs came out of me. It was a difficult process because even when I was 16 and just releasing EP’s, I felt like I was so unclear of who I was, but there was also no pressure for me to know either. There was so much going on this summer, and so many things I was going through mentally that it was so hard for me to write for a whole month, and then at the end that is when I got all of my good songs out. At the beginning I just couldn’t write, and I think when you’re internally not okay, then it’s hard to put it on paper.
TB: ‘i used to think i could fly’ is a confessional body of work that truly feels like a coming of age moment for you. And that is captured through some incredible lyricism. So I wanted to bring up some of my favourite lyrical moments on the record, and get more of the stories behind them. If that’s okay with you?
TM: Of course!
TB: I’ve already mentioned this to you before, but ‘hate myself’ to me is the clear standout on this record. It’s stunning. On this track you sing, “you couldn’t hate me more than I hate myself”, And this line feels like the ultimate sad girl moment on the record. Where did it stem from?
TM: I think it’s so hard to talk about feelings of guilt. I’m the type of person who hates fighting with people and I also genuinely just want to see the best sides of every single person. So at the end of the day I’m going to put the blame on myself, and I’m always going to say that they are perfect. In my brain I will pull out my flaws and say that they never did anything wrong. I think it’s because I try to block out anything negative in my life, which is just a coping mechanism. But it was really hard to write this song because I was so sad, and I genuinely was just like “I hate myself”. A lot of times artists don’t put themselves in any other position than the victim, because everyone wants to blame someone else. And a lot of the time I do the opposite. I blame me for everything. And that’s what sums up this song.
TB: On ‘boy x’ you sing, “tell me that you let her go, before you look for someone new”. Ooft!
TM: Ooooo! This was so heartbreaking. I went into the studio with that line because there are so many situations where people will be in relationships and before they’ve ended things they will already start scoping out who their next prospect is going to be, which is fucking terrible. I think that is the most heartbreaking thing, knowing that a person isn’t fully invested in you, and even emotionally opening themselves up to someone else while you’re putting your heart on your sleeve for them, and are in love with them.
So this song talks about a boy and a girl, and how this girl would never open herself up to people and would never give anyone a try as she never wanted her heart to break. And this guy ends up completely screwing with her, and has wandering eyes in the relationship.
TB: It happens SO often! I was seeing someone, and at the start of the year I found out that they were talking and seeing other people the whole time we were together. And I didn’t get how they could say “I love you” to me, and then live this other life.
TM: I think that is the hardest thing. How could you say “I love you” to someone and then be doing something on the other hand. For me personally, I feel like I don’t fall fast in relationships, but if I do dedicate myself to seeing someone then they are the only person I’m talking to. I’m not going off and talking to other people and trying to find something better. I’m super loyal in that sense. I think it’s so crazy when people can just do that.
TB: On ‘go away’ you sing, “I used to think I could fly away, and now I’m just holding on”, which is where the title for the album comes from. So what is it about this line that embodies the whole feelings and emotions of what this record means to you?
TM: There’s something so scary about growing up because when you’re younger you have this feeling of “I can do anything”. You have no fears or no insecurities. Like, how could you be scared of heights when you’ve never been in a tall building before. There are so many things you don’t know yet, so you can’t be afraid. You then grow up, and your mum or your friends’ fears end up imprinting on you. You get to an age where all of a sudden you’re shoved in the face of reality, and I think that was the part I wanted to capture on this album.
It was at the end of the album process, and I needed to figure out how to put these feelings to words. I just felt like I used to think I could do anything in the world, and I’m now just trying to grasp onto anything to be okay. The idea of the album seems so light and airy if you look at it from the front, and then it has really dark and deep undertones that people don’t accept about growing up, and that’s why this lyric resonated so much for the whole record.
TB: ‘Chaotic’ is super honest, and hears you admitting; “I have this paralyzin’ fear that I’ll maybe go nowhere. But God forbid me ever admittin’ I could be scared”. How has your relationship with your confidence grown from writing this record?
TM: When I started writing this album I had just moved to LA. And for the first time ever I was being thrown into sessions with big name writers and producers, and I would literally walk into these pop sessions and sit in the corner and say absolutely nothing, because I got in my head and was like “I don’t know how to write a song, you guys know how to write a song”. I lost toal confidence, and I wasn’t able to write for a very long time.
I then started getting into a room with Greg Kurstin, and he’s obviously an icon as he’s worked with Adele, and so many incredible artists. And for the first time ever I genuinely felt safe. It was just me and him, and I felt like I could just write. He would play these beautiful piano chords while I sat on my laptop and wrote, and that was when I wrote that first lyric from ‘chaotic’. I knew exactly how I felt in that moment, and I hadn’t felt like that before in a big session like that.
TB: ‘what would you do?’ really captures the pop-punk energy that ‘she’s all that i wanna be’ introduced into your music. Have you found it easier to tap into angst fueled emotion through this pop-rock sound, especially through movement?
TM: Yeah! It’s really funny because I never planned on making pop-punk songs. There were people who were like “Tate, you need to write a punk song” and I was like… “never” *laughs*. ‘she’s all that i wanna be’ actually started off as a ballad, and then eventually I texted Greg and was like, “can you turn this into an upbeat song in any sense”, and he turned in this pop-punk song. So that was crazy. Whereas with “what would you do?’ I had no idea what we were writing. I was working on this one with Charlie Puth, Blake Slatkin, and Alexander 23. We were in a room and just fucking around with guitars and hanging. It was a Saturday so we weren’t really planning on doing a session that day, but I just started getting really angry and that’s how the song started *laughs*.
TB: Movement is something that has always been super important to you as a dancer. So how does this album make you move when you listen to it from start to finish?
TM: It’s really interesting because I never write music and think about how I could dance to it, which is so funny to me. It’s not until I have to dance to it and my choreographer’s are like “okay, you have to move to this”, which is when I start thinking about it. But my perception is changing as in my live shows it’s the most fun thing ever to dance to my songs.
TB: Well I was about to say, because you recently kicked off your world tour in the US, and this show looks quite theatrical with the dancers and the live band really enhancing the energy. What has been the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself as an artist and as a performer through this first leg of shows?
TM: Honestly I think it’s just given me the confidence to feel validated in my work. I think it’s because a lot of the time I forget that real people listen to my music, and real people appreciate it. For the first time I am hearing real people sing back these lyrics, and it’s SO special to me, and it’s so hard for me to believe that it’s real. But it just makes me want to write more, and write about things that are real.
TB: And you’re finally coming to Australia in July for a big run of sold out dates. So what is on your vision board of what to expect from your time down under?
TM: I’m expecting my fans to be screaming all of my lyrics in accents *laughs*, I hope that is all I hear on stage. I’ve been to Australia before and I’ve held a Koala, but I was definitely only there for a week, so I’m excited to actually explore this time around.
TB: Let’s play a rapid fire of questions about the album. Are you ready?
TM: Let’s do it!
TB: The emoji that best describes my debut album ‘I Used To Think I Could Fly’ is…
TM: The big sad eyes with the smile.
TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the album was…
TM: ‘don’t come back’ and ‘i’m so gone’ were the last songs I finished. And actually I’ve just added a song called ‘what’s your problem?’ as I was reading all these comments online asking where it was as I accidentally teased it a few months ago. So I added it last minute, and now my whole team hates me *laughs*.
TB: The song I’m looking most forward to performing live would be…
TM: Probably ‘what’s your problem?’.
TB: Another name for the album I played with was…
TM: Oh my god, it was so terrible. It was something on the lines of, ‘Everybody Wants To Be A Rockstar” *laughs*. It was brutal.
TB: If your friend hadn’t heard any of my new music, the first track I would play them off the album would be…
TM: Probably ‘feel like shit’. I feel like that song summarises me *laughs*.
‘i used to think i could fly’ is out now!
Tate McRae Australian Tour
Thursday 14 July – Astor Theatre, Perth *SOLD OUT*
Saturday 16 July – Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane *SOLD OUT*
Sunday 17 July – Enmore Theatre, Sydney *SOLD OUT*
Wednesday 20 July – Forum, Melbourne *SOLD OUT*