Tate McRae Chats About Her First Hometown Gig

The Calgary-born-and-raised pop superstar is performing at the Cowboys Music Festival during Stampede this year. We chatted with McRae about the homecoming show, what songs she’s most excited to perform and what’s next for her.

Photo by Beth Saravo

Born and raised in Calgary, Tate McRae began her journey to pop stardom at a young age. She trained in dance at The School of Alberta Ballet and at YYC Dance Project, a school owned by her mom.

At seven, she had videos up on YouTube of herself singing cover songs and dancing. At 12, she was turning heads as the first Canadian finalist on the U.S. TV show So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation (she ended up coming third).

In 2017, at 14, a video she posted of herself performing her original song, “One Day,” attracted upward of 40 million views on YouTube and the attention of major record labels. She signed with RCA Records in 2019 and continued to grow her audience on YouTube and TikTok.

In 2021, at the age of 17, McRae relocated to Los Angeles to further her career. Since then, she has had nine Billboard top 100 songs, performed live on Saturday Night Live in 2023, took Single of the Year and Artist of the Year at the 2024 Juno Awards, and is now setting out on the North American leg of a world tour, which includes a return to Calgary as the headlining act on Friday, July 5, at the Cowboys Music Festival during Stampede.

We caught up with McRae over email to chat about the homecoming show, what songs she’s most excited to perform and what’s next for her.

 

Q: What does it mean for you to perform in the Cowboys tent on the official kickoff night of Stampede? It’s a pretty big deal and probably the biggest party night of the whole year in Calgary.

It is so surreal! I’ve gone to Stampede for as long as I can remember with my brother and all our friends. Cowboys feels so cool, because I always wanted to make sure my first hometown show felt special, and that’s where I always go every summer. Couldn’t ask for a more exciting first performance home in Calgary.

 

Q: Was the Stampede a big part of your childhood? Do you have a favourite midway snack you’ve been craving?

Obviously! Stampede is a key point of everyone’s summer in Calgary. You see everyone you’ve ever known. Stampede has the best poutine.

 

Q: How does it feel to be performing in your home city? After all, it will be your first time performing here since gaining the following you have now.

I really wanted to come back to Calgary and perform here when I felt confident in my show and at the right time. Performing this summer as I’m just turning 21 feels so fun to me. I could not be more excited to see friends and family, as well. It’s been a long time since some of my closest circles have been able to see me live.

 

Q: Your birthday is just a few days before the show on July 5. Any big plans?

I’m hoping to celebrate with friends and family. I’ll likely be finishing up rehearsal for my North American tour, but I’m sure we will do something fun in between, too: 21 is a big one in the States.

 

Q: In your song, “Calgary,” on the Think Later album, there’s a line: “same bar, same street.” Are you referring to any specific bar and street?

Ha ha ha! Probably National or Craft [on 10th Avenue S.W.].

 

Q: Out of all your songs right now, which one is the most fun to perform?

“Guilty Conscience” is a blast with my dancers. The choreography is so fun, and it has such a refreshing energy live with my band. “Hurt My Feelings” is also one of my favourites. I’d also say “Exes” because it has one of my favourite dance breaks.

 

Photo by Beth Saravo

 

Q: You’ve previously stated that you always assumed you’d be a backup dancer. What artists would you have liked to perform alongside?

So many iconic women! Britney Spears, Rihanna, Ari … all would have been a dream.

 

Q: Speaking of performing, you’ve said you have a stage persona you call “Tatiana.” What are some things Tatiana can get away with that Tate can’t?

“Tatiana” is a lot feistier and a lot more playful. I’m probably a little bit more reserved and introverted in my everyday life.

 

Q: How has the experience of moving to and living in Los Angeles at such a young age been for you?

It’s definitely been a big change, but I feel pretty acclimated to Los Angeles now. I’ve made some great friends — we love going to the beach and enjoying all California has to offer. I also feel like I’ve learned how to navigate the industry more.

 

Q: Do you miss your hometown, or were you meant to be a California girl?

I miss my friends and family, but we do a great job of staying in touch and visiting each other often. I miss going to the lake [Windermere] and going boating and surfing with all my friends. I’ll always love Calgary, but L.A. definitely feels like home now, too.

 

Q: So what comes next? You’ve accomplished so many goals in a short period of time. What are your ambitions for the future?

I’m really excited for the North American leg of my Think Later world tour. I have the honour of ending the run at Madison Square Garden in New York City, which has always been a huge dream of mine, and then I go to Asia and Australia! I feel very lucky to travel the world and to meet so many incredible people along the way.

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This article appears in the July 2024 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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