Tate McRae went through a “complete identity crisis” as she entered adulthood, slowly learning that life in pink isn’t always as pretty as she once saw as a child. And with her new album I used to think I could flywhich comes out on Friday, she squeezed all the emotions she’s felt over the past few years as she navigated life’s changes into 13 songs.
“When you are younger life seems very simple and everything seems possible. You live without fears and without insecurities,” she said Rolling Stone from her apartment in LA last month. “And then you grow up and a lot changes. That’s the whole concept of this album: being hit by harsh reality.”
As fans became acquainted with the singer — via viral songs like “You Broke Me First” and “RU Ok” and through her recently sold-out tour — McRae faced the mounting pains of moving to a new city and her first apartment. making new (real) friends and writing her first full-length project.
“A lot has changed all of a sudden,” she says. “But TTo be honest, today I feel better than ever. I now have the right circle around me. It’s hard to find those real people who will tell you the truth about things and not just give you what you want to hear.”
McRae describes her LP as a “really beautiful roller coaster of emotions” that encapsulates the heartbreak and pain she faces with a vulnerability she’s never shared before. “I’m scared because I don’t open up to people that much in real life. It’s hard for me to trust people,” she says. “People wouldn’t see all these sides of me if they just met me in person. I think people will really get a glimpse of what I went through as an 18-year-old.”
zoom Rolling Stone From her bathroom — the best-lit room in her house, she says — McRae breaks down, in her own words, five songs from her upcoming album, from working with Charlie Puth and Finneas to writing a song on the night of a devastating breakup :
“She’s everything I wanna be”
I’m really proud of that. It was a concept I was really afraid to talk about. I don’t think anyone likes to admit to feeling jealous. But it’s also something everyone goes through. People don’t even realize how bad their mental health gets from just scrolling Instagram or Tiktok for hours. I think it’s really cool because a song like this – which you can hear at concerts where the energy is so high and people are jumping and screaming – came from a really vulnerable spot where I felt super insecure and felt like I was , it could be anyone else in the world but myself. I walked into the session saying, “I want to be heard.” I feel like you’re picking yourself up so much and you think that everyone else have this glorified life. Sometimes I even take a second to look at my own Instagram and you paint your life as looking so much better than it is. The song began as a ballad. Greg Kirsten was in the room with me and he started out with these really simple piano chords. It was a really heartbreaking song at first where I described the perfect girl and everything I wasn’t and then it eventually turned into a punk song. It’s so cool how a song with so much meaning and depth can be a full rock song for me at a concert.
I recorded this song on the night of a breakup. My amazing producer, Blake Slatkin, he’s a genius, calls me and he’s like, ‘Are you okay?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ He said, ‘Come over here right now. You’re going to write a song.” I was like, “Oh no no.” I was a disaster. And he said, “No, you need to get that off your chest.” And so I get to his house, it’s about 11:30 p.m., and I start writing “Hate Myself.” I sat on that beanbag and sobbed – literally sobbed my eyes out. And then he makes me sing the song and I just start cutting the song while I’m shaking. It’s really special because on the record you can hear my vocals breaking. A lot of people write songs and always portray themselves as the victim and never take a second in a relationship to think about themselves. Obviously, every relationship is a two-way street. I think there are so many things to always work on. I looked at myself for a moment and blamed myself. It’s also one of the worst feelings of all: taking on guilt because you think you’re not good enough for her. That’s how I wrote this song. And that’s why it’s really special to me, because I feel like it came from a super vulnerable place.
This song started out six or seven minutes long. I had this one line, “Just tell me you’ll let her go before you find someone new.” And I came into the session with that line. And I say, “I need to talk about wandering eyes in a relationship!” So many men are in a relationship and in the middle of it they start looking for other things. And I was like, “Just let a girl go! Let her live her own life and not get attached to you and realize that you’re not 100% in it.” I drew this really heartbreaking story of a hardcore girl who won’t let anyone past her wall. And then that one boy, Boy X, is basically the only person who can get to her and the only person who can make her fall in love, and she doesn’t usually fall in love. But she falls very fast and very hard. And in the end his eyes start to wander. Then, at the end of the song, it turns out that girl was me. It’s just a very special song that me and Alexander wrote 23 in a garden. It just feels very personal and beautiful. Alexander is a really good friend of mine. I love him. And it was one of our first sessions ever to write together. It was really interesting because when we described it like a girl, he was like getting to know me at the same time. I broke down all my personality traits and put them into a song. He has a crazy ear and a talent for melody and lyrics. We both work really well together and there’s never any judgement.
“I still say good night”
This is the most sensitive song I’ve ever written. There’s something about it that feels so classic, so timeless. And I think it was mainly Finneas’ little touch that really got that out of me. That made me write the song differently. It’s really interesting because it’s one of the few songs that I have a very vivid image of in my head. The lyrics in the chorus read: “I couldn’t say much. I was distracted. You seem so worried, like you have something to hide. Tell me it’s nothing I do not believe you. I know that look you get when you’re about to lie.” And I think it has to do with a gut feeling when someone lies to your face and they’re not telling you the truth, it’s so brutal because you’re truth never knows. You never know if someone is telling the truth. That was a really heartbreaking line because I remember looking someone in the eye and they did that one thing to their eyes that every time they lied I said, ‘I know that you’re lying because you’re bad at hiding it.” I could imagine so vividly how it turned into this really big, classic, beautiful ending to this movie. I was FaceTiming with Finneas and he was like, “How do you want it to sound?” And I was like, “I want it to sound like the credits are rolling down, like at the end of a Hollywood movie.” And he just got it in magic transformed. First try, I didn’t have any notes. I thought, “It’s perfect. Don’t touch it. Don’t add anything more. Don’t do less.” That doesn’t happen very often.
“What would you do”
I wrote this with Alexandre 23, Charlie Puth and Blake Slatkin. That was the first time I wrote Charlie. Alex was like, “Hey, do you want to hang out with us? Let’s just go to my friend’s house.” I wasn’t expecting to write today. We drive over and Charlie does his thing, plays a million instruments and freaks out. I was just watching him. And he starts writing. And I say, “I’m going to write too. I have a lot to say. I gotta get that out.” And so he’s like, “Are we going to write about something real?” I’m like, “Hell yes, we’re going to write about something real.” I started really getting into my feelings. I was mad that day, which I’m not usually mad about. I’m pretty cool. But I was angry. I was basically talking about the LA personality of someone who thinks they’re too cool for shit and their ego is so big that nothing can get in their way. I was really angry. We wrote this song and I thought it was so funny and so angry and something I had never written before. Charlie is such a genius. He’s so talented. It was very cool to watch him work. He works a mile a minute. I sat there like, “What’s up!” [giggles]
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/tate-mcrae-on-lp-i-used-to-think-i-could-fly-1359248/ Tate McRae Breaks Down Debut Album ‘I Used to Think I Could Fly’