Before she was an subterranean pop artist navigating the darker spaces on songs like “Vicious” and “You Broke Me First,” Tate McRae was a dancer. She even appeared as as finalist on So You Think You Can Dance. But she learned how to play piano, and since then, McRae’s been digging into her musical side.

“Music has kind of always surrounded me,” the Canadian singer-songwriter told MTV recently, sitting in front of a dance award from her youth, in a segment she filmed from home while in quarantine. “As a dancer, when you’re moving, you’re listening to music so much because you’re trying to portray it with your body. You’re dissecting a song way more than anyone would actually think you are.”

That look into her past helps inform the artist on display now, one who’s collaborated with Lil Mosey, Audrey Mika, and Saygrace. McRae, the MTV Push artist for July 2020, said she brings that same kind of emotional and mental energy into the studio to create her own music now.

“My favorite way to get into the songwriting process is to get into the studio, and then usually, they play a loop of four chords, or something, or guitar, and then I just start singing,” she said.

McRae also mentioned how her music comes straight out of her life and how she tries not to “overthink things.” But for “Vicious,” that process was upended a little bit — she refers to it as one belonging to a version of herself called “Feisty Tate.” “Last kiss, leave your lips blood red,” she sings on the buoyant track. “Burning bridges, breaking dishes, look you made me something vicious.”

Originally conceived as a much lusher tune complete with conga parts, McRae and producer Mark Nilan worked to strip it back and “switch up the vibe” in order to pursue where she wants to head sonically, including where she might even see herself in a few years. “Now we’ve hit a place that I’m super excited with,” she said, calling the song “empowering” and even “badass.”

Get to know McRae in the interview above, then watch her filmed-from-home performance of “Vicious” as well to see how the song evolved.

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