Tate Stevens has captured America’s hearts by doing the one thing he does best: being himself.With his powerful vocals, compelling life story and irresistible personality, Tate has won Fox’s X Factor and scored a Top 5 album. He’s also found success when his song “Holler If You’re With Me,” which debuted during a Pepsi commercial that aired during the Grammys, was chosen to be featured during the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament.
It’s no surprise that he’s also quickly built a fan base numbering in the millions, especially among working men and the women who love real men. Tate has emerged as a sex symbol of the flyover states, where men are valued for accepting responsibility, respecting women and relishing the simple joys in life. He has a down-to-earth accessibility, a sense of humor that rivals Bill Engvall’s and the ability to put into words what men want to say.
“Music drives me,” he says. “It is really deep down in my soul. That is who I am, the music,” he says. “I love performing for people because music makes people feel good. I love it when people say, ‘That song spoke to me.’”
Tate is a stand-up guy in a world of superficiality and instant gratification. In life, love and music, he’s in it for the long haul, while never losing that mischievous twinkle in his eye. He’s a man’s man and an expert outdoorsman who would rather install a mirror than peer into one.
“I think people see that there’s a realness there,” he says. “I don’t know too many guys that get manicures or shave their chests. I don’t think the majority of people wear fancy clothes. I am the guy next door; everybody knows me. I am your neighbor, the guy who lives down the street.”
Tate became a seemingly overnight sensation when he won Fox’s X Factor in 2012. “I think it was because I am a real person,” he says of his win. “I believe that country music fans are the most loyal and giving and they are the ones who pulled me through that show. “As Simon Cowell said, when “you hear how good his voice is and his story, you could not NOT root for him. I think America got it right.”
After his victory, Tate quickly released his self-titled first album, which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Music critic Chuck Dauphin says, “What really sets Stevens apart is his way with a ballad. … He demonstrates a depth that brings to mind artists such as one of his biggest influences, Garth Brooks. Tate Stevens shows on his debut album that he’s got the talent to be a long-term voice in this business.”
His second album, which was also produced by Blake Chancey, takes his music to the next level in every area, from the songwriting and song selection to the vocal performance and production. He has captured a fresh sound that fits comfortably with today’s chart-topping hits, but features a strong foundation of substance and timeless messages. With the life he’s led, it would be impossible to create music devoid of meaning or real emotion.
“When I am looking for songs, it has to grab me in a couple of ways,” he says. “I have to be able to relate to it in some way. It doesn’t have to be so meaningful that it is my life story, but it has to speak to me in some way, “ he says. “’Better at Night’ is a party song, and it grabs me because things tend to happen at night. That is when the fun starts and I can relate to that.
“Then you have a song like ‘That’s My Girl’ that really talks about all women, meaning my wife. ‘She is a Carolina walk on the beach, she is an Alabama sunset, a Georgia peach.’ It is all women, if you will. It is the everyday woman, but also the one who is the rock.“
Tate can’t remember a time when music wasn’t at the center of his life. The youngest of five children of an Air Force airman, he was born in Japan and soon moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, where his father played in a country band. When Tate was 5, he joined his father onstage to sing Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings.” “I remember all of the people staring at me and that feeling of acceptance,” he says. “I just knew that I didn’t want that feeling to go away, whatever that was. From then on, all through my early childhood and high school, I would sing anywhere and everywhere that I could.”
In 1981, he moved to Belton, Mo., an area where he remains to this day. A star athlete in football and wrestling, he declined college scholarships in both sports to pursue music. He joined a band called Dixie Cadillacs and hit the road in December 1994, just seven months after graduating.
Bookings came easily, and the band performed 250 shows a year, six days as week, for five years. The band covered songs by Tate’s influences, such as Garth Brooks, George Strait, Gene Watson, Merle Haggard, John Conlee and George Jones. These performances allowed him to develop his stagecraft and hone his unique sound, but their popularity meant long absences from his wife, his high school sweetheart, and their young family.
One night in 2000, after he tucked his 3-year-old son into bed, he stood up to leave the room. “He sat up and grabbed me and said, ‘No! No, Daddy, no!’ Finally I said, ‘Daddy is tired. I have to go to bed. You have to go to sleep.’ He said, ‘No, you will leave.” I realized it was time to come home and do what I’m supposed to do.” His family came first, so his dreams would have to wait.
For the next decade, he worked in construction and machinery before working for the city’s water, public works and street departments. “I kept playing music on the side. I was always playing on the weekends. At that point, I realized that music was going to have to be a hobby. I didn’t like it, but that was the right decision.”
“I was always happy, because I’m a dad first. My kids are my life, and I don’t regret anything. If I did, I couldn’t live with myself. I wasn’t happy with my professional life, but other than that I had a great life.”
Fortunately, his wife and children hounded him into auditioning for the X Factor after signing him up without his knowledge, and there was no turning back. His talent and destiny couldn’t be denied, so after a necessary detour to do the right thing, Tate Stevens is now right where he’s supposed to be.
“It’s hard to describe what having this chance means to me because this is really all I have ever wanted to do. This is what I dreamed about when I was a little kid. Getting to walk off of a bus and walk onstage and perform now means the world to me.”