Tate McRae on 'Weirdest' Part of Fame and the Self-Inflicted Pressure to Follow Up a Smash-Hit Song

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Tate McRae
Tate McRae

Arturo Holmes/Getty Tate McRae performs at MTV & EXTRA GUM Present: PUSH to the VMAs at Terminal 5 on Sept. 9, in New York City

Tate McRae has an easygoing approach to fame.

Fans may recognize the 18-year-old singer from her stint on So You Think You Can Dance (she was second runner-up in season 13), but it's more likely to know her for her song "You Broke Me First." The inescapable single soared to No. 1 on the Top 40 radio charts in April, months after its debut, thrusting McRae into the spotlight and landing her notable collabs with Troye Sivan and Khalid.

"It's really interesting because as one of my first songs was blowing up, I was actually still at home," she told PEOPLE prior to her Thursday night performance at the MTV & EXTRA GUM Present: PUSH to the VMAs concert in New York City.

"So it didn't hit me until about a month and a half ago," says McRae, adding, "I think performing has been the weirdest realization, because for the longest time I thought that no one was listening to my music. Now seeing people let it affect them emotionally and put it into their own lives is the coolest feeling."

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Did she treat herself to a reward after the success of her song? Not exactly, she explains: "Honestly I didn't splurge on anything. I feel like the biggest difference was when I bought my own apartment and was able to move into my own space and purchase things that I wanted my apartment to look like. That was a big moment."

Having to follow up a huge song isn't something that intimidates McRae, at least externally. As she puts it, "I feel like I kind of go with the flow. The biggest source of pressure is most definitely from myself because my opinion changes every second. One day I'm literally obsessed with all my songs, and the next I despise every one of them and want to throw them all out!"

"My idea of my music is constantly changing," the Canadian singer/songwriter says, "so I feel like how other people react to my old songs just ends up putting more pressure on myself from my own perspective."

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The "most difficult part" of the celebrity lifestyle this early in her career is "figuring out how much you wanna share" of a personal life on social media, says McRae.

"Especially because I feel like my fans are my best friends," she continues. "But then again, they also don't know you in person. It's the constant reminder of putting yourself on social media, but then again having the reminder of, like, you know who you are and your family knows who you are and your friends know who you are. So anything that they say shouldn't change how you feel about yourself."

"That's the weirdest thing," she says, "thinking that these people know everything about you and they really don't."

The MTV Video Music Awards, hosted by Doja Cat, are set to air live from New York City on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.