8:00am PT by Sophie Schillaci
Tate Stevens' Debut Album: Track-By-Track (Exclusive)
Tate Stevens is no Melanie Amaro.
Sure, the 38-year-old country crooner might have followed in Amaro's X Factor USA-winning footsteps, but when it came down to writing and recording his debut album, Stevens wasted no time.
"We had to jump on the momentum of the show," the Belton, Mo., native tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I didn't want people forgetting -- you know, 'that's the fat ugly guy who won that show,'" he adds with a chuckle.
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Modesty looks good on Stevens, who surprised viewers and judges Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato alike by consistently placing in the top two each week during the Fox reality competition. His legions of fans -- Tate Nation, as they're called -- phoned in week after week to see Stevens replace his signature cowboy hat with the X Factor crown and land a $5 million recording contract with Syco Music and RCA Records Nashville.
And while Amaro, who won The X Factor's first season prize in December 2011, has yet to release a full-length debut, which seems to have been all but shelved at Epic Records, Stevens managed to put the finishing touches on his self-titled release a mere four months after his December 2012 win. Not only that, but Stevens had completed recording all 11 tracks on the album in half that time.
"It was tough," Stevens allows. "It was a lot of work, but it's awesome. It was a great experience, and I think we've done a really good job on this album of letting people know who I am as an artist. I'm really proud of it and I'm very excited."
Stevens shares a writing credit on the album's first three songs, but counts "Ordinary Angels," by Victoria Banks, Phil Barton and Emily Shackleton, as his favorite track.
"It has such a huge message and the tragedies that happened [last] week, not only in Boston but also in Texas … it's like, the people who help and get involved, they're angels," he says. "They're the ones that make this world the best place to live."
And while Stevens leaves his X Factor days behind, so too does his mentor Reid, who returned to his "day job" of running Epic Records opting not to participate in the series' third season. Asked who should fill the void left not only by Reid, but by exiting judge Spears, as well, Stevens is stumped.
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"You're going to have to get up really, really early if you're going to fill L.A. Reid's shoes," he jokes. "That's going be be tough, but I'm sure they'll do it. And to fill Britney's shoes, I mean, she's a pop icon. It's going to be tough on them to fill both those spots. I have no idea who they're going to get."
Just as tough? Finding contestants to fill Stevens' fan-favorite shoes.
With a new single ("Power of a Love Song") and a Pepsi commercial (featuring "Holler If You're With Me") already under his belt, Stevens tells THR, in his own words, what each cut means to him.
Tate Stevens is out Tuesday, April 23.
“I Got This” (Tate Stevens/Joe Diffie/Wade Kirby/Phil O'Donnell)
"I got to write with my hero Joe Diffie on this. Phil Billy, Wade Kirby, Joe and I wrote this song and it was a blast to write just because Joe was such a big influence on me and the way I sing and everything. So, it was a lot of fun. We went in with this idea; I think it was Joe’s idea, about ‘hey I got this.’ Everyone says it: ‘hey I got this,’ or ‘let me do it, I got this,’ - so that was it. We just started writing from there, and it was great. I’m happy with it. I think it’s a great song. I love it, actually."
“Can’t Get Nothin’ Done Around Here” (Tate Stevens/Ashley Gorley/Wade Kirby/Phil O'Donnell)
"Phil Billy, Wade Kirby, Ashley Gorley and I wrote this one, and it’s one of those things, man, that happens to all of us. We all have those ‘honey-do lists’ and we all wanna put ‘em off as long as we can, and that’s what this song’s about. This is our version of it."
“Ride It Out”(Tate Stevens/Shane Minor/David Lee Murphy)
"I had a writing session with David Lee Murphy and Shane Minor, and we went in and we were all kicking around ideas and another thing you hear people say a lot is ‘Man, just ride it out, it’ll be fine, it’ll all work itself out.” And I went in and I was like, what you think of this idea? And you know, it’s just a life lesson kind of thing, just ‘ride it out.’ And they were like, ‘love it, let’s do it.’ So we started writing and had that, that intention in mind the whole time we were writing it. But I wanted to make it kind of universal and put some hidden things in there so, you know, with the ‘ride it out you’ you know, gotta dig your heels in, pull your hat down. When it starts to spin, ride it out. That kind of rodeo, cowboy influence is in there, and it’s just an upbeat, rockin’ song that’s just a lot of fun. I dig it."
“Power Of A Love Song” (Jeremy Bussey/Bradley Gaskin/Marcus Franklin Johnson)
"These are the kind of songs that I love. You get to wail away at it. I love the song, I really do, not just because it’s on my album and my first single. The first time I heard it I thought, I have to cut this song. I’m a big fan of love songs, and this song just kind of wraps it all up and explains the power of a love song. ‘It can make you cry,’ ‘it can make you laugh,’ ‘it’ll give you feelings you’ve never had.’ All very, very true statements. I hope people get it. I love listening to it and I typically don’t love listening to myself sing but on this song I do. It’s a true song."
“Sweet” (Kelly Garrett/Kendell Marvel/Tim Owens)
"When I heard this song I just started gigglin’ because my wife doesn’t cook; she actually burns water and, so [laughs] the part in there ‘She can’t boil a pot of water’ really hit home, and I started laughin’. But if I was single and I had to go out and do it again, I would find me a sweet one, definitely. You know if my wife listens to this, I would never wanna be single! [laughs] Yeah, but this song really is sweet. It’s just kind of tongue-in-cheek thing. It’s fun, and it’s one of those songs that’s gonna be great to play live."
“That’s Where We Live” (Carson Chamberlain/Wade Kirby/Phil O'Donnell)
"This song jumped out of the hundreds, literally hundreds, that we listened to for this project. The first time I heard it I thought, this fits everywhere in America. It doesn’t matter if you live in New York, if you live in Florida, if you live in Tennessee, live in California -- it doesn’t matter. This song fits everywhere in the country because it’s just about, wherever ya live. It’s that place where you grew up, that when you go back, it’s still a part of you. And when I heard the song I said ‘Man I gotta cut it. I think that’s a big ol' hit.’ Ya know, I don’t know much about hits but I know this is a big one. I truly got fired up when I heard the song. I was like 'man, this is so cool.' It reminds me of home. It reminds me of where I grew up."
“El Camino” (Chris Hennessee/Donny Lowery)
"You know when I heard the song, I just instantly I thought, 'man, how much fun is that?' How many times are you sittin’ around, going 'man, it’s hot'? It’s, ‘let’s go party,’ ‘let’s go to the lake’ or ‘let’s go to the river’ and do whatever, whatever it is that you do. It’s just that fun, havin’ the fun party and, there’s some other things in there that, if you listen close, you might be able to pull outta there. And, you know, they’re bringin’ em back. GM’s bringing the El Camino back, so, we all might be driving El Caminos soon."
“That’s How You Get the Girl” (Dallas Davidson/Ben Hayslip/Rivers Rutherford)
"This is another one of those songs that, when I heard it, I just thought, ‘man, that is so cool.’ It’s one of those life lesson things; you gotta stand up, love her like a man. I wanted songs that represented my personality for this album. I love having fun, just being goofy and so songs like this are great tunes. Plus, I think women might like this song a little bit, because it’s kind of an insight into what they think and how they feel about things."
“Ordinary Angels” (Victoria Banks/Phil Barton/Emily Shackleton)
"I remember the first time when I heard 'Ordinary Angels' it just blew me away. And I thought, 'ya gotta be kiddin’ me -- no one’s cut this yet?' This isn’t a big hit already? And fortunately for me it was not cut. And I got to cut it. And, the song is one of my favorites on the album. I wish I wrote it, because it’s one of those really strong message songs and I believe in that. This song is great. I can’t say anything else, but it’s just a great tune."
“The Last Thing I Do” (David Lee Murphy/Kim Tribble)
"When I heard the lyrics I immediately thought -- fun. I know I keep saying that word, but my attitude on this first album keeps going back to having fun. I want people to really enjoy listening to it; I want it to put them in the mood to go out, have a beer, do whatever it is that you do when you have fun. I want you to be able to put this album on and just have fun, because that’s what I do! But, that’s [chuckles] “The Last Thing I Do,” one of those songs that I heard and I thought, this is gonna be great, I love the message. How many times do you call your wife, ‘Hey, honey, I just wanted to call you and tell you what I’ve been thinking’? ... Hopefully you’ve been thinking that too."
“Holler If You’re With Me” (Jeremy Bussey/Drew Davis)
"This is the anthem, call to party, this is it. You’re gonna crank this up, and hopefully it goes to eleven on your dial. It’s, about, man, “Holler If You’re With Me,” 'let’s party', and, 'who’s down?' Who’s ready to throw down? Again, one of those songs that fits. It fits my attitude, it fits my personality, and I jumped on the chance to cut it."
Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci