Tate Stevens: It was "disheartening" when L.A. Reid didn't want the "Over 25s"
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/21/2012
Tate Stevens was crowned The X Factor's second-season winner during the Fox reality singing competition's live finale on Thursday night.
Tate, a 37-year-old from Raymore, MO, competed throughout the season as one of the acts in L.A. Reid's "Over 25s" category, walking away with a $5 million recording contract. Tate won The X Factor after he had received the most home viewer votes cast immediately following Wednesday night's final performance show, which had featured the Top 3 acts each singing a solo and a duet with a famous singer or group in addition to an encore performance of a highly-praised song from earlier in the season.
Carly Rose Sonenclar, a 13-year-old from Mamaroneck, NY who was an artist in judge Britney Spears' "Teens" category, finished as the runner up. Third place went to one of Simon Cowell's "Groups" acts, Fifth Harmony.
During a Friday conference call with reporters, Tate talked about his The X Factor victory and experience overall. Below is the first half of Tate's call. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion.
Right after the Top 16 were revealed, Simon had said that L.A. Reid and his "Over 25s" category had "no chance" to win "whatsoever." Did you hear about that comment when Simon made it and what were your thoughts at the time? And if this is the first time you're hearing about it, what's your reaction?
Tate Stevens: I didn't hear that then. So yeah, this is my first time hearing it. But you know what? I think in the beginning, they didn't know. And as the competition went on, I think people started seeing that our "Overs" group had a lot of talent.
It was made very clear that L.A. knew nothing about your country music genre, and people have been saying his mentoring therefore couldn't have played much of role in your winning. Do you think maybe the importance of mentoring on The X Factor has been a little exaggerated, like that maybe some contestants just don't need the help? What are your thoughts on that?
Tate Stevens: I don't think that's true at all. I think, yeah L.A. hadn't had a lot of knowledge of the country world, but he did have a No. 1 hit in the country world with "Who Says You Can't Go Home" with Jon Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles' Sugarland.
A lot of people don't know that, but yeah, that was his! L.A. and I really kind of came to the understanding that we listened to each other, picked the best songs, and tried to figure it out from that perspective.
He really let me have a lot of creative control as far as the song, and he would pick -- we'd come in, he'd have a group of songs, I'd have a group of songs, and we'd pick the best ones. We'd work on the best ones. So I don't think that the mentoring thing is not a big deal. I think it's a very big deal.
Since The X Factor has a lot of younger fans and you went back and forth with Carly Rose in leaderboard rankings, did you feel you had a legitimate shot at winning?
Tate Stevens: You know, a couple of weeks ago, yeah. I was at No. 1 for a couple weeks at the top and then went to two and she was at one, and then when I went back to one, that's kind of really when I thought, "I have a shot. I have a shot at winning this." But yeah, up until then, really, it was anyone's game.
When L.A. Reid said he didn't want the "Over 25s" category, did you feel you were at a disadvantage from the start? How did you deal with that?
Tate Stevens: It was a little disheartening at first, you know? But I think he realized that he had a really talented group of the olders. And so, no, I don't think I was at a disadvantage.
How did you choose your duet partner for Wednesday night's final performance show? Was the group selected for you or did you request them?
Tate Stevens: We had a bunch of artists and we chose Little Big Town, and obviously, they just had a big hit with "Pontoon" and we thought it was the right fit. Personally, I love the song. I think it's a lot of fun. So that's how it happened.
Do you think Carly Rose's duet with LeAnn Rimes had any bearing whatsoever on the home viewer votes and final outcome of the show, or do you think the result would've ended up the same regardless?
Tate Stevens: You know, I don't know. I've been asked that question a couple of times and I have no idea what happened with their duet. But I believe she has her fan-base and I don't think it was swayed really any. I just can't see that if you're a fan of someone, I don't think that you're going to change because of one thing. I sure would hope not anyway.
What was your favorite performance and what you considered your best performance on the show?
Tate Stevens: My favorite performance honestly was with Little Big Town. That was a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun doing that, but I think really my best performance probably was the week before when I did "Fall," the Clay Walker song.
What do you think was your most difficult or scariest performance?
Tate Stevens: The most difficult one was, you know what, the Bon Jovi tune -- the first one we did, "Wanted Dead or Alive." It's such a huge anthem song and everyone knows it, and if you screw something like that up, then it's not good. So I think that was probably the scariest one just because of the song. So, yeah, I would have to say that one.
What advice would you have for anybody auditioning next season? Because your audition was obviously great.
Tate Stevens: Be yourself. Go out and do what you do and be yourself. You can't do anything else. Don't try to be anything else, because you can't do it well. Just do what you do and be yourself.
When you were standing in line to audition, did you ever think that you'd be here now?
Tate Stevens: (Laughs) No, not at all. Not at all really. I mean, there were thousands of people, and I'm like, "Oh my God, I'm the only guy in a cowboy hat. This is not probably going to be good for me." (Laughs) But you know, I can't say anything besides I'm blessed and I'm honored that people liked it enough that I get to talk to you guys today.
Is there anything you'd like to put your name on in the near future, like a truck or sign or something?
Tate Stevens: I would love to me a member of the Grand Ole Opry. If I can accomplish that, then I've done something.
Five million dollars is a lot of money to have all of a sudden, what is the first thing you plan to buy?
Tate Stevens: I haven't really thought about it much. I'm sure I'll make some dumb purchase in the near future. I keep scaring my wife with buying a Harley, you know? So, we'll see. We'll see what happens. (Laughs)
What's the first thing you're going to do now that you're free from taping and all that? What are you most looking forward to?
Tate Stevens: Flying home today. We're going to spend the holidays with my family and I'm going to lay in my bed that I haven't been in for a couple months with my wife and my kids and my dogs, and we're not going anywhere. We're just going to chill out, spend the holidays at home with each other, and then I fly to Nashville on the second of January and we start recording my album.
When you found out L.A. wasn't thrilled about getting the "Over 25s" category, how did that make you feel, especially since you ended up winning The X Factor?
Tate Stevens: It was a little -- I'm like, "Wow, that's kind of weird that he would respond that way." But I think he realized shortly afterwards what he had in his group -- the "Overs." We had a really talented group of people, and so, I think he changed his mind pretty quick. I was happy to get to work with him honestly. He's a good guy, he's a great judge of great songs. So it worked out well for me.
What do you think set you apart from the rest of the competition? What about you was "the x factor?"
Tate Stevens: I'm amazingly handsome. No, (laughs). I don't know. I'm a real person. I'm just a real guy and I don't know. I think, honestly, I really believe that the country music fans showed up in a big way, and I believe that they're the reason I get to talk to you guys today.
Above is the first half of Tate's conference call with reporters. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion.