'X Factor' winner Tate Stevens paves the way for country success
When Simon Cowell created "The X Factor" in his native United Kingdom back in 2004, it was probably designed more to find the next Britney Spears than the next Garth Brooks.
But during an audition in Kansas City, Mo. on the U.S. installment's second season, a not-so-young, not-so-pop contestant landed on the stage and, with one verse of Randy Houser’s country hit "Anything Goes," an asphalt layer named Tate Stevens changed the landscape of the show.
"There were thousands of people, and I'm just like, 'Oh my God, I'm the only guy in a cowboy hat. This is probably not going to be good for me,'" recalled Stevens.
And he was right; it wasn't good, it was great.
On Thursday night, Stevens walked away with "The X Factor" crown, silencing the critics who claimed he was too old. In the process, the 37-year-old broke down the misguided notion that a country singer couldn't succeed on a pop show.
In a conference call with CTV.ca, Stevens reflected on his journey, his plans for the holidays, and, of course, his imaginary goldfish (more on that later for those not in the know).
Hailing from a town with less than 25,000 people, it's an understatement to say that Stevens achieved the improbable in winning "The X Factor" title. Less than 24 hours removed from his victory, Stevens was reflecting on what separated him from the competition.
"I'm amazingly handsome. No," he said, laughing. "I don't know. I'm a real person. I'm just a real guy… 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."
While he may have been an old dog on a show full of new tricks, Stevens said that he learned something new about himself this season.
"I love performing, I love entertaining. I didn't know how much I loved it… I knew all along, but it really became clear during this competition that this is who is I am, and this is what I want to do."
Being a country singer on a pop show does not come without its difficulties, and while Stevens welcomed the challenge, he admitted there were times he felt a bit out of place.
"I did a Bon Jovi song, and (Simon) said, 'It's kind of like taking a goldfish for a walk. You just can't do it.' And so there were a lot of times when I thought that, 'Here I am taking a goldfish for a walk,' but you know, it all panned out in the end. So, it was worth it."
Stevens now has his sights set on a much bigger goal: country music superstardom.
"I would love to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. If I can accomplish that, then I've done something," he said.
Stevens also revealed that on January 2, he'll be flying out to Nashville to begin working on his debut album.
While some singers have struggled to find success after winning reality show titles, Stevens says he's looking forward to the opportunity to pay back the show that changed his life.
"They changed my family's life. This is a huge opportunity and I want to do well… I would love to carry the torch and take that 'X Factor' brand and do well with it. That's my goal."
While he did say sheepishly that a Harley Davidson motorcycle is on his wish list (much to his wife's chagrin), Stevens said there is only one thing he wants for Christmas this year.
"We're going to spend the holidays with my family. 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 and spend the holidays at home with each other."
Stevens, who was referred to by fellow contestant CeCe Frey as her "dad away from dad," concluded the interview with some fatherly advice.
"If that's what you love to do and that's what you want to do, you've got to try it, you know? And you might fail a few times. I sure failed my share, but you’ve got to get out there and do it."
Episodes of Season 2 of "The X Factor" are available online at CTV.ca