Katie Gregson-Macleod reflects on viral hit 'complex' and her next steps

Neu Katie Gregson-Macleod: “I have moments where I’m going about my day, and my life looks completely different”

From playing in folk bars in Inverness, to working with Greg Kurstin in LA; meet the 21-year-old songwriter whose entire life changed overnight.

It’s six months on since Katie Gregson-MacLeod’s life was completely turned upside down, and she’s still not quite got her head around it. “I don’t think I’ll ever process it, you know?” the singer nods. “I don’t think it’ll ever make sense to me.”

The larger-than-life story she’s referring to is the sort of thing usually reserved for the plot of Hollywood teen movies, or the most ambitious of daydreams. Back in August last year, the 21-year-old was at her family home in Inverness - on summer break from the History degree she was studying at Edinburgh University - when she uploaded a short clip of her most recent song to TikTok, before heading to bed. Inspired by a recent and unexpected run-in with an ex, ’complex’ was a gorgeous but wounded look at what could’ve been; equal parts reflective and irreverent.

By the time she woke up the next day, the clip had gone viral. While the likes of Joe Jonas, Gracie Abrams, Lennon Stella and dodie had all left comments of support, Camilla Cabello, Finneas and King Princess were just a handful of the artists already covering the track. Since then, the video alone has racked up over eight million views, while Katie has gone on to record with producer Greg Kurstin (most famed for his work with Adele), and signed to major label Columbia.

“I mean, it was… It was just an absolute…,” she starts, still clearly finding it hard to fathom. “Now and again I have moments where I’m going about my day, and my life looks completely different. You can’t really pay too much mind to it in that moment though, because then you won’t be able to, you know, do anything!” she laughs. “But I’ll never process it. It’ll probably just always be the absolute craziest couple of weeks of my life; the shift was astronomical. Now I just have moments where I’m in my little flat and it’s all bizarre. I should be at uni right now! I feel like I’m missing classes or something…”

“I definitely just wanted to go into this year - and the next period of writing and releasing - with a bit of a fresh start.”

You get the sense, however, that no matter what had unfolded that fateful August night, Katie would still be just as committed to a career in music. Having released her debut EP ‘Games I Play’ back in 2021, her life back then revolved around uni, working in her local coffee shop, and nabbing as many support slots as she could. “It was always what I was going to do. I was always going to be working as a musician,” she says. “I was committed to the grind!”

Now, in 2023, her focus is very much on the next chapter of her story. Back in December, Katie released her second EP - the beautiful ‘songs written for piano’ - which was built around the feelings and emotions of ‘complex’, and also featured Matt Maltese collaboration ‘white lies’. “I was a huge fan of Matt,” she proffers. “I remember listening to ‘Bad Contestant’ and ‘Krystal’ so much when I was in the first couple years of uni.” But, she adds, her next move will feel different again: “That EP had the purpose of contextualising ‘complex’, and just laying out a few songs that I felt represented their own point in my songwriting journey. It was important to honour that moment, but in a way that was a full stop up on the past few years.

“I definitely just wanted to go into this year - and the next period of writing and releasing - with a bit of a fresh start,” she nods. “I think that the songs I’m working on are going to sound very different but I think that the storytelling will be at the forefront and be the essence of it. What’s happened over the past while has really led to me developing as a writer, with just having so much to process. So, right now, it’s kind of about going back to [asking], ‘What do I want to make and who do I want to be?’”

Tags: Katie Gregson-MacLeod, Features, Interviews, Neu

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