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Introducing: Katie Gregson-MacLeod + her song 'Complex'.

Introducing: Katie Gregson-MacLeod + her song 'Complex'.

"But I'm wearing his boxers / I'm being a good wife," croons Katie Gregson-Macleod on her song 'Complex (Demo)' which ricocheted across TikTok, connecting with millions and reaching the likes of King Princess, Gracie Abrams, Camila Cabello, and many more with its frank and honest lyrics. The official release of the song debuted on the official UK singles chart, with the original video garnering over 7.4 million views and counting. The Scottish Highlands (particularly Inverness where she grew up) are majorly intertwined with her storytelling style of music in more ways than Gregson-Macleod finds herself conscious of - she shares: "There are very few things as fulfilling personally and creatively as those experiences and I hope I continue to be involved in that scene because it’s so inspiring and grounding as a musician. I’m so into words and storytelling - some of my all-time favourite writers being Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Elliott Smith, for instance - and so much of folk music rests upon storytelling in its rawest form. I think it’s really intrinsic to the way I write, or at least the way I hope to write." 

Gregson-Macleod never expected even a fraction of the engagement that the song received, and believes its unguarded and raw nature is the answer for why it connected with so many people, confessing: "The lyrics seem to have resonated with people in a way you only ever dream of as a writer and it’s taken a life of its own. It’s this lovely and scary moment where the words you wrote so much about yourself in a snapshot moment become amplified to literally millions so quickly and so many connect to it in their own way." 

On how she first got into songwriting and music, Gregson-Macleod shares: "It’s one of those cliché lines but I think writing and music has been around for as long as I remember. I guess when I was really young it was in the form of writing little poems and songs to perform for a reluctant audience at family gatherings, and as I got older I remember just always writing music and singing. When I was around 7 I got my first guitar - a pretty weapon wee purple ¾ length nylon - and there was an upright in the house growing up as my mum is a pianist. I count myself very lucky as music was a big part of our household I suppose."

On if her relationship with her debut EP 'Games I Play' has changed since she put it out, she confesses: "It honestly feels like a lifetime ago, which is bizarre given it’s just a year and a bit now. I think there’s always a self-patronising way of talking about early work - and this will probably be the case retrospectively ten years from now looking at releases from this year - but it’s still something I’m really proud of. Having written the EP when I was 18/19, I think my writing has developed a lot since then but I think a couple of the songs from that project are still some of my personal all-time favourites, especially with the attached layer of nostalgia. Not to mention, I made the EP with a budget of basically £0 using my student loan. Every aspect of making the EP involved my pals; produced with my friend Toby MacDonald, added instrumentation by my guitarist Erin Ferguson, photography by my friend Mark Piasecki. These things all add together to mean the project still means a lot to me even if it’s different to what I would release now."

On the global reaction to her song 'Complex (Demo)': "I didn’t expect anything at all. It’s wild to me. I wrote the song at the start of August and put that (what, 45 second?!) video online thinking little of it. I wouldn’t have anticipated even a fraction of the engagement, let alone people I follow and respect so much as artists connecting with the song. It seems to me that that’s why it happened maybe, because it wasn’t conscious and it wasn’t promotion, so it was just completely unguarded and raw. The lyrics seem to have resonated with people in a way you only ever dream of as a writer and it’s taken a life of its own. It’s this lovely and scary moment where the words you wrote so much about yourself in a snapshot moment become amplified to literally millions so quickly and so many connect to it in their own way. Still can’t believe it; I feel like I’ve won the songwriter lottery."

On the lyric "He turns off the big light," and the range of analyses of the lyric: "I try not to analyse too deeply those lines that people have connected with the most and the ones people have interpreted differently. It’s so interesting and lovely for me to hear different interpretations of my words; they’ve adopted a life of their own beyond my experience. For me, this stanza was autobiographical but there are ways that the action of turning off the ‘big light’ means more to me than just that person turning the light off to go to bed. I guess without going into too much depth it’s about neglect and denial, amongst other things. It still is funny to me that ‘the big light’ has been such a talking point because that phrase is used so commonly up here and it has been taken as this symbol. I guess it is. It’s ambivalent for me and I’m going to continue to be ambiguous about it."

On putting 'Demo' in the title of the official release: "It was important to me that this version was out there, completely stripped back and existing in its rawest form. It’s one live performance of vocal/piano recorded together, no tempo mapping and just lightly mixed. That’s what people connected with in the first place and therefore what I wanted to do first with it. The demand for the song was there but I didn’t want to rush to produce a final version of the track in a couple of weeks, so it was important for me to put ‘(demo)’ in the title and therefore open up the possibility of releasing different versions of this song in the future. I won’t say too much but I’m really excited to follow the life of this song. That being said, I’m so happy with my wee demo and it’ll always be special for me."

On what it is about music that unites so many people: "Ah. The million dollar question. I can’t be sure. I have watched it hold that power throughout my life, whether that’s at live gigs, in folk pubs, in online spaces. In the spheres I’m in I feel that the storytelling element is so important. The connection people have with shared experiences through music is really powerful. When I had my viral moment with this song, I really noticed how important the words were and I guess it highlighted to me the way music provided that connecting line through all these people who had completely different experiences. It’s the feeling that’s the same. Beyond lyric-based music, it sounds cliché but it’s a language of its own, it’s completely universal."

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