Katie Gregson-Macleod On ‘complex’, The Ivors, And Competing With Harry Styles

"The rush is still ongoing, but it’s like – wow, this is now my life!"

Katie Gregson-MacLeod has come a long way… literally. Just the other week she packed her bags and took the train from Inverness, permanently relocating to London. She’s got a flat share – with fellow Clash fave Nell Mescal, as it goes – and the pair are busy living a sitcom life of two young songwriters on the rise. Nominated at this year’s Ivor Novellos, the young Scot is still beaming from the thrilling rush of her rise: “I’m a Londoner now… it seems!”

“I’m feeling great,” she adds. “I’m still in shock. It’s still a really surreal time. I’m settling into what I now feel is my new life. The rush is still ongoing, but it’s like – wow, this is now my life!”

So, as a recap: Katie’s song ‘complex’ went viral last year, gaining co-signs from Maisie Peters, dodie, Lewis Capaldi, and many, many more. Snapped up on a major label deal before she’s even had a chance to finish uni, Clash catches up with her at the actual, genuine Ivor Novello nominations party – where she’s gained a spot in the Best Song Musically and Lyrically category, alongside such little known acts as Florence + The Machine, SAULT, Tom Odell, and Harry Styles.

Harry had best watch out, however, as it turns out Katie’s trophy cabinet is already gleaming. “I definitely had some at school. I got PE, English, and History prizes… so the same sort of vibe to the Ivors. The big three!” she laughs. “It didn’t feel quite the same… well, I guess at that moment it did!”

Katie recently signed off her time in the Highlands with a short run of shows, encompassing the West Coast, some Hebridean dalliances, and a final packed out night at Inverness theatre Eden Court. “That was the hardest show,” she says. “I thought it would be relaxed, but it was a hometown show. It was a formal venue, and I don’t have a formal show – it’s a chatty show! A beautiful theatre, a beautiful piano, and the audience is pitch black but I know who’s there – friends, family, teachers. I never get nervous onstage, but after my first song I was like… I’m actually nervous!”

Everyday feels like a milestone for Katie right now. Her previous show in her hometown was November 2021. Since then, the venue has closed, she’s amassed a global audience, and a neat new London housemate. “Oh yeah,” she demurs. “I feel like I won a fan competition to be here. That I’m a fraud. But now we’re equals with these people.”

Equals with Harry Styles, indeed.

“That’s so stupid. Equal for two hours in our lifetime.”

Taking a deep breath, she focusses on those new memories: “Obviously, it’s all so recent that this happened. But it’s the new normal – and things like this are the greatest affirmation.”

Not that she’s resting on her laurels. Katie Gregson-Macleod recently linked up in the studio with Matt Maltese, resulting in recent single ‘White Lies’. “We’ve only written together two or three times, but every time I love the product. I’ve looked up to him for years for that reason. His understanding of melody is just supreme. I focus a lot on lyrics, so having someone there who understands melody in that way adds another dimension to my music. The newest one we’ve written together is really great, I’m really excited about it. I don’t really do a lot of co-writes, but this one is really special.”

January brought some downtime, and a period of reflection. Katie returned to her “safe havens” – classic albums by Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell – and finally digested her whirlwind 12 months. “I had time to reflect in January,” she says. “And I felt confident, weirdly, and calm. It’s when you stop, that you have this shaky moment, this imposter thing. It’s all been so crazy. You think, do I deserve this? And can I maintain it? The important thing for me has been getting back into making the music… that’s what helps me understand it. I did a lot of writing in January, and it really came to the fore for me how much everything has changed.”

“My idea of busy is now totally skewed,” she adds. “The pace that everything happened is now totally natural.”

She’s still eager for some downtime, though. “The new flat that Nell and I have is built for summer! I’m excited to experience that. I think that’s the perfect time to explore London. I love London in the winter, but it’s not the most sociable feeling. I’m excited to go to the park on a Tuesday afternoon.”

The Ivors takes place on May 18th. Good luck, Katie!

Words: Robin Murray
Photo Credit: Meg Henderson

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