Music, Featured

15th December 2023

Interview with Katie Gregson Macleod

I was so lucky to get the chance to ask Katie Gregson Macleod a few questions after her Manchester show. Katie’s new EP Big Red has just come out and she has recently finished the Big Red tour with a sold-out London show. The ivor-novello nominated singer is best known for her viral single Complex but Big Red has become one of my favourite releases of 2023. We talk all things about the EP, tour and why Mel Giedroyc is her dream concert attendee.

What do you think are your biggest musical inspirations?

Katie – I feel like this is always a question I give a really wishy-washy answer to. I feel like genuinely without sounding cliche, I feel inspired by everything all the time. Like everything around me in different phases of my life. I have like my holy grail songwriters, musicians and producers that I’m obsessed with and I look to them for a lot of the choices and in terms of their values in songwriting. You know Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Elliott Smith. At the same time I love so many kinds of music so day to day I feel like there’s no limit. Also, I have so many friends who are so talented. I feel like I’m so lucky to be around so much music so I’m inspired by them as well. So yeah a very roundabout way of saying pretty much everything.

I feel like a lot of people have given that answer! I do just love knowing people’s like musicians they go back to, I find it really interesting.

Katie – Yeah, there’s always those icons or people you really look up to in terms of songwriting. I definitely think about them a lot when I’m making music. At the same time, there’ll be a song, a live show or a video that I see that makes me feel something or makes me want to make music. I don’t know that feeling of going to a show and leaving and being like I’m so glad I’m a musician and I can’t wait to get back into it tomorrow.

This might be a bit of a harder one but what’s your favourite song you’ve released?

Katie – Ooooh, my two favourites I’ve released are White Lies and Guestlist, kind of random ones. White Lies because it was my first co-write with Matt Maltese someone who I’m a big fan of. I sort of felt like it poured out of me and also I kind of thought I’d be unable to do anything because it was quite a scary experience. It did just pour out but it was so concise and natural.

So yeah, White Lies is really dear to my heart. But also Guestlist is my favourite off the EP. I wrote that in my bedroom at 11 at night and it was very quick quite similar in the way it felt like a natural release. It also feels very me, like very quintessential KGM. In terms of its word vomit and the tongue in cheek. The verses have a different energy to the choruses that’s how I feel. The way that it was produced with my friend Josh we had such a nice time. Taking it from an acoustic demo to where it is now was such a joy and that’s my favourite I think.

And then as a bit of a follow-up, what’s your favourite to perform?

Katie – Playing live, this is my first tour with the band but I’ve been doing a lot of shows on my own and there’s a big difference. Like I have a bit of both on my shows anyway and I love them both for different reasons. I love playing some of the older ones live. Second Single Bed and stuff like that because people get really excited. I’m quite surprised because it’s the hardest to sing but Your Ex has been my favourite on tour. I keep jumping in the crowd it’s really fun and everyone gets involved. Now I find myself not worrying about my vocals because I’m having fun so if my vocals are a bit bad it doesn’t really matter.

I will say Complex is such a lovely moment in the set it’s the one most people know and it feels like a moment. When I sing it I feel like I kind of reconnect with the song as well. That was probably too many answers sorry!

I love hearing people have a bit of a gap between what they love recorded and what they love live. I feel like it’s such an interesting insight.

Katie – Yeah, I guess love playing Guestlist live but it is one of the hardest ones vocally. It’s super high-energy and really fun because people sing along. I especially like it on record though. Actually, my favourite song to sing live is one that’s not out yet so I actually can’t say it.

Speaking of Guestlist, I had a question about the song specifically. It’s my favourite song off the EP. So one of the lyrics I feel like you’ve spoken about a bit and I know it’s on some of the merch but it’s “I’ll stay cringe on socials, it’s all about content she’ll have a real job.” I was wondering if you wanted to talk about it a little bit because I feel like it’s just so interesting to me.

Katie – God I feel like that’s the dumbest lyric! It’s very me in terms of the fact that it’s dumb but I said it you know what I mean. I think I have no first defence and no filter process when it comes to songwriting. I feel like many good songwriters go I have this thought let’s make it into a lyric whereas I kind of just have the thought and that’s what I sing. So that’s why things like that make their way into my songs.

No, but I do actually love the whole chorus bit I guess it’s a bit of craic and the whole chorus production-wise also feels like spiralling the energy, is suddenly higher and really intense, but it never really resolves and when it does into a spooky chord. Those lines are falling down there’s not even space in those lines to say them. That’s the feeling I felt when I wrote them. For so long in the first half of the year I was comparing myself to people in the highest degree I have in my whole life. It was partly due to that relationship and partly I think my job is different now I find myself demeaning myself and what I do. Ultimately a lot of what I do is making little videos of myself on TikTok.

It comes down to the classic thing the grass is always greener. The whole chorus is that thing you know let me create what I think you want in my head and decide that you already want that more than me. I love singing that line because people really enjoy that premise because everyone compares themselves to other people. But you know what I will stay cringe on socials.

Photo credit: Flora Day. Katie Gregson Macleod at Deaf Institute Manchester

So the EP is as we learnt last night about one person and a specific situation. What is it like having written this EP about someone and then performing it? I guess not reliving it but just singing about quite an emotional and specific period.

Katie – So for that specific project I think it feels very much like a moment in time very contained like it is a snapshot. Both in the way that I view it in my life and as a musical piece of work. In my life, it feels like a distinct chapter and so I don’t have many feelings attached to it now. The songs take on new lives and I wrote them all in those 3 months … a couple of months maybe.

So I feel like for that reason it doesn’t feel like an emotional bond it more feels like an exciting process and see what can happen with them and how they resonate. I don’t feel a kind of tie to it. It’s definitely a snapshot musically as well I don’t expect my album to sound the exact same. I don’t think I’ll write another song that sounds just like Guestlist again. At the same time, I’m very proud of it, it feels very me just very self-contained. That’s why it’s set in a pub because I can put it all in one place and kind of contain it there.

What’s been your favourite show so far this year and what city are you most excited about going to on this tour?

Katie – I’m so excited, they’re all so exciting. I mean last night for instance was so exciting like places that I haven’t been to before as a musician. You know like there’s so many people here and they know the words to my songs. At a lot of the festivals in Europe over the summer, I had that which was a surprise. I would say because it was my first London show and stuff. I did have a show at Hoxton Hall in May. I’m quite a relaxed performer probably to my detriment at times. I had this show in May and I’ve never been more relaxed and excited for a gig just couldn’t wait to get out there. Went on stage and was super relaxed had such a nice time it was the easiest and most fulfilling gig. I’m playing London again really soon actually.

There are just different reasons I’m excited for different gigs. The Scottish shows were a coming home feeling really you know Glasgow and Edinburgh they do feel like second homes. Just different to playing shows in Manchester and Dublin I just don’t know what to expect. Really to have anyone there at all is exciting. London is exciting though because it’s where I live, it’s the biggest show and it’s sold out. So I’ve just had a really good year of performing that’s my highlight I think.

I think we’re almost out of time so I’m going to ask a really stupid question to finish. But if you could have any person dead or alive come to your gig who would you choose?

Katie – Oh my goodness!

I left a bit of extra time just so you had a chance to think for a bit!

Katie – Yeah, that’s gonna take some time to think about wow ok! I actually don’t want someone I hold to too much of a regard but I also want someone I want to be there and hang out with. It’s more someone I want to hang out with after the show that’s my actual question.

I’ve got a basic answer that came straight into my head. No actually let me have a little think. You don’t know how hard this is, I’m taking it incredibly seriously.

I mean you can go either way like super serious or really silly. I have had both types of answers from people.

Katie – I’d want it to be someone I just have such good craic with. Okay, my first thought was Taylor Swift because she seems like she’d have a good time and she’s always out just crazy. Also like I get to be like Taylor Swift come see me play and then we’d have a wild night out and she could introduce me to all her friends.

Wow, actually that’s such a smart move!

Katie – My second thought was Mel Giedroyc. I love Mel Giedroyc and I just want to be her friend so bad. I was just watching her on Taskmaster the other day I was just thinking about how much I want to be her friend. It was her and Aisling Bea and I just thought we’d get along so well.

I love that it comes from Taskmaster as well. I think that’s a fantastic response!

Katie – I’ve been all about Taskmaster recently. Like also maybe get Bob Mortimer down to a show I don’t know.

Someone did actually say Greg Davies as an answer which I think I kind of agree with.

Katie – I’m worried he’d be fun but too harsh. No actually not harsh but I feel like he’d be sarky you know. After a show I can’t hack that, I need you to praise me. But you know what I’m happy with my answers.

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