Inverness singer Katie Gregson-MacLeod on overnight fame

Katie Gregson-MacLeod thought she had it right when the chorus of her new song was viewed 100,000 times overnight on TikTok.

Little did she know that exactly four weeks later that single video would have over 7.1 million views and she would have signed a deal with Columbia Records.

The 21-year-old from Inverness posted the 45-second clip of her new song, Complex (demo), from her parents’ house one evening after writing it the day before.

Its raw and honest lyrics touched the hearts of millions in the days to come, with huge names such as Tom Walker, Camila Cabello and Madison Beer covering the song themselves.

Speaking from a recording studio on Friday afternoon, Katie attempted to put into words what her life has been like over the past month.

Career taking off

Katie was born and raised in Inverness. Before her career “skyrocketed” overnight, she worked a summer job at Perk Coffee & Donuts and was preparing to start her fourth year studying history at the University of Edinburgh.

Spurred on by her viral video, representatives from eight record labels traveled to the Highland capital to meet her, some even sampling local delicacies.

“We walked into Perk because the meetings were close there, I just went and said ‘hi’ to everyone, then there were three different [record] the labels were there,” Katie said.

“It was like my safe space had been breached, it was surreal. I was sitting where I usually work and these things were happening.


here is my complex savior song #fyp #originalsong #singersongwriter

♬ complex (demo) – Katie Gregson-MacLeod

She said the shop team has her back and while she will miss her favorite Bizz Coff donuts, she won’t miss the 2 a.m. baking start.

Since selecting Columbia Records from those lining up to sign her, Katie said life had been “crushing” but she felt like the “luckiest person in the world”.

“This Can’t Be Real Anymore”

Although she has released a number of her songs on TikTok, Complex (demo) is the one that has been turning her career around.

Considering why, she said, “That’s the million dollar question, but from my side, I think that’s the true honesty of the original chorus that came out.

“The lyrics are very reckless and truthful and I think people really resonate with other people being vulnerable, they feel that sense of connection to something much more.

“It always shocks me how much people relate to it, it’s a writer’s dream to have people look up to their lyrics and connect with them.”

Katie Gregson-MacLeod has signed a recording contract with Columbia. Photo by Meg Henderson.

Big names have now covered and put their own spin on the song, which Katie said was “an honor”.

“The ones that are really special to me are the ones that I’ve admired for so long as writers,” she added.

“I love JP Saxe, Gracie Abrams, so many people, when I saw Camilla Cabello I got to the point where I thought ‘this can’t be real anymore’.”

Music in his veins

Although the singer only officially released her first EP in 2021, music has always been an integral part of her life.

“It’s one of those corny lines, but it’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember,” she said.

“We always had music at home, we had a piano, my mother was a pianist, I just remember that it was an integral part of me from the start.

“I was always writing little songs and poems and things growing up. The first one I remember was when I was maybe seven, the other day I found a video of it and it was pretty good.

This song has yet to be released, but Katie said she always knew music would be her future career. It’s been a strong focus and focus since she was around 16.

As an independent artist, which she was until signing with Columbia, she was a one-woman band, writing, producing, and promoting her music.

Heart in the Highlands

With her music career moving forward at high speed, she said she is grateful to have the Highlands as a home she can always return to.

She said: “Coming home is important to me, getting that space. The other day when I came home for a few days I went swimming in a loch, walked around the islands, it’s just the best.

“I feel so lucky to be able to do this, you don’t realize how much you need something like this until you do it.”

Complex coverage (demo). Photo by Columbia Records.

She said she could see her upbringing “integrated into” her music with its strong folk and narrative elements: “The Highlands will always be very important to me and my music, I feel very lucky to have grown up where I grew up.”

Speaking of Inverness’s music scene in particular, she said she hoped it would become a more diverse space in the years to come.

“I’m a product of the Scottish music scene and the Inverness scene,” she explained.

“The live music scene in Inverness is great but I think it needs a bit of work and I would love to see that grow and see more space for alternative music.

“It’s devastating about Ironworks, but hopefully over the next two decades we’ll see improvements. I think there’s potential, it’s such a beautiful place and I think there’s growth there.

And after?

Many will wonder what’s next for the Inverness singer, and she asks that question too.

She has decided to postpone her final year of studying history at university to focus on the opportunities she has now, but hopes to return in the future.

“I’m adjourning for a while, maybe quite a long time,” she said. “I would love to finish it, I still have academic goals.”

Live performances, new music and a possible album are on the agenda, but for now she wants to give Complex (demo) time to shine.

“This song has the potential for a long life, I want to give it its moment,” she said.

He sits at number 66 in the UK chart – sitting between Gary Numan and Lana Del Ray.

Katies said, “At the same time, I write all the time and I have a lot of songs that I sit on.

“Right now I’m in the eye of the storm, so I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground and not get too overwhelmed.

“The world has really opened up, I feel really lucky, and at the same time I’m just excited for what’s to come.”

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