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Huge labels, home videos and the Highlands: Inverness singer Katie Gregson-MacLeod on overnight fame

Katie Gregson MacLeod' was given advice by Lewis Capaldi. Picture by Meg Henderson.
Katie Gregson MacLeod' was given advice by Lewis Capaldi. Picture by Meg Henderson.

Katie Gregson-MacLeod thought she had made it when the chorus of her new song got 100,000 views overnight on TikTok.

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

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

Its raw, honest lyrics tugged on the heartstrings of millions in the coming days, with huge names including Tom Walker, Camila Cabello and Madison Beer covering the song themselves.

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

Career taking off

Katie is Inverness born and bred. Before her career “skyrocketed” overnight, she worked a summer job in Perk Coffee & Doughnuts and was preparing to head into her fourth year studying history at Edinburgh University.

Sparked by her viral video, representatives from eight record labels headed to the Highland capital to meet with her, with some even sampling the local delicacies.

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

“It was like my safe space had been breached, it was surreal. I was sat in the place I usually work and these things were all happening.”


here’s my saviour complex song #fyp #originalsong #singersongwriter

♬ complex (demo) – Katie Gregson-MacLeod

She said the team at the shop are all “rooting for” her and that, while she will miss her favourite Bizz Coff doughnuts, she won’t miss 2am baking starts.

Since selecting Columbia Records from the people queueing up to sign her, Katie said life has been “overwhelming” but that she feels like the “luckiest person in the world”.

‘This can’t be real anymore’

Despite having posted a number of her songs on TikTok, Complex (demo) was the one that sent her career spinning.

Considering why, she said: “This is the million dollar question, but from my end I think it’s the real honesty of the original chorus that went out.

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

“It still shocks me how much people have related to it, it’s a writer’s dream to have people looking at their lyrics and connecting with them.”

Katie Gregson-MacLeod has signed a record deal with Columbia. Picture by Meg Henderson.

Huge names have now covered and put their own spin on the song, which Katie said was “a honour”.

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

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

Music in her veins

Though the singer didn’t officially release her first EP until 2021, music has always been an integral part of her life.

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

“We always had music on in the house, we had a piano, my mum was a pianist, I just remember it being firmly a very intrinsic part of me from the get go.

“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.”

That song hasn’t been made public quite yet but, Katie said she always knew music would be her future career. It has been a strong focus and goal 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 charging forward at speed, she said she is grateful to have the Highlands as a home she can always go back to.

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

“I feel so lucky I can do that, you don’t realise how much you need something like that until you do it.”

Complex (demo) cover. Picture by Columbia Records.

She said she could see her upbringing “embedded in” her music with its strong folk and storytelling 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 about the Inverness music scene specifically, she said she hopes it will become a more diverse space in years to come.

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

“The Inverness live music scene is great but I think it needs some work and I’d love to see that growing and see more space for alternative music.

“It’s devastating about the Ironworks, but I hope in the next couple of decades we see improvements being made. I think there’s potential, it’s such a beautiful place and I think there is growth there.”

What’s next?

Many will be wondering what is next for the Inverness singer, and she too is asking that question.

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

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

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

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

It is sitting 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’ve got lots of songs I’m sitting on.

“Right now I’m in the eye of the storm so it’s 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 am just excited about what is to come.”