“This is my most embarrassing song,” Katie Gregson-Macleod tells a jam-packed Horatio’s midway through her debut at The Great Escape. “It’s called ‘I Want To Be Your Girlfriend’ and it was written the day before [the relationship] ended.” She’s effortlessly entertaining the buzzy crowd, but also couldn’t be more wrong – there’s nothing embarrassing at all about Gregson-Macleod’s quietly devastating tunes. With only a subtle guitar accompaniment, the full focus today (May 11) is on emotive vocals and heart-wrenching balladry.
Headlining Scotland at The Great Escape’s showcase, the rest of the set follows suit: Gregson-Macleod’s easy on-stage banter is juxtaposed against her powerhouse songwriting. ‘TV Show’, a gorgeous, unreleased track co-written with Matt Maltese unpicks a breakup – or “situational ending” – that she quips was “shorter than an episode of The Office”. Meanwhile, ‘Second Single Bed’ – a song about “a friend of mine I was sure I was going to shag but didn’t” – is a grunge-flecked earworm.
With no backing band, the 22-year-old leads on the piano and guitar throughout. She offers cuts from last year’s excellent ‘Songs Written For Piano’ EP, which boasts viral hit ‘Complex’. The teary track went stratospheric in mid-2022, with a trajectory that mimicked the success of Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Drivers License’ the previous year. “Camila Cabello sings it,” she jokes, nodding to Cabello’s cover of ‘Complex’, adding: “No I’m only joking, she sang it one time, but one time is enough!”
‘Complex’ is a song that places Gregson-Macleod alongside her young contemporaries (the aforementioned Rodrigo and Lizzy McAlpine) as a masterful storyteller. Spinning lyrics that depict unrequited love (“But I’m wearing his boxers, I’m being a good wife / We won’t be together, but maybe the next life”) over lilting piano lines, it’s not hard to see why it took off, with artists like King Princess and Madison Beer delivering their own covers of the tune.
Yet despite being the track being the grand finale of Gregson-Macleod’s set, it’s not an outlier. As she proves at The Great Escape today, she’s one of Gen Z’s next great storytellers.
Katie Gregson-Macleod played:
‘I’m Worried It Will Always Be You’
‘Second Single Bed’
‘I Want To Be Your Girlfriend’