- Words Notion Staff
- Photography Michael Arellano
Sharp-witted songwriter and artist Leland talks about his new single “Bad At Letting Go”, building a studio compound and his friendship with Troye Sivan.
With a string of timeless hits under his belt, (including iconic singles “Break Up (Bye Bye)” and “UK Hun?”), Brett McLaughlin, aka Leland is an influential songwriter and producer with a sharp eye for detail. Returning with another infectious release, his brand-new single “Bad At Letting Go” is shared as the artist’s debut release of the year and follows after his four-track EP ‘Catalina (Original Short Film Soundtrack)’.
Establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry, Leland has previously written hit singles for Charli XCX, Selena Gomez, Troye Sivan and many more. A talented artist, producer and songwriter, throughout the years Leland has proved himself to be an inspiring multifaceted artist to watch. Between his recurring collaborations with RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, to his continuous work across music, TV and film, Leland stands out from the crowd with his authentic and futuristic approach to today’s pop scene.
His latest track “Bad At Letting Go” is the first of many singles to come this year and was self-written and produced, alongside the help of collaborator Peter Thomas. Entering 2023 with a dangerously melodic break-up song, it’s fair to say the artist has already caught the attention of many with this addictive new release.
Leland talks about all things “Bad At Letting Go”, being self-sufficient, UFOs and more. Dive in!
Hey Leland. How’s 2023 been treating you so far?
2023 for me has been pure chaos and I’m here for it. I’m busy securing a sick feature for “Bad At Letting Go” meanwhile UFOs are being shot down all over the world. I’m obsessed.
Your new release “Bad At Letting Go” marks a bit of a comeback for you after a four-year break – how does it feel to be releasing music again?
It’s wild that four years have gone by and yet, mysteriously, I’m still the exact same age I was the last time I put out music. Please don’t fact check that. But it’s the best feeling. This is a side of me that feels like it’s been patiently waiting on the sidelines to be tagged in and now is back in the game. I think that’s a sports reference, but to be honest, even I’m unsure.
If you could replicate the big comeback of any artist, who would you choose?
Definitely Jesus. He initially killed it, had a flop era and is now everywhere. Good for him!
Could you tell me a bit about the meaning behind the track? I understand it’s about a breakup…
No. But if you insist, the song is about the strange moment where the only people who know about your breakup are you and your ex. That can be such an isolating feeling since the person you would normally talk to about it is suddenly no longer in your life. So instead you go full gay and process it on the dance floor.
You’ve written so many songs in your career for other people, how does the process differ when you’re taking a track on for yourself?
The process differs because the responsibility is now on me to make the final call. I’m the person deciding if the lyric feels right or what adlib goes where. It’s a big exercise in trusting myself and my instincts, which I can then bring into the studio with other artists. I’m also very lucky to have people around me that are much cooler than I am. I’ll send ideas or songs to Troye and ask him ‘Is this good? Is this cool’, and he’ll say ‘Who is this?’ It’s a beautiful friendship.
What have you learnt over the years collaborating and working with such a broad range of artists?
I’ve learned to not go into a session trying to write *the* single. You write ten singles. In all seriousness, I’ve learned that it’s my job to adapt to whatever the room needs that day. I’m happy to throw out concepts and melodic ideas or to just bring good vibes and help finish lyrics. I don’t feel like I need to force my ideas into a song if the artist has a clear sense of what they’re going for.
We have to mention Drag Race, you’ve worked closely with the franchise and must’ve seen it grow into the massive hit it is today. “UK Hun?” absolutely swept the country – were you expecting it to be such a hit?
I knew the song was going to be polarising and that if you get it, you get it, but I didn’t think it would crossover into mainstream culture. That was so much fun to be a part of and I hope it helps me get the apartment I want when I inevitably move to London.
Looking back over the past few years, is there a moment or achievement you’re particularly proud of?
Short answer, no. But if I had to choose, something that sticks out to me is five years ago when I was walking out of Target at Santa Monica and LaBrea. Troye FaceTimed me to tell me that he was performing two songs we wrote on Saturday Night Live. I was scrolling through Grindr and didn’t answer but I imagine it would have been a really special moment.
What advice would you give to people wanting to break into the industry?
I would say focus on being as self-sufficient as possible. Everyone is so focused on themselves and if someone doesn’t have the time to help or isn’t able to, don’t take it personally. Unless you think it might have something to do with your personality, then absolutely take it personally.
This looks set to be a big 2023 for you – what are you most looking forward to this year?
I’m building a studio compound in Los Angeles called Laurelvale Studios and I can’t wait for it to be done. There will be a ribbon cutting and you’re invited. It’s been a dream of mine to have a creative space where artists, writers and producers can come work, stay and relax. Laurelvale Studios will absolutely do that and if it’s not then it’s not my fault.