Artist to Watch: Getting Vulnerable With Katie Gregson-MacLeod’s Aching Anthem, “Your Ex”

Katie Gregson-MacLeod © Harvey Pearson
Katie Gregson-MacLeod © Harvey Pearson
Vivid, visceral, and vulnerable, Katie Gregson-MacLeod’s “Your Ex” is an intimate indie pop eruption of passion and pain that aches from the inside out, and a breathtaking, irresistibly catchy and cathartic standout taken off her new EP, ‘Big Red’!
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Stream: “Your Ex” – Katie Gregson-MacLeod




No amount of tenderness can smooth over the turbulence – the sheer weight, and the raw ache – at the heart of Katie Gregson-MacLeod’s August anthem.

But tender sonics and warm melodies certainly help to make this a moment to remember.

There’s no simplifying the multiplicity of emotions we might experience in the presence of a partner’s ex. The mere idea of such a person’s existence – of their very being – requires us to recognize and accept that the person you loved, once loved someone else; and that’s just the abstract idea of them. Bring them into the same room as you and your partner, and the floodgates might very well be a dam made of feathers.

But all hell doesn’t break loose in “Your Ex” – at least, not on the outside.

Rather, Gregson-MacLeod’s beautiful new song is an inner reckoning with one’s own emotional fragility and volatility; with insecurities and anxieties familiar to millions, yet often left unsaid – and certainly unexplored, to an extent, in song. This is, at least in part, what Scottish hard rock band Nazareth were singing about all those years ago (and yes, we know it’s an Everly Brothers cover): Love hurts.

And to be clear, this isn’t a breakup song; no one is splitting up because your partner’s ex is suddenly back in the picture (though that’s certainly a fear, looming ominously like a dark cloud in the back of the artist’s mind) – until they… maybe… are? Hold that thought; don’t let it go just yet.

Sometimes it just helps to talk out your heavy feelings, so that they stop weighing so heavily on you and you alone. This is one such moment of cathartic, therapeutic songwriting: Vivid, visceral, and vulnerable, “Your Ex” is an intimate indie pop eruption of passion and pain that aches from the inside out.

Because no amount of upbeat pop music, no matter how charming, no matter how catchy, can fill the cracks in our minds and in our hearts.

"Your Ex" single art - Katie Gregson-MacLeod
“Your Ex” single art – Katie Gregson-MacLeod
Saw her at the merch stand
Talking to her ex-man
Her ex-man was you
Short blonde hair
Like the girl who just sang
The girl who just sang was me

Released August 18, 2023 via Sony Music / Arista Records, “Your Ex” is a soul-stirring singalong ready to uplift even the most bruised and broken of us. Hopeless romantics beware: This will break you down… but it just might build you back up again.

The lead single off Scottish singer/songwriter Katie Gregson-MacLeod’s third EP Big Red (out October 13, 2023) sees the 22-year-old artist, who enjoyed a breakout with last year’s songs written for piano EP, channeling a world of intense, deeply intimate, and complicated emotions out into the open. She holds nothing back in a song that shines a big, bright light on all those thoughts we’d much rather bury than speak aloud – and thanks to the energy and spirit she infuses into her performance, we come away from “Your Ex” feeling seen and heard, inspired and invigorated.

Katie Gregson-MacLeod © Harvey Pearson
Katie Gregson-MacLeod © Harvey Pearson



All told, it really does take an empath to write an empathic song.

And while we already fell head over heals for Gregson-MacLeod last year (she was one of Atwood‘s Top Artist Discoveries of 2022), “Your Ex” reinforces that infatuation, fueling the creeping sense that she is destined for bigger things – or, as our writer Minna Abdel-Gawad so eloquently put it: “Her candor and sincerity set her apart… [her] innate ability to articulate fatiguing emotions is unmatched; she sings as though she is currently living through it, expressing anguish, anger and sorrow all at once…”

The “Your Ex” chorus is candid, conversational, and utterly all-consuming:

And it would hurt if she bought your t-shirt
And it ended up on your floor
If you gave her head to ‘State Bird’
If you stayed with her after tour
And it would hurt if
Your best friend loved her
If she lived in the front of your mind
She’s fit and her roots are lighter
But the bed that you’re in is mine
Mine… You’re not even
Mine… Your ex-girl is fine
But the bed that you’re in is mine
Katie Gregson-MacLeod © Harvey Pearson
Katie Gregson-MacLeod © Harvey Pearson



Gregson has previously explained the inspiration for “Your Ex” stemming from some discomfort and insecurities around dating someone with “a lingering and complicated” relationship with their ex.

“‘Your Ex’ was first written to make light of a situation in which a partner’s ex was on the scene more than I was used to,” Gregson-MacLeod tells Atwood Magazine. “It felt good to laugh about it, fake some cockiness, and indulge hypotheticals and delusions just enough to make fun of them. I wrote the lyrics initially as a bit of a piss-take, focusing in the first verse upon a night where I saw the two of them interacting and noticed we shared some likeness, whilst also wondering if there was a grey area there that I didn’t know about. The purpose of the song’s chorus was initially to reflect my surprising lack of insecurity about it, to make light of it all. Kind of saying, ‘If I were to spiral about this, these are the things I’d imagine were happening’, but acknowledging that in reality, I was in a totally secure position where my feelings weren’t yet at risk of being hurt.”

“It was also the end of a session and I mainly just wanted to write a pop song referencing getting head to a relatively obscure contemporary Americana song.”

Wasn’t thinking ‘til you flew home
If you were lying I would never know
You could be lying on her couch again
If you never call me your ex now
It was nothing or it worked out
If it was nothing how long
Before you’re playing that song
At a new house?
And it would hurt if she bought your t-shirt
And it ended up on your floor
If you gave her head to State Bird
If you stayed with her after tour
And it would hurt if
Your best friend loved her
If she lived in the front of your mind
She’s fit and her roots are lighter
But the bed that you’re in is mine
Katie Gregson-MacLeod © Harvey Pearson
Katie Gregson-MacLeod © Harvey Pearson



The second half of the song delves into darker territory; as time progresses, what once seemed a silly fabric of the imagination takes on more weight and potential, as this once-stable, healthy relationship deteriorates.

“The latter half was written later on, when I think the situation held more weight in general and the lyric of the song became underwritten by a more anxious or insecure tone,” Gregson-MacLeod explains. “I left the song alone for a while and wrote the rest of the lyrics when the relationship was coming to an end. Suddenly, the intention behind the chorus changed for me and instead the anxieties it centered upon were genuine.”

It’s all that I think about
Maybe it’s a couple years from now
Did we feel it enough?
Did you like who I turned out to be?
And it’s all that I think about
At the Fonda or the Roundhouse
Are you looking for me in the crowd
Or avoiding my eye
As I buy an LP?
Big Red - Katie Gregson-MacLeod
Katie Gregson-MacLeod’s ‘Big Red’ EP is out October 13, 2023!



That dark cloud she tried for so long to hold back bursts in a musical and emotional breakdown, and all the built-up tension and anxiety from this song (and from lived experience) comes spilling forth in a rush of dramatic, charged sound.

“Setting the song against a lively and upbeat pop production perfectly aligned with the lyric’s attempt to dismiss the narrator’s genuine anxieties,” Gregson-MacLeod shares, diving into her creative decision to pair such aching lyrics with warm, sweet melodies. “As in a lot of what I love to write and listen to, I felt to properly serve this song, the sonics had to be in a more pop and upbeat space. Both timbre and lyric are an attempt to impound and dismiss the insecurity underwriting the song.”

“Your Ex” is ultimately a deep-dive into our anxieties and insecurities – justified or otherwise – and how they gnaw ceaselessly at our hearts and minds.

Talking about it helps – clear communication and self-expression are probably the best methods in most, if not all, situations – but just because we’re assuaged doesn’t mean those thoughts and feelings don’t exist in some form or fashion. It’s nice to hear our inner turbulence and emotional turmoil expressed so beautifully, and so unapologetically, through music.

With her Big Red EP out imminently, there’s no doubt that this is Katie Gregson-MacLeod’s time. The Scottish artist’s penchant for vulnerable, brutally honest songwriting and big, bold melodies is second only to her innate ability to marry the catchy with the cathartic. She has the good Midas touch – everything she makes is musical gold, melting over our ears and our hearts in waves of breathtaking, irresistible warmth and wonder.

Big Red is out October 13, 2023.

And it would hurt if she bought your t-shirt
And it ended up on your floor
If you gave her head to State Bird
If you stayed with her after tour
And it would hurt if
Your best friend loved her
If she lived in the front of your mind
She’s fit and her roots are lighter
But the bed that you’re in is mine
Mine… You’re not even
Mine… Your ex-girl is fine
But the bed that you’re in is mine

— —

:: stream/purchase Big Red here ::
:: connect with Katie Gregson-MacLeod here ::
Stream: “Your Ex” – Katie Gregson-MacLeod



— — — —

Big Red - Katie Gregson-MacLeod

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? © Harvey Pearson


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