The Mahaffey Theater | 9/28/18 | St. Pete, FL.
interview by nicole solero
Pop songwriter & artist Brett Mclaughlin, also know as Leland, is the mastermind behind some of your favorite songs. He’s worked with artists like Selena Gomez, Troye Sivan, Kelsea Ballerini, Charli XCX, Daya, Allie X & so many more. He was even the executive producer on the score for Netflix’s Original Movie “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser”. Now Leland has stepped from outside of the studio where he spends a lot of time writing & joins the stage every night with his close friend Troye Sivan opening up on multiple dates on The Bloom Tour. I got to sit down with Leland before his set in St. Pete, FL & here are some things we discussed about his experience.
Hi Leland! How are you?
I’m good! I’m super excited for tonight.
So since signing under the name Leland and working as your own artist, how has it been joining the Bloom tour & performing your own music?
It’s been a dream come true. I feel like my route as becoming an artist- I mean I’ve always been an artist I just didn’t have the resources or skill level to write songs for myself that I was happy with. But performing is a dream come true. Getting to put out music & then go on tour with Troye is pretty insane. For this to be my first tour, it just feels like friends hanging out. We perform our sets, get on the bus, eat some snacks, watch something & then do it all over again in a different city.
So you write & produce mostly pop music. Are there any other genres you’re interested in exploring?
Of Course! Well, I love country & I wanna write more of it. I just had my first country number 1.
I think for me “pop” is such a big umbrella. For example, I can write urban pop, I can go full R&B or you know, something I’ve always wanted to do is write musicals definitely with a pop-leaning. I think pop is very encompassing in many different subgenres so anything that I can gravitate to. I just want to make sure it always sounds believable & authentic. I don’t want to do something that I’m not good at or write something that isn’t my story. Pop, Country, & Scoring movies are things I’ve loved doing & I want to do more of.
So I read that you grew up in Mississippi & even grew up in a very conservative home?
Yes I did
So how did you get to fall in love with pop music?
I just had to sneak it- honestly. I grew up when Britney Spears was in her prime when N-Sync & Backstreet Boys & Destiny’s Child were on top. Regardless of like how strict my parents were & how most of my days revolved around going to church, I always made time for pop music. I would race home after school & watch TRL every day. It pretty much solidified when I won tickets to see Britney Spears on the radio one day & I was like this is incredible! Once I moved away to go to college I think I wrote one more Christian song & that was it. Although I think I would go back to it, I mean I wouldn’t write Christian songs just because I like the “type” of music- I don’t share the beliefs but I like writing it, it’s pretty music to listen to.
So I love asking this to different artists because I’ve come to learn that every artist has their own process. I’ve learned that some people like to write their lyrics first & others feel more inspired to produce a track & create a feeling through sound first. What does your process look like?
Every single time it’s different. For a lot of the Troye’s album, we would start with an acoustic guitar or the baby grand piano that was sitting in the studio. And I would just sit around & start ideas like that, that’s most of that process. I love to start with chords on a piano & melody & just flesh out the melody.
A melody is vital, especially a good pop melody is really really important. Then you can find the right lyric for it, at least for me. But then sometimes I’ll have titles come to me or I’ll be like “I just went through this I need to write about this & start with a concept of a story.” But it really is different every single time and that's what keeps it interesting. There really isn’t one way to write a hit or even write a song that people will respond to. I think what I’m happy with is that inspiration can come in a form of a word, chord, or a melody you’re just talking out. I mean I remember driving out to the studio to meet Troye & a melody & lyric came to me at the same time. It’s very interesting how different ideas present themselves.
That’s very interesting so regardless of where you are when an idea comes, do you just jot it down?
Jot it down & record it on my phone. That way I can revisit it later.
Any advice to anybody interested in songwriting & getting into the business? I read that personally for you it took awhile for things to show. You didn’t see it all just happen in an instant, right? It took a process-
The fruits of the labor. Yes, it did! It took a long time. My best advice is to join a PRO & a PRO is a company that collects your performance royalties when you have songs played on the radio or even for example when I get paid to perform my own songs tonight. Those companies have a lot of programs for new songwriters. I’m with ASCAP & they’ve done a lot for me. I’ve done writing workshops, I’ve had the opportunity to write in a castle in France & participate in so many networking events. So I would join a PRO & I prefer ASCAP & then I would join Grammy U which is The Grammy’s college organization. I volunteered in basically every single one of Grammy U’s events & honestly I still would. I’ve met artists at soundchecks like Beyonce & Justin Timberlake & go to great events where I learned a lot. And It’s great to meet artists that you love but It’s also important to learn & be taught. So I would do those two things & then form a community whether it’s online or people around you & co-write & start that way. Especially if you live somewhere far out where there really isn’t a hub of pop writers around you. But if you want to write pop you need to be in L.A .if you want to write country you need to be in Nashville. If you really want to do it as a career it’s just very simple you have to be where the action is. It takes time but it’s worth it.
Wow well thank you so much for sharing!
Of course. Thanks for chatting with me!