Behind the Beat: Brett McLaughlin

9 December 2015

In our new 'Behind The Beat' feature, multi-platinum songwriter Brett McLaughlin talks to us from New York about the storm around breakthrough artist Troye Sivan and his debut album Blue Neighbourhood, and what it's like to be at the centre of a hit album.

Brett... First thing's first, congrats! It's a big week for you and the Troye Sivan family, what are you guys doing to celebrate?!

Thank you! To be honest, we worked!  The team is pretty spread out at the moment.  Allie is on tour, Alex is producing, Troye is promoting, Bram is on vacation, and I’m writing.  We sent a lot of emojis and heart felt texts back and forth yesterday.  I’m with Troye in NYC right now as he was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last night! It was his first performance on TV, so we'll be doing some celebrating over the next few days.  

You have an incredible SEVEN songs on Blue Neighbourhood. What was your favourite track to write, and why?

Seven songs is insane.  I would have been happy with one song, or a bonus track, or even an interlude!  My favorite song to write was “Talk Me Down” because it came so easy.  I was grateful that when I walked into the session with this idea I had been singing in the car, Troye, Allie and Bram were receptive and connected with it.  It was from a very honest place so it’s surreal to see so many people responding to it.  

Pool party or Games Night?

Game night!  I love Balderdash, Cards Against Humanity, Heads Up, and Monopoly.  

Can you remember where you were when Zane Lowe premiered Talk Me Down on Beats 1?

I was sitting on my bed streaming Beats 1 from my laptop.  It didn’t feel real.  When Zane Lowe endorses or presents something, people listen. Thankfully people listened and responded positively.   

Favourite place to visit?


© Brett McLaughlin 2015.

What was it like to have Sam Smith tweet lyrics from Bite?

It was fantastic!  We felt that lyric was out of the ordinary when we wrote it so it was very affirming to see him connect with that specific line.  It’s a sexy lyric but with a bit of a poetic license.  

What has the creative process been like behind the scenes putting this record together?

The creative process was very organic.  Bram would usually start by playing a chord progression and we would all trade melodies back and forth.  I would throw out words that I was connecting with at the time and Troye would talk to us about what he’s going through personally. If you’re a songwriter, you probably have a list in your phone of song titles, keywords, concepts or phrases that stood out to you.   Allie would also sit at the grand piano and we would stand around the piano and develop something together.  It was a really relaxed atmosphere which allowed us to get out all of our ideas, even if some of them were awful.  

Dream collaboration?


A lot of the songs make explicit references to gay relationships, a rarity still in pop music writing. Are you surprised that people have connected with these narratives in such a positive way?

What is so nice is that the focus isn’t on whether the songs are about boys or girls, but more about if you connect to the lyric as a whole.  Troye delivered these lyrics with so much authenticity that they were able to transcend any barriers and connect to everyone.  I’m grateful to be a part of that.

How would you describe Blue Neighbourhood in three words?

Heartbreaking, Honest, Nostalgic 

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About the Author

Brett McLaughlin (alias Leland) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, composer and lecturer. Based in Los Angeles, California, he has worked closely with a range of popular artists, including Troye Sivan, Hayley Warner, Little Boots, Becky G, Daya, Kat Graham, Jessica Mauboy, Stan Walker and Pitbull.

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