When Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider created “The Other Two,” a show premised on fictional YouTube pop sensation Chase Dreams’ rise to fame, they needed someone who could help deliver a believable pop song that also fit that narrative demands of their comedy. The duo turned to composer Brett McLaughlin, known professionally as Leland, who in addition to writing funny songs for “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” has written pop songs for Troye Sivan, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and more.
“Chris and Sarah came to me and just had great references and great examples of what they wanted,” said McLaughlin, who appeared at IndieWire’s Consider This FYC Brunch. “They explained to me not only do we want these songs to be funny and catchy, but Chase needs to evolve and grow as an artist throughout the show. So challenge was the songs had to get better.”
The collaboration started early and was extremely hands-on, with a great deal of back and forth. Kelly and Schneider would provide lyrics for McLaughlin to put a melody and music to. “I then would make suggestions on my end, like ‘I think this word would work better,’ or ‘I think if we rhyme this vowel with this vowel that would make more sense,'” said McLaughlin. “In songwriting a term that we use a lot is, ‘Does this sing well?’ So for me, my job as a curator and composer was to come in and be like, ‘Ok, this sings fine, this sits well on the ear, but it could sing better if we make a few changes.'”
While there are specific pop stars like Justin Bieber who have influenced the Chase character, McLaughlin said that musically the influences were intentionally varied, as Chase’s music moves around different genres of modern pop.
“Sonically, we jumped to different artists because Chase and everyone around him are in an exploratory phase of who he is,” said McLaughlin. “The story in the show is he puts out this song that he does in his bedroom and then songwriters swoop in and take control, and the label comes in and takes control. It is a funny element of the background people trying to capitalize, so when it comes to references so we wanted to go to extremes.”
For “My Brother’s Gay,” McLaughlin went for an up tempo acoustic folk sound that he describes as OneRepublic meets Mumford & Sons. On “Stink” he went completely electro, in the spirit of Charli XCX or Erika Jayne, with Chase sounding like a robot. McLaughlin drew upon his experience knowing how to produce these different type of sounds, but also his insight in how new breakout artists end up with an “over-produced” sound.
“I’ve experienced this as a songwriter working with, and helping develop, new artists,” said McLaughlin. “This is truly a page out of a new artist book that has a song that blows up and then is just trying to play catch-up. That really is the story of Chase in this first season. He’s not even thinking about who he is as an artist, he’s being told and given these songs.”
You can watch McLaughlin talk about how he re-arranged “Stink” for Chase’s VMA appearance in the season finale.
Brett McLaughlin is eligible for “The Other Two” in the Outstanding Music and Lyrics and Outstanding Main Title Theme Music categories.