Raised “culturally and comedically” on All That, The Amanda Show and MADtv, Brett McLaughlin says that TV “was something I always wanted to be a part of.” Now, he is. After writing hits for Troye Sivan and Selena Gomez, the 31-year-old, who calls himself Leland, has been tapped to create lip-sync extravaganzas for the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race and, most recently, fictional teeny-bop anthems for Comedy Central’s The Other Two, which earned a 91 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes after its series premiere.
With chart-topping co-writes and your own budding solo career, why go into TV?
Because there are a lot of obstacles for songwriters to make money, my attitude has always been to diversify your portfolio; instead of having one income stream, have five. This year, I want to develop [my own] show and find a home for it. It’s how a lot of songwriters feel — we want to own things. I’m so happy that the Music Modernization Act passed, but we still have a long way to go in order for songwriters to be fairly compensated. It sometimes feels like we are the last to be paid.
How did you wind up writing music for The Other Two?
Last January, I was at Saturday Night Live with Troye when he was performing, and we were all on a high just from being in that space. While watching him perform, I got to see the sketches and also how it works behind the scenes. I said to my manager, Dani [Russin], “I don’t know how, but I want to work with these people.” A few weeks later, my agent at UTA got me a meeting with [The Other Two creators and former SNL co-head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider]. It was such strange timing. I feel like I got it because it’s the perfect intersection of RuPaul’s Drag Race and pop songs.
What did you learn working with Sivan on his 2018 album, Bloom?
[During the writing process] he was describing songs that are unapologetically queer, and not for the purpose of pushing boundaries, but just for the purpose of being authentic. 2018 was a lot of moments where I was like, “Wait, I am a gay man from south Mississippi who grew up in an extremely conservative home, and my life now is writing with people like Troye, writing for Drag Race, writing for [the 2018 film] Boy Erased, which is about gay conversion therapy.” My life is the polar opposite of the environment I grew up in.