Catie Turner made a splash when she performed her original song “21st Century Machine” for her American Idol audition in New York City last year. She was eliminated at Top 7 after forgetting the words to the Bangles “Manic Monday” but she wouldn’t change a thing about a whirlwind year full of learning experiences.
Now, the 19 year old Langhorne, Pennsylvania native has taken the ups and downs she has experienced over the past year and turned them into new songs. Her latest, “Prom Queen” is about never feeling able to measure up to your peers. Catie shares that getting the words out was “therapeutic” and hopes her fans find the song relatable.
I recently chatted with Catie on the phone about her songwriting, what she has learned the past year since leaving the show, last summer’s Idol tour and more! “Prom Queen” is available to download and stream right now.
You just turned 19 on February 14. Happy Birthday!
Thank you so much. I don’t feel any different. I just feel a heck of a lot older!
What did you do on your birthday?
I slept in! I wish I could tell you that I did something wild. I went home for my birthday. I slept in until 11. Nobody made me a birthday breakfast, I just slept in. Got a shower. Then I went to see my boyfriend. That was pretty good. It’ was simple. It was nice, I aged.
Are you living in Los Angeles now?
No. What I do is stay with [American Idol Top 50 alum] Noah Davis on his couch! It’s like a little Idol commune here.
You still have close relationships with the people you competed with.
It’s so weird when people remind me that we were all competing. It never really felt like that, at all. I’m still very close, I still want [them all to succeed]. Like Gabby Barrett right now, is number 16 on the country charts, and that’s amazing. It means that somebody from your season is doing good. It’s like watching your kid grow up.
Who do you talk to the most from your season?
Maddy [Poppe], Caleb [Hutchinson] and Noah probably.
You guys seem to be pretty busy on social media. It’s fun to watch your conversations.
Somehow I still third wheel Maddie and Caleb on social media! I don’t know how that’s possible. Because it’s virtual. But somehow I’m still always the third wheel.
It’s been a year since your season of American Idol ended. How did that experience affect your life?
It affected my life in so many ways. I’ve grown so much. And things are now available to me. This is going to sound so cliche. Where I’m from is a small town. And there’s nothing to do for music there. I would never picture myself in LA having meetings and doing an interview…Idol has made my life and my dreams possible.
Has there been a downside? Have you experienced any struggles in the meantime?
It was more getting used to the fact that people could comment on my life. And you can’t help it! People are going to comment on you when you’re on TV. But it was very hard. I came from high school and one day on a whim I said ‘I’m going to audition,’ and I got through with very limited performance expertise. I was just thrust onto a stage. I would read comments about me saying “untalented!” “Annoying!” “Fake!” “Awful!” Everything you did was under a microscope. Getting used to that was hard. But I also needed it to grow. I think I’m a stronger person because of it.
It can be hard. I had to teach myself on social media not to react. To let things slide.
If you saw me in May of last year if somebody so much as tweeted “Catie is annoying” I would go at their jugular. Now I look back and I’m like ‘Why did I do that? You gave them attention.’
You came into American Idol as a songwriter. You got to sing your own song when you auditioned on the show. Could you talk a little bit about how your songwriting has changed over the year since Idol?
I think with more life experiences [since] Idol I have more to write about. My world isn’t as small. I wrote “21st Century Machine” about people in high school pressuring me to smoke weed. Now I have so many topics that are at my fingertips that I can dive into. That’s how my songwriting is going. I’m growing every time I have another experience, I’m adding another topic I can write about to my arsenal.
Your new song “Prom Queen” comes out on Friday. It’s a little bit of a bittersweet song. How do your own life experiences informe the lyrics?
[The title] “Prom Queen” sounds like it’s going to be a bop–a pop song. But it’s actually the opposite. It’s about how I was in a dark place. It came from a very dark place in my life post-Idol where I was confused about everything because no one really tells you after Idol what to do. They give you your briefcase and they’re like–here you go! And you’re like But what do I do now? Bye season 2, here we come! It was dealing with these overwhelming emotions of what’s to come. What am I doing? Was I meant to do this? And feeling like–kind of like I’m never going to be the Prom Queen. I’m never going to be the best. But then when I got it out, it was therapeutic. Now, I want to release it because it’s such a relatable concept, that I hope I can make somebody out there feel not as alone too when they listen to it.
Have you been writing a lot of songs in the past year?
Yes! Mostly garbage. Don’t get me wrong. Songwriting is like unclogging the pipes. I have so many songs that sound like a botched winner’s single! I’ve been writing a lot because I have a lot more to say, cause I have a lot more going on in my life.
Have you been collaborating with other songwriters?
Yeah. They’re interesting. It shows me that people’s’ brains work so differently than your own, but in the best way possible. It’s like solving a puzzle. I can be stumped for five minutes and somebody throws out the perfect lyric that was easy enough for me. I should have known the whole time but it was never something that my brain formed. But somebody else’s did. It’s very teamwork oriented, and I love it.
Is there anybody you are collaborating with that we might know?
Oh, there’s none you know. I wrote a song with a contestant who is going to be on season 2. I can’t say how far this person has gotten, but I will say that I’m very proud of them and you should tune in to see their journey March 3. We just hit it off! It was two weeks before their audition. They said “I don’t even know if I should audition.” And I’m like “You should totally go after it!”
You don’t want to have any regrets!
That’s literally my whole experience with Idol. I don’t even regret “Manic Monday.” Every decision whether bad or good was my own. I just did it my way to the very end. I went out with no regrets, even though I crashed and burned! Even then I can still look back and laugh about it. I got a good Thanksgiving story out of that performance. I can’t be mad.
Are you working on an album?
I don’t know about an album, but I am definitely working towards an EP. I hope that I can get that out to everybody this year. But more singles to come! “Prom Queen” is not going to be the end of these singles. I’m just trying to make this the year of music.
You have been playing a few gigs out in Los Angeles. What has that been like?
It’s been fun. It’s been more intimate gigs so I’ve had less pressure. If I mess up, I mess up. It’s been a very nice cozy setting. It’s been weird being back on stage without the Idol brand attributed to my name. Which is bittersweet because I do miss the Idol tour. But it’s been very rewarding.
That must have been quite the experience to go out to bigger venues and play your music in front of crowds. Which is something you didn’t do prior to Idol.
I’ve learned a lot. The biggest thing I’ve learned are that touring is not as glamorous as people make it out to be. There are crumbs everywhere! You will find a crumb in your bunk. You’re like ‘How can there be so much food?’ You eat a lot because your schedule is messed up. But you also become so much closer with everybody, because these people are your rocks. They were your rock on the show, like me and Maddie were already close. But on tour, just being together all the time through a stressful situation, just bonded us in way I didn’t think possible. She’s my Iowan sister.
Did the Idol tour experience make you more prone to look forward to your own tour at some point, or not.
I would love to go back touring. It’s so fun to have a new audience every night and feel the energy from the crowd. It’s infectious, and I would love to do it all over again.
What was it like touring with American Idol season 8 winner Kris Allen? (Kris performed and served as MC on the tour) Was it a good thing to have somebody who had won the show and been out pursuing a career the last 10 years or so.
It’s nice to see how your life can change from the show. Music is his job full time and that’s something that–maybe it’s not like selling out stadiums Ariana Grande level of fame. But he can support his family for the rest of his life just doing what he loves–music. For me that was just ‘Wow, that’s amazing! That’s incredible.’ He is so kind and he is sickeningly talented. I think he knows it (laughs). He’s just incredible. It’s weird because I remember growing up I was a huge American Idol fan. I watched it with my family. I remember that Katharine McPhee not winning was my first experience of scandal and heartbreak. I watched Kris Allen and Adam Lambert season. Him being there was kind of a full circle moment.
Did he operate as kind of like a den father to the group?
Yes. And he let me kind of tease him a little, which was nice. We had a good relationship. He’s the most laid back person ever. I’ve never seen him mad or anything other than chill and easy going and go with the flow. He’s so humble.
On uploading a cover of Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head on my Shoulder.”
Basically, I was trying to think of ways to promote “Prom Queen” and find ways that I could talk about it without it just becoming monotonous. I love vintage-y 50s voices–like jazz. And everything from the 50s and the 60s. I was thinking, what song would I want to slow dance to? I remembered “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” by Paul Anka. I got my Harry Styles cut out and I went to town.
Didn’t you meet Harry recently?
I wish I had met him! It was more of an awkward interaction where I was at the studio, and I see a guy from behind and I look. I’m like “that guy looks a lot like Harry Styles.” He turns around and my mouth just dropped. I mustered up the dirtiest look I could ever give and I just stared at him. It wasn’t a dirty look out of disgust, it was “I’m so confused right now, are you real? Is this happening?” And he just stared at me. Kind of gave me a half confused smile and then walked right past me. At least with Nick Jonas I could give a squeal! I could fan girl. I couldn’t do anything I was just numb. It was awful.
Well he ambushed you! You turn around, and there is Harry Styles, man. I would freak out too!
At least Nick Jonas I had time [to figure out] what to do. He was my second childhood crush. But with this, it was the best way to go about things. Because if I had known he was there, I would have actually refused to go over. He scares me!
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I hope people are tuning into season 2 because the talent this year is great. This is just me, based on wanting to see the show do well. I hope that people who gave me support continue to give the contestants the support this year. They really deserve it. Because they are so talented. I hope that people listen to my music, I hope they like it. If they don’t, I guess they can leave a comment on your blog!