It was the first season of the new and improved American Idol when we met Catie Turner. Back in March 2018 when Turner entered that audition door and Katy Perry said how she already loves her, was what everyone at home was thinking too. Turner performed her original song “21st Century Machine,” which connected with many people. The song went to have major success and immediately fans starting following her to hear more music. Since then, Turner has released her song “Prom Queen” and her debut EP called The Sad Vegan. ECHO had the chance to chat with Turner about her EP and her American Idol audition.
How are you?
I’m good. Everything is pretty cool. I’m wearing clip-on earrings now; a new experiment for me. So I kind of feel like a bad b*tch recently. Earrings just make you look like you put more effort in than you actually did, but I never commit to anything so …except for relationships. My boyfriend’s right there. Clip-on earrings – the new wave. But yeah, that wasn’t the question. It was how are your doing? I’m doing great.
You recently released you debut EP, The Sad Vegan. What was the creative process for that like?
It was just writing songs and hoping that they didn’t suck. That was the key to the process. I was writing a bunch of songs and then hating a lot of them and then going with the ones I hated the least. The creative process was a lot of picking, choosing, hating and then narrowing down on just six songs. That was my creative process. Pretty boring, but pretty straight forward.
Why did you name it, The Sad Vegan?
This is what people are going to know me for after Idol. My manager was trying to figure out what to name it and I was feeling a lot of pressure. I was putting so much pressure on myself and having so much stress. Then I just joked like ‘oh the sad vegan’ and then it kind of stuck. I don’t take myself too seriously and people remember that on the show. It just kind of summed it up. I don’t take myself too seriously, I just like to have fun. I like to poke fun at myself a lot; so it just kind of happened. A joke turned into reality. That’s pretty much a lot of what happens in my life.
Do you have a favorite song off of the EP and why?
My favorite song off of the EP is “Home” because it is one of the ones that I wrote completely by myself. I co-write or write all of my music. I’m always a credited writer. And I always like, at least, writing around 50% or more of a song to call it my own and to call it my own thoughts. “Home” was just a complete stream of consciousness at 1 a.m. I just feel like I was in a really vulnerable state. It shows me falling in love for the first time. It was really intimate. I just love how pretty it is. It’s really embarrassing talking about it because my boyfriend is right there.
You auditioned for Idol with an original song, “21st Century Machine.” Did you ever think auditioning with an original song was a big risk?
It was actually my second audition choice; so it was the second song I sang when I auditioned. They just edited out the first song. Thank god! I actually wasn’t going to sing “21st Century Machine,” but my Mom forced me. I was like ‘No,that’s the wrong idea. I’m not doing it.’ And she was like ‘you should do it.’ I was like, ‘Fine mom. I just hope you know that my first song is going to go totally better.’ I didn’t and it sucked. I sang “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears and that was way more nerve wracking than singing my original song because I bombed it so badly that when I got to “21st Century Machine” I was like f it. I don’t think I’m making it. So whatever happens just do it. But it still it was very nerve wracking because I understood where I was. I was so nervous; so I sang it a little more indie than I do. I was like who was that? I was like why am I doing the indie girl in the kitchen vine impression during my audition? Definitely, nerve wracking, but I knew if I went out badly, at least I would know that Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan heard my original song and that I tried and maybe they would take pity on me. I got three yeses so it worked. Lionel loved me from the minute I sang. He was clapping like a proud grandparent and Katy looked at me and was wincing a little. I was like I’m going down, I’m yelling timber – Kesha and Pitbull’s 2013 hit. But then when Katy said all these nice things about my songwriting and how I’m a role model or I really talk about how it’s like for women in the 21st century- all these high praise from Katy perry. Like she wrote “The One That Got Away.” Let’s all digest that. It was amazing.
Was there any pressure releasing your first single, “Prom Queen” after such praise for “21st Century Machine”?
I go into everything realistically. I’m a dreamer, but I’m a logical dreamer; which sometimes contradicts itself. I just knew in my head, when I released “Prom Queen” that this won’t do as well as “21st Century Machine.” Going in there, I knew it wasn’t going to get the same publicity it did. It doesn’t have the platform it did, but I want to show people that I can still songwrite and I was passionate in the message. I was more like releasing it just to be out there. Just for the message. Just for other people to listen to it and relate to it. I did not release “Prom Queen” thinking, ‘this will get me the Grammy.’ It was more like, ‘Hey guys. I still songwrite about stuff; so here you go.’ “Prom Queen” was to keep people engaged. The pressure really came with the EP because “Prom Queen” and “21st Century Machine” are more acoustic. They’re more downers. Well, “21st Century Machine” isn’t necessarily a downer, but you don’t listen to it to get krunk. This EP had to have something different. I couldn’t just be a one tiered artist.
You just finished up two live shows. How was the reaction from the audience?
Incredible. When I was on the Idol tour, it would be really cool to sing “Part of Me” by Katy Perry and say ‘sing’ and everybody would sing back, obviously because it was a Katy Perry song. It was a different experience at my hometown show in Philly because there were 400 people there and they sang back every single word to every song. I literally put out my mic once just for “Prom Queen” and they sang it. It was just one or two people scattered – the whole crowd. I just didn’t know what to do with myself. It was surreal. You go from the Idol tour; which is amazing and I really appreciate everyone who came out to that, but it’s so different hearing people sing back your own work that you lose sleep over. It made it all worth it.
Are you a ginger?
I don’t know. I’m still confused because I always thought when I was growing up that I had brown hair. Then I get on American Idol and everybody was like ‘the Ginger Girl with the Go-go boots’ and I was like ‘oh, shit. I guess I’m ginger. That’s really cool.’ I was really happy to hear I’m a ginger. I’ll consider myself a ginger because that’s way cooler than just saying I have brown hair.
What’s it like being one of the few ginger musicians in the industry?
Well, it’s amazing being a ginger. I didn’t know for a long time that I was one until the ginger’s really took me in. Some people said I was strawberry blonde or something. But the ginger’s, they really took me in and made me one of their own and it feels really good. It’s pretty freakin awesome to be considered a ginger. Don’t know how many ginger girl singers there are. We’ve got Ed Sheeran, but you know, if I can claim the title as one of the few ginger girl artists. I will wear it with pride.
You’re a huge Jonas Brother fan. Are you excited for the tour and would you want to open for them?
I’d faint. One of the weird things in LA is that everyone is kind of used to it. I’m getting better. People are just so numb to famous people and to a certain extent I am. Like I’ll see a viner walk by and I’ll be like oh that’s cool. But there are some celebrities that you will never get over who they are and the Jonas Brothers, for me, are that. I don’t think I could be in the same room with them. I met Nick Jonas on the show. They literally had to drag me in to meet him because I was so scared and they covered my eyes so I couldn’t see him. And then they said ‘open your eyes.’ Then I just screamed. The Jonas Brothers aren’t real. They’re just aliens. They’re the aliens from Area 51 that America is hiding. Yeah, you could say I’m pretty excited. Really big fan.
You performed with Meghan Trainor and AJ Mitchell for the 4th of July. What was that like?
Again, some people are so numb to famous people, but I was numb in the weirdest way because I saw Meghan Trainor and I instantly was like oh you’re a normal girl. You’re really cool and I love you Meghan Trainor, but then I saw her husband who played Juni Cortez in Spy Kids and I lost my cool. Meghan love you girl. Look at your Grammy. Look at all your success, but oh my god your Husband. And I would just stare at him and when we’d walk past in the hallway, I’d be like [gasp]. It was a really cool experience and I owe Meghan everything for even letting me have that chance. I’m still awkward on stage. I’ve got to work on that. You would think it would get better, but I just talk way too much like I’m doing right now. But 10/10. Would do it again.
Talk a little bit about owning your unique personality.
I just remember the Idol tour gave me – not Caleb the charismatic one or Gabby who knows how to own her shit, but Catie as many talking points as they could. Why? Who’s idea was this. So I would just stand on stage and I was like ‘Thank you… Hi Mom…so the next song…the next person singing… uh.’ I could see people cringing. It was painful. But now it’s good to be a solo artist because people just know to expect that I will be awkward and weird. That’s pretty cool. I don’t have to explain myself anymore. I just am who I am now.
You post a lot of covers. How do you pick the song and how do you make it your own?
It takes a lot of trial and error. It takes singing some songs to myself in my bedroom and going this ain’t it and then sometimes I’ll delete covers like that wasn’t it I don’t know why I thought was it, but that ain’t it. I usually just try to make it my own by doing different chords, but still staying true to the song. I pick the songs based off what I like, but what’s hard is that you have to remember you have to promote yourself and people have to listen to your music. So you kind of have to know what’s popular a little bit. So it’s taking those pop song that I wouldn’t necessarily listen to all the time by myself casually, but I’m like I could make this into more my own style and slow it down or speed it up. It’s just kind of that. It’s just taking something and doing something with puzzle pieces to make it more my own.
What’s one piece of advice that you would want to ECHO out to your fans?
I remember Katy Perry and I only had one rehearsal to do “Part of Me.” It was a 15 minute rehearsal, but in those 15 minutes Katy just said don’t let them change you. Don’t let anybody tell you who you are. I think that really stuck with me because the music industry can be brutal. It’s a lot of trying to change yourself to get your big break. It’s a lot of – I don’t want to get my big break not being me. If I never get my big break, at least I know that I was 100% Catie at the end of the day. I didn’t have to change my hair or act a certain way just because it would get me somewhere. I didn’t. I don’t want to waste my time being somebody else. I want to ECHO that to the people who are listening. Life is too short to try and impress people. The real people who you would want in your life are going to appreciate you just as you are.