‘21st Century Machine’ was inspired by peer pressure felt in high school to do drugs
By Samantha Bambino
In March, Langhorne’s own Catie Turner became a household name across the country when she competed on season 16 of American Idol. With her unassuming persona, quirky style and rich voice, the recent Neshaminy grad quickly became a frontrunner in the competition, advancing week after week and landing a coveted spot in the top seven.
Unfortunately, nerves got the best of Turner that week, and she was sent home after stumbling on the lyrics to “Manic Monday” by The Bangles. That could’ve been the end of Turner’s career. She could’ve thrown in the towel after that crushing blow. But giving up simply wasn’t an option. Turner still had some fight left in her, and wasn’t about to become one of those Idol contestants to fade away after their elimination, never to be heard from again.
For the past several months, Turner has been traveling regularly to Los Angeles and Nashville, writing and producing music in an effort to launch her post-Idol career. On Nov. 22, Turner released on iTunes and Amazon her first single, “21st Century Machine,” an original song she penned at only 15. With minimal promotion on social media, the track reached №34 on the iTunes pop charts and top 50 on Amazon. In the midst of her excitement over her single’s success, and before she jetted back to L.A. for another week-long writing session, The Times caught up with Turner to talk lessons learned on Idol, the inspiration behind “21st Century Machine,” the pros and cons of California life, and the love she’s still feeling from her Bucks County community.
To say Turner has been busy since the world last saw her on the American Idol finale, during which she sang a chilling duet of “Part of Me” with Katy Perry, would be an understatement. After the show ended, the top seven embarked on a cross country tour, which proved to be an unforgettable experience for Turner.
“I went to, I think, 30 states and we had 48 shows. It was my whole summer from early July to mid-September. I was in a tour bus with my best friends seeing the country, so that was pretty fun,” she said. “It taught me a lot. I mean, oh gosh, you learn a lot about yourself when you’re thrown onto a stage. So many awkward jokes were made. But hey, that’s showbiz.”
Once the tour wrapped up, Turner got to work, flying out to L.A. as often as she could and becoming a pro at booking airBNBs.
“I’m just doing everything I can to make this a sustainable career for the rest of my life because I really don’t want to go to college,” she said.
Based on the early success of “21st Century Machine,” which received praise from Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie when she sang it on Idol, it doesn’t look like Turner needs to apply for student loans just yet. For her, the deeply personal single holds a twofold purpose — to officially mark the end of her American Idol journey and welcome the next chapter.
“It was during high school. It was my sophomore year, and I was getting pressured for the first time to do things, you know, like drugs. They always tell you about it in sixth grade and it never really happens until it does, and you’re like, this is what I was prepared for in D.A.R.E. class,” Turner said. “I was just frustrated about how I was the minority for not doing drugs. I was seen as the non-cool one. So I was like, fine, I’m going to write a song about how I feel and it just poured out of me.”
“21st Century Machine” was well-received by Turner’s strong social media following, much to her disbelief. It was just something she wrote in her downstairs basement with an electric guitar, which she admitted she had no idea how to play.
“It was even more crazy that it was eight months after my episode on American Idol aired and people still really cared about that song to make it something,” she said.
Though Turner is taking her growing music career one day at a time, her goal is to release an EP or album in 2019 that showcases her authentic self.
“There’s definitely a pressure after you’re on such a big TV show to make the most of your platform and sometimes you can get caught up in just being known as one thing. I never want to be stuck in the box of Catie Turner, American Idol contestant,” she said. “I’m going to try and get a body of work out and keep pursuing music and keep writing the music that I intend to write and hopefully, by next 2020, I end up at the Grammys.”
As Turner prepares for what lies ahead, she’s taking some invaluable wisdom gained during the competition with her on the journey.
“I learned that I can do it. That sounds cheesy but when I entered American Idol, I was a completely different person. I mean, I’m still weird so not that different,” she said with a laugh. “I just really grew in confidence in the sense that I know I can do it now. I know I’m worthy of more than just singing in my bedroom.”
Even with this newfound confidence, Turner is still that down-to-earth girl from Langhorne. And she’s always willing to meet local fans, even on those days she skipped the mascara.
“I went to the Oxford Valley Mall with my friend and I looked botched. I was just with my friend at the Oxford Valley Mall in the food court and five people came up to me and were like, oh my God you’re Catie! And I’m like, wow,” she said. “I still feel the support and it means a lot.”
Turner will always consider Langhorne her home, though she said if her career someday calls for it, she would become a California resident…somewhat willingly.
“Listen. I think California, it’s fun but I don’t know if I can afford the lifestyle of $5 tea drinks every day. It’s really expensive,” she said. “And everyone there’s really healthy. Kombucha? They don’t have blood. They only have kombucha.”
So maybe a permanent move to the West Coast is still up in the air, but one thing is for sure — Turner’s undying love for her signature knee-high gogo boots. Does she still have the full collection in her closet?
“Uh, yes I do. I’m whipping them out for Christmas,” she said. “Those bright red ones, are you kidding? I’ll never let them die.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com