It has been nearly three years since the world was first introduced to Catie Turner, a retro boot-wearing young artist with overt vocal talent and a powerful secret weapon: sharp songwriting that relates even the most intimate personal experiences to the world around her.
Now, Turner is channeling those distinctive strengths into a full-time music venture with three singles under her belt (so far), all exploring the various obstacles that come with relationships and growing up — something she is experiencing as an up-and-coming artist in real-time.
“It’s been amazing and kind of a challenge in the sense that, now, you are people’s livelihood,” Turner told EUPHORIA. “… I just get to do what I love, and there are so many people who would kill to make music their full-time job. And I’m one of the lucky ones who actually get to say I do, so every day that doesn’t go unappreciated that I get to do this.”
Though it’s much different than “21st Century Machine,” the first taste of Turner’s songwriting as a contestant on American Idol, her latest release “Hide and Seek” follows suit in terms of reflection and critique. This time, her writing takes a reflective look at the rather uneven give-and-take of a relationship.
The song pairs frustration and longing, with Turner asking herself in the lyrics just how far she would go to make the other half of her relationship reciprocate her love with lyrics like, “If I could just play pretend / If I could just disappear / You think you would miss me then?” It’s both daunting and relatable, giving listeners the perfect outlet for the anger and heartbreak that comes with potentially unrequited love and wondering how to strengthen a broken bond.
“Hide and Seek” is perhaps best described by its most concisely crushing line: “If I hide, will you find me?” Filled with uncertainty, the outro to the track says exactly what it means — but it wasn’t always centered on the breaking point of a relationship, though it’s hard to imagine it any other way.
The track now plays out as a narrative about testing the bounds of love (and determining the amount of effort both sides of the pairing are willing to put in to keep things intact), but the original iteration of the song was much darker.
“I kind of went in and I was very morbid. The song is very morbid,” Turner said. “It was like, ‘I will put rocks in my hearse. I want to run away and fake my death and see if anyone would care.’ My manager sees it, and he’s like, ‘No, this is very bad. No, Catie, you’re not going to put rocks in your hearse, I would just fake my death, I would just disappear.’”
It was then that her manager, who Turner describes as “a very talented songwriter,” sat down with Turner to shape the song into what it is now: the story of someone who is determined to know whether a relationship is as one-sided as it feels. “Now, I feel like people can find more relatability, and it’s not basically me, just doing the damn thing,” Turner said.
But the dark realness of Turner’s first draft speaks to her ability to use songwriting as a poetic means of expressing her raw emotion. Much like a journal, putting pivotal moments and thoughts on paper (and in music) becomes somewhat restorative; Turner explained that, in some ways, putting those moments into song makes them more digestible.
“I prefer writing from my own experiences, because it helps me understand my own experiences when I write about them,” Turner said. “It’s basically just how I process things. I have ADHD, so processing for me? A little fucked. I’m like an AOL startup… so, it’s not a really fast process for me to process things. But when I song write, it helps me sort and separate and that’s why songwriting can be so therapeutic.”
Using music as an outlet for experience doesn’t mean that Turner shies away from putting a twist on perspective. In her recent single, “One Day,” Turner chronicles her feelings of uncertainty when a now-ex partner asks her to marry him on the bathroom floor. Though the track is relatable in Turner’s writing, particularly when it comes to the dilemma of moving too fast in a relationship, the real-life events that took place to inspire the song played out a bit differently.
“I feel so bad for my ex because he probably listened to that and went, ‘What the hell, you psycho? You totally were like, ‘Yes!’’ Turner said. “But in my version I put out, I was like, ‘Whoa, this is so fast. Oh my god, I totally didn’t say yes.’ So, getting to release your own narrative and your own perspective of what happened is kind of dangerous but also gives you the power.”
The process of shifting the narrative isn’t a carefree one. “One Day” was written pre-breakup, as Turner describes it, so when the song came up as a potential release with her label, the nerves kicked in. “I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t release this. What if he hears? This is so embarrassing,’” Turner said.
Though it’s a fear that Turner was able to overcome for that song in particular, it doesn’t take away the vulnerability that came with releasing each of her singles thus far. Songwriting sessions are somewhat like therapy for Turner, so it comes as no surprise that knowing who will be listening to the finished product isn’t at the forefront of her mind when she begins searching for lyrics.
“When I write songs, I never really think about people hearing them,” Turner said. “And then they come out and I’m like, ‘Oh word, so now they’re out for people to hear,” because it’s just like diary entries about that one specific point in my life.”
Just as each of the tracks represents a variation of Turner’s experiences, the sonic presentation of each single showcases a varied sound, though Turner explained that she isn’t inspired sonically (at least, not consciously). What she knows for certain, though, is that she isn’t interested in being boxed into other people’s assumptions about the music she creates.
“I never really have a theme going in of what I want it to sound like, but I guess sonically just something more than an acoustic guitar,” Turner said. “That was my only goal sonically.” Turner continued, “Because people see a girl who writes on an acoustic guitar and they immediately go, ‘Folk. You are a folk singer, and you live in the cornfield and you just love drinking iced tea in Texas somewhere.’ And it’s like no, I’m not a folk Americana singer. This is just my way to be like, ‘I can make pop music.’”
While she might not realize it during the writing and production process, all ears are on Turner. Her fanbase brings over 670,000 monthly listeners on Spotify alone, with placements on playlists like Spotify’s Chill Pop and the Fresh Finds Class of 2019. Plus, with a label behind her new ventures, she is certainly among this year’s artists to watch.
Like pillars, both Turner’s artistic identity and fanbase are growing side by side. Turner is deeply introspective as a writer, and her emotional maturity echoes throughout her creative work.
She isn’t exactly the same Turner she was on American Idol, but it’s no secret that the experience helped shape her. “I still feel like, even two years after that, I’m still trying to learn who I want to be, and it changes every day,” Turner said.
“One Day,” “Play God,” and “Hide and Seek,” though certainly markers of her triumph as a solo artist, aren’t the end-all, be-all of who Turner is; she hasn’t quite figured out who that is yet, either. But it’s safe to say that Turner’s 20s are off to a bold, emotional and successful start, and “Hide and Seek” is just the latest indicator of her evolution as a creative.