‘American Idol’ Season 18 finalist spotlight: Is Julia Gargano the next Catie Turner or Alejandro Aranda? Katy Perry thinks so!

“Between Catie Turner and Alejandro Aranda, I’ve really seen a spot for me here,” says Julia Gargano, a 22-year old college student from Staten Island, New York hoping to become the next “American Idol.” “I consider myself a songwriter. At age 8 I started taking piano lessons and that’s where the singer-songwriter part of my life began. I can’t picture myself doing anything else. Gargano was one of 20 Season 18 finalists featured on the “American Idol” special, “This is Me” airing on April 12 and April 19 on ABC.

Besides being about music, “American Idol” is about people, their stories and their dreams. Host Ryan Seacrest narrates this deep dive into the contestants where we hear more personal stories, see highlights from their audition process and learn what it took for them to convince judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan to select them as finalists.

Gargano auditioned for the judges with an original composition called “Growing Pains,” inspiring Perry to walk over and give the aspiring musician a hug. “Next season on ‘American Idol’ people are going to say, ‘I came here to audition because I was inspired by Julia,” said Perry. “You are as good as Catie Turner and Alejanro. I think you’re Top 5.”

SEE: ‘American Idol’ schedule update: Live shows start May 3, season 18 finale is May 17

“When Katy said that I was going to be an inspiration to other songwriters, that was too much for me to take in,” Gargano gushes. With the judges high praises in mind, Gargano’s confidence during the Hollywood week genre challenge was shaken. This time she had to perform a cover song, not an original. “Mentally I am gone,” she said. “Not being able to sing an original song is definitely a challenge. It’s definitely psyching me out a little bit.”

SEE ‘American Idol’ Winners: Where Are They Now (Seasons 1 – 17)?

Gargano decided to sing “The Joke” by Brandy Carlile. “Since I can’t sing an original song, I wanted to sing a song that I could perform like it was my own,” says Gargano. Despite her nerves, Gargano’s performance didn’t just win over the judges, it also caught the eye of her idol. Carlile watched the performance and said she enjoyed seeing it.

Gargano rode her wave of good feelings all the way to the Hawaii showcase where she performed “Glitter in the Air” by Pink. That performance convinced the judges to put her in the Top 20. “I love being on ‘American Idol,’ she admits. “It’s definitely scary, but it’s only scary because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and I can’t live there forever. I have gained this new confidence and this new pride that was absent. It wouldn’t have happened without the show.”

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