After writing about the road on this week's Platinum Hit (Sundays, 10/9c, Bravo), Nashville-based songwriter Karen Waldrup was told to hit it. She was blasted for her lyrics, although ironically the couplet that received the most flak — "I was put here for a reason / And I want the world to see it" — could be the battle cry for reality stars everywhere. Not that Waldrup would know. As she gears up for a tour of the South this summer and an industry showcase at Nashville's 12th & Porter, she tells us that before she was cast, she never watched a reality show. Also discussed: her hunger, her team and her letting go of the idea that her songs are her children.
You had quite an emotional exit.
Karen: It was a little overwhelming, but I tried to keep my grace and dignity. I think my parents raised me with a lot of strength. I just tried to stand up there and keep myself together while I was taking all the critiques. But I did not expect to be cut at all.
Was it tough to relive that by watching it?
Karen: Not really. We filmed this thing and I knew exactly what was going to happen. I have capitalized on the exposure as much as possible. My team has done an amazing job just getting my name out there.
It says something about the state of your career if you have a team. Most people on reality TV don't have teams.
Karen: Absolutely. I moved to Nashville three years ago, and I've been every single day just growing a little bit more. I moved here from New Orleans and I did not know one single person. I just started playing writers nights and co-writing with people I've met. It's grown from there: opening up for big names, releasing three albums, being on a national television show, being on a summer tour. I think for me right now it's about getting a record deal, playing out as much as possible, keeping this buzz going.
From what you're saying, it sounds like you're interested in being more than a songwriter.
Karen: Playing out live makes me tick. I want to be a performing artist. I am a touring artist. For me, it's just a matter of getting the right opportunity. I've been really wise about where I'm guiding this career and to me it's like a little snake: it just goes where it's supposed to go.
How was the reality TV pressure-cooker situation for you?
Karen: Being on a reality show for me was a little different than it was for everyone else. I had never seen a reality show. I don't watch TV. I just play music all the time. If I am not sleeping, I am playing my guitar ... or doing a gig or working on my website. It is a constant thing. I didn't even have cable till I was cast on this show. So I went in there kind of blind. I didn't really know what a confessional was. I didn't know what people typically say. I think that was a blessing because the pressure wasn't on for me. It was just: "Dude, I'm gonna be who I am and I'm not gonna talk bad about everybody else because that's not who I am." I think ultimately that was the best thing for me, because if you think about who I am as an artist and what my image is, it's not this catty girl who gets on national television and makes a fool out of herself. My image is this Southern girl who writes, jams out on the guitar and blows your socks away when you hear her live.
What about having to come up with a hook in 30 minutes?
Karen: That was probably the easiest part for me. What I struggle with is lyrics, I think we saw that throughout the show. I'm doing a lot more reading and trying to grow in that area.
Jackie called your lyrics "elementary." Did that offend you?
Karen: When people say things about my lyrics, it's kind of like saying something about my child. You don't want to hear it, but you're going to. It comes along with life. People said way worse things about other people's work on the show. I'll take the fact that my lyrics were a little elementary. I think the show taught me not to treat every lyric like it's my baby, or feel like I'm married to everything I write. It's just the beginning for me. This music thing is not going away, and I'm only going to grow.
I can tell that you're hungry, too.
Karen: Oh honey, I'm starvin'.