Karen Waldrup is advertised as a triple-threat talent — a singer, songwriter and captivating performer.
Her fourth gift might be marketing.
The Mandeville native has built an international fanbase by taking her own route and directly connecting with country music lovers online through music videos and social media. She considers herself a pioneer, a model for the new independent artist who shapes her own destiny.
“All I have to do is what God called me to do, and that is play music and make people happy,” she said.
Waldrup will celebrate the release of her new album, “Justified,” at The Grouse Room in Lafayette on Friday night. Waldrup and her band will play the album in its entirety.
“We’re going to have a good time and celebrate all the hard work,” she said.
In the past two years, Waldrup has built Waldrup Worldwide, a community of 450,000 fans. She’s doing it without support from the traditional Nashville establishment. She’s using her voice, her ebullient personality and her wits.
“There have been a lot of things in my career that have been scary, but in other ways, they have been wonderful in the end,” Waldrup said.
Waldrup graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in marketing, and she moved to Nashville in 2008.
“You know how musically rich south Louisiana is,” Waldrup said. “Growing up there, it kind of got in my blood when I was really young. I was always singing in choirs. Whenever I graduated from college, I was like, I could do this. I could do this as a job.”
In Music City, she sold copiers for three years before she established herself as a full-time musician. In 2011, Waldrup competed on “Platinum Hit,” a reality show for singer-songwriters on Bravo. She was eliminated after three weeks, but she made connections and broadened her reach.
“I’ve been playing country music since, just doing my thing,” she said.
She has toured constantly and released four albums. Waldrup recorded “Justified” with a little help from her fans, launching a campaign on a crowdfunding website in November 2016 to finance the new album.
That month, a fan requested Waldrup cover the Lee Ann Womack hit “I Hope You Dance.” With just her guitar, she recorded a heartfelt solo version in one take and shared the video online. It received 25 million views on Facebook, and her new album was soon funded. The viral hit helped her fanbase swell.
“It is so valuable and rich in connections with people,” she said of her online community. “You give people an opportunity to be a part of what you’re doing, and they become a promoter of your brand.”
Each “Waldrup Wednesday” — there’s that marketing degree at work — she drops a new video, sometimes chosen from fan requests. She’s covered Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Leonard Cohen and many more.
Her new album features touches of traditional country and blues and rock. Waldrup wrote or co-wrote nine of the 11 songs on “Justified.” She co-wrote the first single, “What Goes on in This Bar (Stays in This Bar).”
“That’s honky-tonk amnesia we’re all sipping in a jar,” she sings to a swinging honky-tonk rhythm, “because what goes on in this bar stays in this bar.”
This album is a reflection of who she is and where she was raised, Waldrup said.
“I feel like it came from my roots,” she said. “I was not afraid to put a horn section on this record. I bring a saxophone player every single time I play a show. I don’t care. I bring a saxophone player because I’m from south Louisiana and I play washboard and I sing my ass off and I have a good time.”
The new album is available for preorder at www.karenwaldrup.com/store as well as all digital outlets. "Sometime He Does" and "What Goes On In This Bar (Stays in This Bar)" are available to stream now on Spotify.
WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Grouse Room, 1919 Kaliste Saloom Road, Lafayette
COST: $15 to $100, tickets available at eventbrite.com