Karly Driftwood Part I: Too Mean To Die
You might take a glance at Karly Driftwood and think she’s pretty. She is.
You might even hear her voice and think it’s sweet. It is.
You might hear her music and think it’s a little pop-ish. That’s okay. It is. She likes it that way.
But then if you took a moment to listen to her words, you might think, “Wait. Did I hear that right? Did she just say…?” And you wouldn’t be the first.
In fact, Karly was once booted off stage at The Listening Room, one of the biggest songwriter rooms in Nashville. And it's booked by invitation only. It just happened that a fan of Karly's occasionally did some booking there. So she was invited, booked to play, and did her thing. And here’s what happened.
“They pulled me off in the middle of my set and told me to leave. It was wild. They said my music was too intense for that audience. They just couldn’t handle it. I was singing about getting fucked and crime and drugs and this stuff. And it’s funny because the owner told me I didn’t fit their family-friendly environment, but all the staff was telling me, we really like you. The people that were there though, were into it, and were coming up to me. I had friends that were there that could hear people talking and saying how much they loved it.”
You might call Karly Driftwood’s music polarizing. She gets it. Sometimes “people can’t handle stuff that makes them uncomfortable,” she told OKR’s Melissa Payne. Her lyrics can be a shock, but in the best of ways; the “nobody-else-is-saying-this-but-it’s-one-hundred-percent-true” kind of way. That’s because more than anything, Karly wants her music to be relatable, and as real and honest as possible. So if that means she’s gonna talk about what it feels like to be some guy’s drunk-dialed, “backseat bitch,” that’s what she’s gonna do, because the chances are, someone can relate. And she’s gonna tell you that she still “gives him the ride of his life,” in essence, because she likes it. She knows someone needs to hear they’re not the only one going through this.
Karly calls her sound “Southern Gothic Pop,” but as a music lover herself, which so many of us can relate to, it’s hard to nail her music choices or her influences down to just a single genre. And just a cursory glance of the music and songwriters she loves, gives you a glimpse into that as well. Drive By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Tyler Childers, and Eminem are all some of her favorites; all lyricists of the genius variety who aren’t known for mincing words or trying to cover shit up by turning a pretty, poetic phrase or two. She’d love to write for a rapper like Drake or Two Chainz because she loves rap, a love she acquired while working in a strip club for 6 years. “I lived that kind of life. Hung out with millionaires, been bougie in the club…So like, I don’t care that some people don’t like that I’m explicit, because the Top 40 music is explicit. Rap music is explicit.”
And yes, you read all of that correctly. No mincing words, right?
You see, just like her music, Karly Driftwood defies labels and genres in her personal life as well.
She grew up an only child just outside of Richmond, Virginia. She was quiet and liked to read. And she was bullied by her schoolmates. She remembers her mom having to wash her bleeding knees in the tub because she’d been tripped as she was getting off the bus. They called her ugly and made fun of her hair and teeth. Well, the joke’s on them now because Karly used that early rejection to prepare her for the real world. In her words, “Everyone wants it and only like 3 can win. You can’t let people get you down.”
That mentality has served her well since, because that goth kid eventually found a guitar and that guitar became the vehicle for her thoughts put to tune. She tried her hand at modeling in NYC, hoping to fulfill her childhood dreams of being a singer somehow, only to be slapped in the face by failure. So she went home to Richmond and started mortuary school, not forgetting that guitar and her love for country music. She knew she wanted to record an album, and she was prepared to use that spitfire-not-taking-any-shit-from-anyone mentality to get it done. She knew how to make money for the record, though she didn’t really want to become a dancer; and that path eventually became a song title (“Stripped My Way to Nashville”). She stripped her way to Nashville, literally, yes; but she stripped her way into the life she chose, the career she wanted, and wrote it all out in the good and the bad, not giving a damn what anyone had to say about it.
Have you heard the album (Too Mean To Die) yet? Are you intrigued to hear what it sounds like when a modern-day outlaw-woman who loves rap records her own album on her own terms? You should be, because it’s fire.
We’ll break it all down for you in part two; Karly Driftwood: The Proof is in the Pudding…err...Cake
For more on Karly Driftwood: karlydriftwood.com