Karly Driftwood “ain’t got shit to hide,” and she made that perfectly clear on her debut album, “Too Mean to Die.”
The Richmond native has lived a lot of life over her first quarter century, from modeling to stripping to attending mortuary school; but all roads lead to the release of her debut album “Too Mean to Die,” which showcases Driftwood in her truest form.
Although there were several stops along the way to pursuing a career in music, Driftwood found comfort in words and melodies at an early age.
“I’m an only child. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, so I used to read a lot. My original dream was to write books,” says Driftwood. “I asked my dad if I could take guitar lessons when I was in third grade. That made me realize that I could combine what I was writing with what I was playing.”
While digesting artists such as Aerosmith, Alice in Chains, and the Stone Temple Pilots, Driftwood did just that, growing a love for the art of music.
But as deep as that love was, the relationship became strained as she entered her high school years.
“I got so into partying that I didn’t even care about music,” says Driftwood. “I was all fucked up, and I was feeling good all fucked up.”
In the midst of her partying, music once again started to called Driftwood’s name, and she realized that it was time to answer the call.
“I realized that partying was fun, but it wasn’t as fun anymore,” says Driftwood. “I realized that I needed to find out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I needed to start hustling towards what my life goals were, and that was music.”
Music would be put on hold again as Driftwood was offered and signed a modeling contract at 15 years-old, and moved to New York City.
“I started forgetting about writing music again,” says Driftwood. “I get really into things really fast. If you put an idea in my head, I’m going to go crazy over it.”
Driftwood began to come to the realization modeling was not the path for her, and with the expenses of living in New York mounting, Driftwood began stripping in order to make ends meet.
“I met this girl who was 19, and she had a really nice apartment in Manhattan. I asked her how she made so much money, and she said that she was a cocktail waitress,” says Driftwood. “She said to just go on Craigslist and look up cocktail waitresses, so I did. I went to the address, and it was a strip club.”
Driftwood ran into the girl at the club, who suggested she try her hand at dancing.
“The next night I went to dance. I was so scared, and ended up taking like seven shots of tequila back to back, and just got shitfaced,” says Driftwood. “I woke up the next day at her house, and I had to ask myself if the night before had really happened.”
After some time as a dancer, Driftwood moved back to Richmond, feeling low on herself.
“I came back from New York when I was 18, and I felt like a really big failure. I felt like a loser,” says Driftwood. “People from back home knew I was going there to model, and I thought I looked like a dumbass in front of them by coming back.”
While back in Richmond, Driftwood enrolled in mortuary school; something she had always had a fascination with.
“When I moved back to Richmond, I thought that my dreams had just failed, and I would have to go to college,” says Driftwood. “I can’t see myself working at an office job or anything. When I was a kid, I used to watch Forensic Files. That was my favorite thing in the world, and I’ve always had a fascination with dead people and with horror movies.”
Halfway through her time in mortuary school, music began to call her name again.
“Halfway through school, I started playing music again,” says Driftwood. “I realized that I really needed to get to Nashville, but I was going to school full-time, and working the door at a strip club in Richmond, which is nothing compared to dancer money.”
As she puts it on “Too Mean to Die,” Driftwood “Stripped (Her) Way to Nashville;” dancing for a year, and moving to Music City the week after she graduated.
Driftwood had come to the realization that music was where she found comfort in life.
“I’ve always had depression and extreme anxiety. Music has always been my little diary,” says Driftwood. “As much as going to mortuary school sounds fun, I don’t want to work in a funeral home until I die. I feel like my only purpose in life, and what will make me happy, is music.”
With her experience in New York serving as a learning experience, Driftwood felt confident as she was moving to Nashville.
“Because of how I saw things happen in New York, I felt way more confident moving to Nashville,” says Driftwood. “I had already taken trips here, so I already had friends that I had made. When I moved here, I knew that I had a year’s worth of rent already saved up, so I would be good for at least a year. There was pressure, but I felt confident that I could survive in Nashville.”
Driftwood began acclimating herself with the music scene in Music City, attending several songwriter nights, but knew that the next step in her career would be recording an album, which was intimidating.
“It’s scary, because I could go play a songwriter night, and I could go completely bomb it, and 10 people might be there, and they’ll forget about it in two weeks,” says Driftwood. “With an album, it has to be perfect, because that’s it. Once it’s out there, it’s too late. The world is going to hear it.”
Released on April 3 2019, that album, “Too Mean to Die” flashes traces of traditional country, alternative rock, and pop sounds, something that was intentional for Driftwood.
“I wanted every song to have its own feel to it. I really wanted to show that I could sing different genres too. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed,” says Driftwood. “Album two might be more pop, it might not even be country, who knows.”
On the 10-song release, Driftwood opens herself up to vulnerability, telling personal stories of herself and those around her, something that came naturally to her.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’ve always been that way,” says Driftwood. “I just decided I was going to be me. There’s no guarantee that I’m going to be successful; the only guarantee is that we’re all going to die, so I just decided to do me.”
In doing that, she let people close to her in on chapters from her past that they weren’t aware of.
“There’s family members who had no idea I was stripping that found out,” says Driftwood. “They said they were never going to talk to me again. It’s a lot to put your personal life out there for the world to judge. There’s always people that want to bring you down, but you just have to kind of not care.”
Looking to build off of “Too Mean to Die,” Driftwood is looking to organize a tour in 2019, but in the present, she hopes that people find a relatability in “Too Mean to Die,” the same way music has comforted her in her life.
“I feel like I’m a really normal person. I have normal, relatable problems,” says Driftwood. “Whenever I’ve been sad or felt lonely and didn’t have a friend, music was my friend. It felt like that song got me, and it would help me. I hope my problems and my lyrics can help people the way that songs have helped me. I hope they can realize that it’s a normal part of life.”
*Images courtesy of Karly Driftwood and Karly Driftwood Facebook Page*