‘The Voice’ powerhouse Karen Waldrup dishes about childhood, USM days and musical career

Karen Waldrup performs Lainey Wilson's "Heart Like a Truck" on the first night of the playoffs on NBC's "The Voice."

t may seem a long way from Mandeville, Louisiana, to the live-audience stage of “The Voice,” but Karen Waldrup has been working toward this moment for a long time.

She is one of four girls in the Waldrup family, who spent a lot of time in her childhood playing with her sisters and friends in the neighborhood, a place where kids could roam and parents didn’t have to worry.

Elise Thornton Firth, left, and Karen Waldrup© Courtesy of Elise Thornton Firth

Waldrup lived in the same house from birth until she went to college. Her parents are still married to this day.

“That allowed me to have a stable childhood,” she said. “I was really lucky to grow up in a wholesome environment.”

Hattiesburg experience turned Waldrup’s life around

She has been singing all her life, but it wasn’t until she moved to Hattiesburg to attend university that she began thinking of a career in music.

“I came up playing the guitar and singing in church and singing in the choir at school, doing anything and everything and loving it,” Waldrup said. “I never really dreamed it would turn into all of this. Everything really changed for me when I was at the University of Southern Mississippi and started playing at Mugshots. That’s really where my life took a huge turn.

“I didn’t really know that music could be a career quite like this.”

The original Mugshots Grill and Bar on Fourth Street in Hattiesburg was a place where students could hang out and listen to local musicians until the building was destroyed by fire in 2011. Ron Savell, owner and founder of the Mugshots Grill and Bar, which later became a hamburger and sports bar franchise, said he has “fond memories” of Waldrup and her musical partner Elise Thornton Firth performing acoustic sets.

“They went by the name of Karen and Elise,” Savell said. “We have thoroughly enjoyed watching and cheering for Karen on this season of ‘The Voice.’ We are pulling for her and wish her continued success in her career.”

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