It was 2018, and all of Karen Waldrup’s dreams were coming true. After experiencing viral success with various country music covers that racked up millions and millions of views, Waldrup was on the cusp of country music stardom thanks to the impending release of a new single and album, buoyed by the support of a thriving fan base.
And then, her world came crashing down.
First, the New Orleans native caught her longtime boyfriend cheating on her. “God woke me up at 3 in the morning the night of his birthday,” Waldrup, 33, recalls in a recent interview with PEOPLE. “It was a crazy mess, but in the end, I felt like I dodged a bullet.”
Then an online stalker discovered where she lived, and showed up on the front porch of her home in Nashville. “A white van pulled up in the driveway, and this 70-year-old man started walking up to the door,” remembers Waldrup, who first moved to Nashville in 2008. “He wouldn’t leave. He started peeking through the windows. It was terrifying.”
And then, as she just found herself on the cusp of her breaking point, Waldrup was forced to move from home to home to home in an effort to hide from her stalker, along with anyone else who had the same terrifying idea.
“I was so unaware of the internet hazards and how easy it could be for someone to find out where I lived,” she recalls. “I went through a time that no matter how many times I moved, I felt like I just couldn’t get away from the bad guys.”
It was torture for her and her family, especially since Waldrup had thus far been someone who had built a following being as authentic and truthful with her fans as she could possibly be. At her very bottom, she says she almost found herself on the verge of depression. But then, she booked a trip to Haiti, and everything started to change for the better.
“I was at a point where I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone,” she recalls. “But in Haiti, I found hope again.”
These days, Waldrup finds herself on the other side of fear and tragedy, on the other side of broken promises and close calls, on the other side of doubt and distrust.
And she’s finding herself once again … within her music.
“There were fans that knew I was going through hard times last year, purely based on the kind of music I was putting out,” she says. “They were also the ones that let me know I could be me again. Their kindness made me realize I could go back to music again. They also were the ones who made me realize that this was all part of God’s plan for me, and that everything was about to turn out the way it was supposed to.”
And it’s this sentiment that weaves through the revealing lyrics of Waldrup’s new single “Me Again.” Collaborating with fellow country artist William Michael Morgan, “Me Again” serves as a serenade for all of those who stuck with Waldrup through one of the hardest periods of her life. And yes, she says she is now a changed woman, especially when it comes to keeping close tabs on her social media footprint.
“I feel like I have to protect myself in any way possible,” Waldrup says, adding that she did buy a gun for protection after the tumultuous year of 2018. “I’m very mindful of what I put out there right now.”
As a result of her experiences, Waldrup says that she now refrains from sharing pics of any detailed and specific aspects of her life, whether that’s the side of her vehicle or the front of her home. She also thinks twice before doing things she has done for years, such as heading outside by herself to load the van after a late-night gig.
“I’d rather be a little paranoid, and very smart, from now on,” says Waldrup, who is currently out on the “Me Again” tour through Nov. 6. “I’ve learned the power of strength. I’m a stronger person now.”
And then she paused, and took a deep and deserving breath.
“You don’t have a testimony until God sends you a test,” she says quietly. “And this has been one of the biggest tests of my life. But I’m ready to grow from it … and move on.”