Larah Helayne’s (they/them) sophomore release Good Riddance is a stirring compilation of banjo pop songs heavy with pain and healing. The follow up to their teenage debut Roots, written as a love letter to Appalachia, debuts live Saturday, June 11 at Steam Engine Room in Irvine, Kentucky. The EP release show featuring the single State Line is a love letter of a different sort.
On their website the banner declares “Queer Country: for the adolescent and adventurous.” Larah can be seen wearing a frilly pink button-down shirt and skirt, a classic country western get-up complete with pink cowboy boot earrings setting off their short natural curly hair.
Growing up in small town, super conservative Mount Sterling, came with challenges still presenting today. Even while booking shows in their hometown, Larah was denied the request to have a drag queen emcee the event because the venue owners felt it would be “too much.”
“I’m very much reviled and hated here. It all started in high school when I wanted to start a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance club), and I was very militant about it,” They said. “I built a whole community around it and also worked with a sex education agency passing out condoms and Plan B.”
Many of the songs on both Good Riddance and Roots were written during these high school years, but because of the pandemic and life, Larah decided to wait before releasing their second album.
“This year, I got doxed by Ben Shapiro, who made a video with my face as a thumbnail. I didn’t even want to put out a record while I’m getting death threats every day,” Larah said.
But the time has come where Larah is stepping out in all their full glory to promote this moving collection of songs and is sending out the call for support from others who desire to live their life in full authenticity, even in a rural, country town.
Many of Larah’s songs focus on the fun, freedom and shared experience of growing up. Here’s to High School off the Roots album captures the insecurities of adolescence where the popular kids are hicks and even the misfits have cliques. Lyrics like Here’s to hoping we survive are often used on TikTok’s videos and as Instagram quotes, especially during graduation time.
“Ever since I can remember I’ve always been obsessed with adolescence. It’s something I romanticized and couldn’t wait for, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. Being a teenager can be the most traumatic experience in the world and people deserve songs that honor how awful and wonderful it all is. I needed someone to commiserate with me. I like to give my younger self and young people the space to feel whatever they’re feeling.”
Larah is also publishing a chat book to go with the record featuring a collection of poems, writings, and reflections about the songs. Copies will be sold at their concerts. Grab a copy and support this Kentucky musician on her rise to represent everything that is sweet, beautiful and loving about being a queer young person in country music.
“I had support coming out, but not everyone does. I hope I can be that and an ally, even if it is just a song. I just dropped out of college to pursue music full time. I feel so free and I’m going for it.”