Country music singer Tyler Childers has been married to fellow musician Senora May Lainhart since 2015. They are Kentucky natives and both say that their backgrounds have heavily influenced their musical stylings.
Childers made headlines on September 18 when he dropped a surprise album called “Long Violent History.” The lyrics of the title track are a commentary on systemic racism and injustice. Childers directly addressed his “white rural listeners” in a video message shared on social media. He asked his fans to think about how they would feel if, on a daily basis, the headlines were about rural Americans, such as a father taking his son fishing or a nursing student attending Ashland Community College, being beaten and killed by law enforcement officials:
How would you react to that? What form of upheaval would that create? I venture to say if we were met with this type of daily attack on our own people, we would take action that hasn’t been seen since the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia. And if we wouldn’t stand for it, why would we expect another group of Americans to stand for it? Why would we stand silent while it happened or worse, get in the way of it getting rectified?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Senora May Has Urged Fans to Take a Stand Against Hate & Has Expressed Support for Breonna Taylor
May called for her fans to speak up and take action amid the protests that spread nationwide following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. On Instagram on June 3, May specifically addressed those who live in rural areas and may have been isolated from the demonstrations taking place in more populous areas:
In times such as these, where so many people are fighting for equality, battling injustice and gross infringement of human rights, I am home, watching and listening, rooting people on from the comforts of a safe haven.
I know this is the story for a lot of people. I feel guilt for not physically marching or raging against the discrimination of our system in which people are disproportionately represented and often neglected or worse. Like many people isolated by the mountains, home quarantining, or living a life of little travel, I feel helpless for those who are suffering.
This is not the case. We are not powerless. All people, anywhere, can encourage and inspire change where it’s needed most: everywhere. Wherever you are right now, there are problems. There are people who need information and a friendly reminder of the significance of all people to help others who are less fortunate. If you have been blessed with a shelter, food, a family and life in which you do not have to dodge bullets or fear becoming a refugee, you have an obligation. We are so lucky to live where we have access to so much more than a disgustingly high number of people across the world. Fix where you are, do what you can. Rid hate. Share information and resources. Demand change. If we all work on fixing where we’re from, the whole world will be a better place for us to enjoy.
May has also used her platform to call for justice for Breonna Taylor, the EMT who was gunned down inside her own home after police executed a no-knock raid on the wrong apartment. On what would have been Taylor’s 27th birthday, May wrote on Instagram in part, “Happy birthday, Breonna Taylor. May you find peace now that you are free from a system of discrimination and racism, free from a community where cops should protect you but do the opposite. May we find justice for your unlawful death.” May tagged the Lousiville Police, the mayor of Louisville and the governor of Kentucky in her post.
2. May Says the Sounds of Nature Have Served as Inspiration for Her Music But She’s Also Influenced by Beyonce
May explained on her professional website how her rural upbringing influenced her songwriting: “The auditory boundaries are endless. You’ll hear frequencies in the hills right before the sun goes down that you can’t make up on your own with a synthesizer. Certain birds and little yipping foxes, bobcats, pitches of bugs, there’s just so much to be inspired by.”
But May says she has also been influenced by other genres. She counts Beyonce, Nina Simone, Emmylou Harris, Feist and Bobby Bare, Jr. as artists that helped inspire her own sound. In July, May expressed excitement for Beyonce’s album “Black is King,” writing on Instagram, “I’m so excited for this I can hardly stand it. Not sure why anyone would ask why I like @beyonce …She’s my Queen.”
On her website, May added that she feels a responsibility to honor the musical tradition of her home region. “The thing about being from a place that you’re so proud of, you want to make everyone there proud too. Everyone feels connected by the music and what’s been given to us by shared hardships and the strength our people have to power through. I feel a certain obligation to remain true to my raising, which inspires my music greatly.”
May’s debut album, which dropped in 2018 paid homage to her upbringing. She titled it “Lainhart,” which is her maiden name. You can listen to the title track here.
3. May Has Five Siblings & Her Family History Includes Deep South American Roots
May grew up in Kentucky but her family also has deep roots in South America. Her grandmother immigrated from Colombia and raised May’s mother in southern Florida, May explained to the Herald-Dispatch in 2018. “My Mom was born in Miami but came to Kentucky when she was about 20. Her mom, my grandmother, did not speak English at all as she is from Colombia. I have about 40 cousins in Bogotá and I have been there a couple of times to visit.”
May told the newspaper she wished her mother had taught her to speak Spanish as a child. She recalled that her mother used to sing to her in Spanish, but “she really didn’t imprint much of her culture on us because she kind of left it behind in Florida.” May added that her mother was the more lenient parent and that she encouraged May’s artistic side.
As for her father, May described him as the more conservative parent. She said he worked at an aluminum plant, had his own farm and raised cattle. May’s parents divorced when she was a young child, she told the newspaper.
May and her five siblings were raised to appreciate nature. She explained on her website that she enjoyed hunting and fishing with her four brothers. She wrote that she “felt comforted by the hills” and “calmed by being outside.”
4. May Met Childers When She Was a College Student & They Lived on a Homestead Without Running Water
May attended the liberal arts school Berea College after high school, according to her LinkedIn profile. Childers told the Chicago Tribune that he met his future wife while he was working on a farm in Estill County, Kentucky. “I was living out on this farm with a 65-year-old dude and this angel walks in.” Childers said May was earning extra money by cleaning houses while she attended college.
The couple tied the knot in 2015, according to Childers’ professional bio. Childers explained that the couple lived with his parents temporarily after they got married. They then bought a used camper and intended to build a house. But as Childers wrote, that initial plan didn’t pan out as he worked in a “sawmill and brewery” and played “gigs whenever possible.”
May told the Herald-Dispatch that she and Childers moved to West Virginia while they were still newlyweds and enjoyed taking road trips across the region. According to her LinkedIn profile, May worked for the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation and was involved in supporting small farms.
As of 2018, May and Childers were back living in rural Kentucky. The Herald-Dispatch reported at the time that the couple lived in an “old homestead with no electricity or city water, meaning she has to haul buckets from the spring to do the dishes or take a bath.” May also had to find higher ground in order to find cell phone reception.
5. May & Childers Started a Relief Fund to Benefit Appalachian Communities
May and Childers launched a relief organization in 2020 to assist rural communities in their home state. They started the Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund, which is part of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
According to the site, May and Childers vowed to “bring awareness and financial support for philanthropic efforts in the Appalachian Region.” When Childers unveiled the surprise album “Long Violent History,” he announced that 100 percent of the proceeds from the album would go straight to the relief fund.