‘Rich Men North of Richmond’ artist receiving ‘brutally honest’ messages from fans who connected with working-class anthem
“At this point, I’ll gladly go by Oliver because everyone knows me as such. But my friends and family still call me Chris. You can decide for yourself, either is fine,” he wrote.
Viral singing sensation Oliver Anthony said he’d never had any interest in being famous, turned down seven-figure offers from stunned music industry reps and lamented the divided state of the internet in a Facebook posting on Thursday.
Anthony’s song “Rich Men North of Richmond” exploded into a viral hit this month after he recorded it on his Virginia farmland, and the red-bearded, high school dropout described himself on Facebook as “just some idiot and his guitar” who couldn’t have imagined he’d become so well-known.
His song, which has been viewed more than 17 million times on YouTube as of Thursday afternoon, serves as both a screed against Washington greed and a lament for working-class ills like suicide, despair, high taxation,and working long hours for “bulls— pay.” It’s won a host of conservative fans online, while some progressives have decried it as right-wing agitprop.
Anthony noted his real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford; Oliver Anthony was his grandfather and “Oliver Anthony Music” is a tribute to him and the Appalachia community he was born and raised in. He added that he dropped out of high school in 2010 at age 17.He recounted reading more than 50,000 messages and emails in the past week that have painted a “brutally honest picture” of widespread addiction, unemployment, anxiety and hopelessness.
“I’m sitting in such a weird place in my life right now. I never wanted to be a full time musician, much less sit at the top of the iTunes charts. Draven from RadioWv and I filmed these tunes on my land with the hope that it may hit 300k views. I still don’t quite believe what has went on since we uploaded that. It’s just strange to me,” he wrote.
“People in the music industry give me blank stares when I brush off 8 million dollar offers. I don’t want 6 tour buses, 15 tractor trailers and a jet. I don’t want to play stadium shows, I don’t want to be in the spotlight. I wrote the music I wrote because I was suffering with mental health and depression. These songs have connected with millions of people on such a deep level because they’re being sung by someone feeling the words in the very moment they were being sung. No editing, no agent, no bulls–t. Just some idiot and his guitar. The style of music that we should have never gotten away from in the first place.”
Anthony discussed his past employment that included a “living hell” at a paper mill in North Carolina and once fracturing his skull in 2013 that forced him to move home to Virginia. He currently lives on farmland he paid $97,500 for, inside a 27-foot camper with a tarp on the roof, he says.
From 2014 until this year, he worked outside sales in industrial manufacturing, where he got to know thousands of other blue-collar workers.