‘I’m gonna keep on writing’: Oliver Anthony answers questions
Published 12:00 pm Friday, September 8, 2023
“This will be my last post about politics on social media,” Oliver Anthony wrote on Facebook over the weekend. Before making a surprise appearance at Farmville’s Rock the Block summer concert, Anthony sat down to explain his position on politics, political parties and how he feels people are misinterpreting his music (sometimes deliberately).
The first Republican presidential debate had drawn his attention. In fact, the first question involved Anthony and his viral hit song “Rich Men North of Richmond”, with candidates being asked why they thought it caught on as it did. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis argued that it was because America is in decline and blamed President Joe Biden.
“It’s a choice. We need to send Joe Biden back to his basement and reverse American decline,” DeSantis said during the debate.
His first response to the debate sparked some questions, as Anthony filmed himself for a video on YouTube, saying his song isn’t about just one politician.
“It was funny seeing my song in the presidential debate because it’s like I wrote that song about those people,” Anthony said in the video. “That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden. It’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden. That song was written about the people on that stage, and a lot more too, not just them.”
That one simple comment triggered a flood of opinion pieces and social media posts over the last few days, with some claiming Anthony was clearly a Biden supporter and others accusing him of being fake, for criticizing politicians. And so, Anthony sat down to write a Facebook post, filling in the blanks. Just getting rid of one politician won’t do anything to fix the country, he said.
“(DeSantis) talks about needing to get Joe Biden out, as if that would automatically solve all the problems,” Anthony wrote. “Biden is a big part of the issue, but it runs much deeper. “Rich Men North of Richmond” is about corporate owned DC politicians on both sides. Though Biden’s most certainly a problem, the lyrics aren’t exclusively knocking Biden, it’s bigger and broader than that. It’s knocking the system collectively, including the corporate owned conservative politicians that were on stage that night.”
Oliver Anthony gets message out
But while the part about Biden is what everyone focused on, Anthony’s YouTube video went a lot deeper, as he talked about a number of issues.
Having lyrics get misinterpreted is part of the challenge of being a songwriter, Anthony said, adding that it’s hard to get a message out about a political ideology or belief about the world in a three minute song.
“I do hate to see that song being weaponized,” he said of ‘Rich Men’. “I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own and I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation.”
Anthony said it’s also been aggravating seeing some musicians and politicians try to jump on the bandwagon and “act like we’re buddies, like we’re fighting the same struggle here, like we’re trying to present the same message. I’ve talked to hundreds of people the last two weeks and it seems like certain people want to ride the attention of this song and maybe make their own selves relevant.”
Anthony said he’s never seen anything like ‘Rich Men’ get such a positive response from such a diverse group of people. That includes people across all political spectrums and even some outside of the U.S. And he believes the attacks and misinterpretations about the song come as a result of that positive response.
“I think that (response) terrifies the people I sing about in that song,” Anthony said. “And they’ve done anything they can in the last two weeks to make me look like a fool, to try to stick me in a political bucket. They can keep trying but I’m just gonna keep on writing. And I’ve got a lot of words to put down on paper.”
The ‘fudge rounds’ question
One of the parts of ‘Rich Men’ that people have tried to single out comes from two lines in the lyrics. “Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds, taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds,” the song says.
Oliver Anthony said his overall message with the song is focused on “the inefficiencies of the government because of the politicians within it that are engulfed in bribes and extortion.”
Those two lines, Anthony said, were meant to spotlight his point.
“That references a news article I read this summer in Richmond about teens missing meals over the summer,” Anthony said. “Their parents can’t afford to feed them and they’re not in school to get cafeteria lunch.”
Meanwhile, he said, between 20-30% of the food bought with EBT money is classified as snack food or soda. A 2016 U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that 22.6% of the average grocery bill for a household using food stamps is spent on soft drinks, prepared desserts, salty snacks, candy and sugar. That includes 9% on soft drinks alone. Based on the number of households on food stamps at the end of 2022, that adds up to $26.9 billion spent on junk food.
“It’s just saying the government takes people who are needy and dependent and makes them needy and dependent,” Anthony said.
But regardless of what politicians, columnists or anything else thinks, Anthony said he doesn’t plan to change.
“I am gonna stay true to my word,” Oliver Anthony said. “I’m gonna write, produce and distribute authentic music that represents people and not politics.”