CV NEWS FEED // Oliver Anthony recently became a household name, but just a month ago virtually no one had heard of him. Who is the man behind the song “Rich Men North of Richmond,” and how did he gain popularity so quickly?
As his lyrics continue to resonate with Americans across the country, the artist and writer of the song, Oliver Anthony, has become an internet sensation.
Despite America knowing him as “Oliver Anthony,” the artist’s real name is Chris Anthony Lunsford.
The original Oliver Anthony was the artist’s grandfather, who had a profound impact on Lunsford. They were both 6’6” with red hair and loved the same type of music.
After his grandfather passed away, Lunsford began uploading his music under the title “Oliver Anthony Music.” It was just the “brand name,” but once the song blew up, everyone knew the new artist as Oliver Anthony.
“A lot of people still call me Chris, I’ve been called a lot worse than either of those things. But it’ll stay Oliver Anthony Music,” Anthony said in an interview with Joe Rogan.
Anthony grew up in central Virginia, learning music from his grandmother. He dropped out of high school but eventually got his GED and has worked blue-collar jobs since then.
At his most recent job, Anthony worked third shift six days a week, making $14.50 an hour. In 2017, Anthony bought a piece of land in Farmville, VA for $97,500. He lives on this land in a 27-foot camper with his wife and two children. They are currently expecting their third child.
“I have a great marriage,” Anthony told Rogan, but he remained hesitant to share more details of his personal life.
Even with his recent success, Anthony drives a truck with 350,000 miles on it and a salvage title. In his conversation with Rogan, it was obvious that Anthony has humble roots.
“People are just trying to find, ‘Who’s this Oliver Anthony guy?’” Anthony said. “It’s not about me.” Oliver Anthony says he will continue to make music but does not think he wants to continue doing interviews.
In his conversation with Rogan, Anthony offered some opinions on the way the country is run, on mental health, and more.
“We shouldn’t have to rely on the federal government to fix things out on the streets in small-town America,” Anthony said:
The communities and the local governments should be the ones fixing that. Our federal government is enormous and out of control and almost impossible to manage. But then on our community level and in our state government things are crazy, especially local government, things are very neglected and weak and disconnected.
“If there’s anything anyone could do immediately to start fixing things, it would be to stop looking at their phones so much and start looking at people around them and trying to just have conversations with them,” Anthony told The Free Press. “The best way we heal in the immediate is for us to start having actual conversations with each other. I think that’s probably a good start. We know very little about each other.”
Oliver Anthony never set out to become famous. He began recording and posting his music in 2022 from his Android phone because he thought he was going to die.
He suffered from anxiety and depression, which caused him to experience chest pains and other cardiovascular symptoms. There was no one factor that led to these feelings, but rather years of working dead-end jobs and feeling ever-increasingly hopeless. If he was going to die, he did not want his music to die with him.
“I was feeling like my body was starting to fall apart,” Anthony told The Free Press:
It got to a point where I was questioning how much longer I’d be able to be around and sing these songs and do this stuff, so I was like, “Well, let me just go ahead and start getting everything uploaded, so at least if, God forbid, I die of a heart attack in my thirties, there’s some legacy there.”
Anthony shared that in his twenties he turned to alcohol and weed as an escape for the hopelessness he felt about life. He never wanted to give up fighting, he told Rogan. But he said his struggles got to the point that he considered suicide as he could not see another way out.
Thankfully, Anthony had a conversion back to Christ in the past few months and has experienced a newfound hope in his faith. “I just felt like a four-year-old who can’t find his parents,” he said:
I just didn’t have anything left in me. I just decided right then and there that I can’t do this anymore. I just told God “I can’t do it. I’ll give all this s*** up, I’ll quit the weed, I’ll quit getting drunk. I’ll let him be the focus, not me.”
This led him to give up his pride and pursue something bigger than himself. “We all serve some master whether we realize it or not, why not let it be the Master of it all?”
While he said he is still in the infancy stages of the faith, he reads his Bible for guidance. His favorite books include Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Gospel of Luke. He read Proverbs 4:20 on Rogan’s podcast and the host: “It’s not preachy. It’s good guidance. Something you would want a father to give to his son.”
“I was obviously introduced to the concept of God and religion as a kid, and I think I was turned off to it growing up,” Anthony told The Free Press:
The reason I was always so reluctant to accept God as God is because it meant I had to accept all those people that I didn’t quite agree with as being correct—you know, I falsely associated man-made religion and some of the things that go along with it with the concept of Jesus Christ and God in general.
His conversion happened just before Draven Riff from the Youtube channel Radiowv reached out to Anthony requesting to share his music. When Riff arrived in Farmville, Anthony had not finished writing “Rich Men North of Richmond,” but Riff insisted he quickly finish composing it because he knew that the song had a special message.
Anthony has received a lot of attention since his song went viral, but that’s not what he wants. “I’m not important. I’m just the vessel,” he said. “People are trying to put me on a pedestal and that’s not in any way what I want. I’m just the messenger. I’m not anybody special.”
Oliver shared that the politicizing of his song has become “mind-bogglingly infuriating.” When the song came up at the presidential debate, Anthony found it comical. “That song has nothing to do with Joe Biden,” Anthony said. “It’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden.”
“You could find the most perfect human being in the world and put them in the White House,” Anthony said:
The problem isn’t the White House or the federal government. The problem is us—like human to human is where we fix our country. We don’t need the government to save us. We just need to save each other.
While the song has received support from millions, it still has its critics, people claiming that the song is racist and the work of a “dark money political agenda.”
Since the song’s success, record deals have begun to pour in. However, Anthony has continuously brushed them off. He wants to do something important with his music and influence, something concrete to genuinely help others.
While the fame and attention continue to grow, Anthony is focused on not losing sight of who he is. He still drives his old beat-up truck, wears the same worn-down boots, and just wants to continue to connect with people.
This is the type of humble American “celebrity” we need.