'Rich Men North of Richmond' songwriter says it's no conservative anthem

Mike Caudill

The breakout country singer whose hit song "Rich Men North of Richmond" worked its way into the first Republican presidential primary debate dropped a bomb Friday on the people who have been promoting it as a conservative anthem.

"It was funny seeing my song ... at the presidential debate," Oliver Anthony said in a video he made sitting in the cab of his truck that he posted on his official YouTube channel. "Because I wrote that song about those people."

Anthony delivered the video broadside after the first GOP debate opened Wednesday with a shoutout to Anthony's song, a folksy lament topping the charts about the frustrations of a working-class person who toils for low wages and sees his meager earnings eaten up by taxes.

“It’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news trying to identify with me like I’m one of them,” Anthony said.

That is likely to come as a shock to politicians who have been promoting the song like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who has called it “the anthem of the forgotten Americans who truly support this nation ... with their hard-earned tax dollars.”

Other Republicans have used the song to attack the policies of President Joe Biden, who took office amid a slumping economy and a pandemic after defeating Donald Trump.

"This song has nothing to do with Joe Biden, it’s a lot bigger than Joe Biden," Anthony said. “That song’s written about the people on that stage, and a lot more too, but definitely them."

Anthony added that while he appreciates the attention he's gotten for "Rich Men North of Richmond" he regrets that his song has been "weaponized."

"I see the right trying to characterize me as one of their own," he said. "And I see the left trying to discredit me, I guess in retaliation. That s---’s got to stop.”

In an earlier video, Anthony said that his political views tend to be “pretty dead center” and that both sides “serve the same master.”

“People are just sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said. “So yeah, I want to be a voice for those people.”

Anthony was virtually unknown before Aug. 8, when a YouTube channel that shares footage of outdoor performances by Appalachian musicians posted a video of him singing “Rich Men North of Richmond.”

Almost overnight, the video received more than 20 million views. By Aug. 19, Anthony's song hit No. 1 on Apple Music’s U.S. and global top 100 charts.

And on Wednesday, when eight of the Republican presidential hopefuls hit the stage in Milwaukee for the first GOP debate, the first question from Fox News’ Martha MacCallum, one of the two moderators, mentioned Anthony's song.

“It is by a singer from Farmville, Virginia, named Oliver Anthony — his lyrics speak of alienation, of deep frustration with the state of government and of this country,” MacCallum told Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was on the receiving end of the question, "Why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now?”

Anthony said he plans to keep writing music and is feeling "surprisingly calm and at peace." He said he's trying to stay grounded.

"I don't want to go on some roller-coaster ride and come off a different person," he said.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com