Country music sensation Oliver Anthony has told Newsweek the real reason he went to Burning Man, after some of his fans expressed surprise and dismay at his attendance. Anthony said his appearance had been taken out of context—and that he wasn’t there to “participate in the bulls***.”
News broke on Sunday that Anthony was at the week-long event, which claims to be a place of “community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.” Some of his fans, however, said that the festival—for which tickets cost at least $575 plus fees, with many attendees spending hundreds or thousands of dollars more—was unbecoming of the singer, whom one described as a “working-class hero.”
Anthony, who describes himself as a centrist, is a former factory worker from Farmville, Virginia. His politically charged hit song “Rich Men North of Richmond” references low wages, poverty and inflation, but also takes aim at welfare abuse, high taxes and the obese.
This year’s Burning Man made headlines after it faced torrential flooding, which turned the remote desert location in Black Rock, Nevada, into a muddy nightmare. Festivalgoers faced hour-long queues to get out, with organizers closing the roads both in and out. They recommended people take shelter and preserve their food rather than planning an exodus.
The conditions led to numerous claims about Anthony’s attendance at the event. He was due to appear on the Midwestern Marxist podcast, but the hosts announced during their live episode on Sunday that he was not able to do the interview because he’d been trapped in the floods.
However, in an exclusive chat with Newsweek, Anthony said the information provided to them had been misleading. He said that he was not there to attend the festival as a patron, but rather to shoot a new video.
“I was at Burning Man, but it was to film a music video. I was not there to participate in the bulls***,” he said.
“One of the podcasts I was going on leaked this information after speaking with one of my people, who is no longer with my team. This was taken completely out of context.”
Anthony has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame since August after podcaster Joe Rogan shared a video of him performing “Rich Men North of Richmond” to X, formerly Twitter. The song was also used at the first GOP presidential debate in August in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
At the beginning of August he had 374 Spotify subscribers, which grew to 4 million in just three weeks.
He became a darling of conservatives, who interpreted his music as aligning with their values, but Anthony has strongly rejected any suggestion he is aligned with any side politically.
The singer told Rogan that most of the unrelenting rumors about him on social media were false, although he was enjoying the spectacle.
“I’ve waited for this opportunity to have a real conversation with somebody about whatever it is I am,” he said on the The Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
“They [people online] want to sort of build this image of whatever it is that the person behind the song represents, for better or for worse.”
Anthony said: “It’s really funny to watch on my end because, obviously, I know what’s true and what’s not. But you know, there’s been hundreds of hours of people’s time wasted, probably, talking about all these little things that don’t even exist. Just somebody made them up and put them on the internet.”
After that appearance, Anthony said he was tired of talking about his political views and wanted to stick to making music.
“I am scheduling one final podcast after Rogan, that can deep dive into the nitty gritty it seems people are so desperately trying to understand. I’m simultaneously being labeled a far right extremist and a liberal by the powers at be. 🤣 I love it. They are doing everything they can to cause division,” he wrote on Instagram.
“You deserve to understand exactly what it is I am, without internet trolls and corporate news speculating for you. After that, I’ll focus exclusively on songwriting and playing shows. Love y’all. Thank you.”