There's no arguing that this summer's meteoric rise of rural Virginia-based songwriter Oliver Anthony took the music industry by storm. Within days the relatively unknown artist turned into a household name following the wave of viral veracity unleashed by his song "Rich Men North Of Richmond," ultimately attracting thousands of fans to his shows overnight that propelled the song to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 and a spot on a Republican Presidential Debate.
Through all of this Anthony has remained humble and focused on continuing to make music on his own terms and not with a label or others pulling strings behind the scenes. He's also not lost sight of where he's come from and who's helped him in getting there.
In an Aug. 18 post to Facebook and Instagram he plugged RadioWV, the host of his now infamous "Rich Men" video, urging his new legion of listeners to explore it's other videos and featured artists, describing "dozens of insane, authentic songs on there just waiting to be heard." As a result, countless artists featured on the channel (along with other area artists that aren't) saw massive leaps in the view counts on their respective videos, streaming pages and more in what's affectionately been dubbed the "Oliver Anthony Effect".
For many, Anthony was the first they'd heard of RadioWV, a video platform launched by Draven Riffe and John Price in 2019 to expose music fans to the sounds of Appalachia and beyond. However, while he is the platform's biggest breakout to date, he's far from the first artist to reach viral or sustained success in the industry.
In the couple years prior RadioWV has posted dozens of videos that include performances by everyone from Charles Wesley Godwin to Drayton Farley, Cole Chaney, Sydney Adams and Logan Halstead, the latter of whom launched his own music career in 2021 only months after video of his song "Dark Black Coal" went live. To date the video has netted over 7 million views on the platform, helping to jumpstart the young artist's career before he even considered life in music a possibility.
"I'd recorded a few cover videos for Facebook and played my guitar at house parties before, but none of it ever caught on like that video did," Halstead told Wide Open Country earlier this year in a story about his debut album named after the hit song. "I was a nobody until that video popped off. Suddenly, people were reaching out to book me. It didn't matter how much money they offered; as soon as I saw I could make money from music and singing, I left my house and began traveling around playing music."
Another artist grateful for the exposure provided by RadioWV is Southwest Ohio's Nolan Taylor, who was days away from setting aside his guitar and musical aspirations when a video of him performing the original "68" was posted to the channel on Dec. 27, 2022. It has since accumulated over 3 million views that have motivated the artist to push on, a persistence that's paid off tremendously in only a few short months.
Days after Oliver Anthony gave a shout out to both him and Halstead during a highly anticipated August appearance on "The Joe Rogan Experience" Taylor signed to Atlantic Records, whom he's currently in the process of recording his major label debut for. That momentum has also catapulted him to country music's biggest stage, The Grand Ole Opry, where he made his debut on Nov. 25.
"I owe a lot to the success of that '68' video," says Taylor. "I have a bunch of other videos sitting at over a million views now because of '68'. I was actually gonna hang it up last December before that video went viral. I was applying for school in the new year and was done playing. It's been a crazy turn of events and something I'm super blessed for."
In total Taylor has had four videos showcased by RadioWV and collaborative partners the Truthful Sessions, the others being "Dead Roses", "Wicked Ways" and "Darkness". Each has helped to raise the artist's profile and confidence with each successive post, leaving him more determined than ever heading into this next chapter with Atlantic. Through it all he's also remained humble — for the exposure provided by RadioWV when he needed it most, the opportunity to make a career from his music and more — a mindset that's sure to propel him to even more good fortune in the future.
"RadioWV has put such a spotlight on our region in a way that hasn't been spotlighted before," says Taylor. "A lot of artists are coming out of Appalachia right now feeling they have a lot to prove. They all have great songs and stories to tell, and I'm here for it. Even if my well runs dry today, I'm just so happy that I know all these artists personally because they're all so damn good."
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