Electrician by day, meme king by night. That’s the Clark Kent / Superman dynamic portrayed by Jonathan Oost, a lifelong native of Owensboro, Kentucky and the brains behind Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Meme, the country music meme account with 23,000+ followers on Instagram, 34,000+ followers on Facebook and 1,500+ followers on Twitter.
Admittedly not musically talented himself, the 34-year-old father of two turned to memes as a way of spreading the word about the music he loves, following a childhood spent watching his father sing across the state.
“I grew up watching my dad sing gospel music in churches all throughout Kentucky,” says Oost. “That’s where my passion first developed. It grew more when I found his record collection and began digging through it. The Eagles were his favorites. I remember also finding stuff from the Flying Burrito Brothers that piqued my curiosity and led to me diving into their whole catalogue."
"With the internet it’s become easier than ever to discover new artists, but it’s also over-saturated listeners with an abundance of artists. That’s what led me to wanting to share and turn others on to the great musicians in my backyard.”
Oost first began sharing his memes on Instagram in late June 2018, less than a year after the release of fellow Kentuckian Tyler Childers’ debut album Purgatory. In many ways, the rise in prominence of his page has grown in correlation with that of Childers, and the wave of attention brought to the Kentucky and Appalachian music scenes because of his success. It comes as no surprise, then, that some of his most engaged with posts are ones relating to Childers, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and others widely considered to be on the state’s figurative Mt. Rushmore of music.
“As far as growing with the popularity of the Kentucky music scene, that’s all on them,” said Oost. “I just do my best to make people laugh using photos from regional photographers, while sharing the music anytime they need it. I’ll yell it from the top of Pine Mountain [in Southeast Kentucky], I just want people to support them”.
Whether it be imagining songs about pixie sticks from an adolescent Childers, making light of Simpson’s peculiar Instagram habits or poking fun at a candid portrait of Simpson and Stapleton (from their joint appearance on Saturday Night Live in January 2018), everything Oost creates regarding the trio are a hit. However, the trio’s mainstream name recognition is far from a qualifier for making it into a meme.
While memes centered around Childers, Simpson and Stapleton do consistently draw the most engagement, Oost also goes out of his way to promote up-and-coming artists from Kentucky and beyond that he feels deserve an equal spotlight. From the page’s early days, two of the artists he’s stuck his neck out for most have been Prestonsburg, Ky.'s Nicholas Jamerson, Oost’s unheralded “G.O.A.T.” of Kentucky music (pictured here with another Eastern Kentucky star in Brit Taylor), and Texas via California honky-tonker Jesse Daniel, who just released his latest album “Beyond These Walls” on July 30 via Die True Records.
“I don’t mind if an artist is mainstream, I just don’t want to be promoting only artists that are household names,” said Oost. “I always joke that “if they like chocolate, I like vanilla”. I like to go against the grain”.
Other regional artists that Oost has long supported through his memes include Western Kentucky born, Oh Boy Records artist Kelsey Waldon, Virginia’s rising country-pop superstar Morgan Wade and Eastern Kentucky‘s Cole Chaney. At only 21, Chaney is already gaining steam in the region as the next breakout star, with many in the area comparing him to Childers in both tone and his Appalachian-rooted subject material.
“Jonathan was one of the first people to really listen to my music, almost two years ago now, and he's been a gigantic supporter ever since,” said Chaney, who released his debut album Mercy on May 15. “He has a great taste in music and is one of the funniest people I know. I lean on his musical recommendations heavily.”
Despite the barrage of music-themed memes, Oost isn’t a one trick pony. He also delves into southern and Kentucky culture, touching on everything from University of Kentucky athletics, regional lingo, to NASCAR drivers past and present, namely seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. and current star Ryan Blaney (who has talked openly of how he listens to Childers, Simpson, and other like-minded country artists).
He doesn’t stop there. In recent months, Oost has also begun to share video memes and “Songs Through Time” videos, the latter of which are a compilation of clips of an artist performing signature songs of theirs over several years. Videos of this type range from Childers’ ‘Shake The Frost‘ (858,000+ views on Facebook) and ‘Lady May’” (77,000+ views) to Billy Strings’ ‘Dust In A Baggie’” (11,000+ views) and Jamerson’s ‘It’s A Long Way To Wheelwright’”, among others.
However, the most popular video by a landslide is a May 15, 2019 video meme on Facebook that uses a clip from Brooks & Dunn’s hit ‘Brand New Man’ to describe the feeling he had the first time he. ate cinnamon butter rolls from Texas Roadhouse, a Lonestar State-themed restaurant chain in Louisville. Currently, the video has north of nine million views and 140,000+ shares on the platform.
To this day, Oost is surprised and humbled by what Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Meme has turned into. Far from the only person making country music memes, Oost credits fellow country cartoonists Gaptooth Snodgrass, J.J. Watter’s of Honky Tonk Heroes and Memegrass Revival for a sense of community and like-mindedness that has helped him to push the limits with his own work.
He’s also thankful for other creatives in his own Kentucky music circles for their contributions and inspirations, like photographer/artist manager Alexis Faye, Garrett McKie and Mike Hart of the Hippies & Cowboys Podcast and Katie Keller (formerly of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro and the current digital marketing director at New West Records).
“You always hear people say something to the effect of “I had no idea what this would grow into” and I was skeptical of that, but I can attest to it now,” said Oost. “I’ve been lucky to have been helped by countless friends and I’m incredibly appreciative of their support,” said Oost. “I’ve always wanted to leave some kind of impression on people when I’m gone and if this is the only way I can do it, then by God, that’s how I’ll do it.”