CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Morgantown-raised country artist Erik Vincent Huey is releasing his debut solo album, “Appalachian Gothic,” an album inspired by the struggles of coal miners and the Appalachia coal wars.

Erik Vincent Huey (Courtesy Orion Strategies)

The album is set to release next Friday, Jan. 20. While writing the album, Huey sought to channel “that spirit of fierce independence and rebellion,” that West Virginia and the Appalachian region are known for while taking a personal approach to the content of the music itself.

“The state is shaped like a middle finger, and I like to think it’s for a reason. It’s like, ‘oh yeah, you’re going to look down on us? Well, we’ll give you a double state map, that’s what we think of your opinion!’”

Huey, who is descended from three generations of coal miners, moved to Morgantown when he was nine years old. His father decided to move from Uniontown to get closer to the mine he worked in, which was closer to Morgantown despite being located in Pennsylvania.

“It was a move that really changed my life, coming to West Virginia. It started this deep love of West Virginia and all things Appalachia, and that’s what I wanted to turn to on this record,” Huey said.

The idea for the album started when Huey read a book called “The Devil is Here in These Hills” by historian James Green about the West Virginia Mine Wars, a book that Huey is currently trying to turn into a TV series. Huey said he imagines it to be similar to shows like “Peaky Blinders” or “Yellowstone.”

Huey and his Producer Eric Ambel wanted to write songs that could function as a soundtrack for the series, and over time, the handful of songs they wrote together grew into a full-length album. Huey said he already knew a lot about coal mining, but still learned much as he researched events like the Battle of Blair Mountain.

“The historical roots of coal mining and the union struggle brought me closer in touch with the struggle of my own family and growing up in Appalachia.”

Album cover for “Appalachian Gothic” (Courtesy Orion Strategies)

This personal reflection was the main reason Huey wanted this to be a solo album. Up until now, Huey has been releasing music almost exclusively with his band The Surreal McCoys, but their latest album was released over seven years ago.

Huey said that if this was a McCoy record, there were likely songs that would not have made it onto the album due to personal connections. Huey sees “Appalachian Gothic” not as a collection of singles, but as a single, cohesive journey that depicts his time growing up in West Virginia.

“It was almost like therapy, you know? Because I knew it wasn’t just going to be my story, but the story of people like me. The stories of my cousins, my friends who stayed there, and what that’s like. It gave me more freedom to explore those,” the musician said.

Huey said writing the album was like a homecoming for him since he hasn’t lived in West Virginia since high school. He currently resides in Washington D.C., something he said gave him more objectivity when thinking about his home state.

However, Huey thought very hard about how he could tap into his nostalgia for things like 123 Pleasant Street, listening to U92 and having a round at Gene’s without seeming like an interloper. He wanted to make sure he was genuine in his portrayal of West Virginia while still touching on more serious topics like opioid addiction and the slow collapse of the coal industry. 

“As you know, we West Virginians are sensitive to how West Virginia is portrayed, and I wanted to do it in an honest way.”

If you’d like to give it a listen, “Appalachian Gothic” will be available on all major music streaming sites starting on Jan. 20, and you can find more of Erik Vincent Huey’s music here.