When Masked Man Orville Peck Made His Enigmatic Debut With 2019’s Critically Acclaimed Black Roy-Orbison-sings-David-Lynch Soundtrack Ponythe outlaw queer singer-songwriter – who recently joked that “truck stops were the original Grindr” while playing Coachella decked out in gold-lamé rodeo couture – has brilliantly reversed the hyper-masculine cowboy archetype of the 50s and 60s. The South African-born musician may have gotten his start in the punk scene, but his Peck persona is his most punk-rock artistic statement to date. this day.
“I’ve definitely had a cowboy obsession, ever since I was little. I was just obsessed with the Lone Ranger, Cheyennea lot of old TV westerns, always drawn to the anti-hero cowboy types,” the American gothic author told Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM volume at the start of Pride month. “I think what got to me when I was just a weird weird little boy, I was pretty lonely when I was a kid. I felt very lonely and lonely, and with the cowboy figure, that cowboy character trope, their loneliness was kind of their Powerful. They were the hero of the story – instead of their weakness, which I think was how loneliness was portrayed in many other tropes. With the cowboy, they were on their own and doing their own thing, but they were rolling around town and saving the day, and there was kind of an anti-hero celebration. And I think that’s probably what I connected to.
The booming baritone of this modern-day rhinestone cowboy has been compared to that of Johnny Cash; he even took on the iconic role of Johnny in a rebellious remake of the Carter/Cash duo “Jackson” with RuPaul’s Drag Race star Trixie Mattel. But it was a classic female country artist – Patsy Cline and her “truly heartbreaking songs” – who spoke to him as a child.
“I remember I was obsessed with ‘Walking After Midnight’ when I was probably 12 or 13, because I felt like Patsy was singing about how I felt,” he recalled. “Just alone, walking past midnight, searching… I mean, she was looking for her lover; I was looking for friends or acceptance, I guess. I definitely connected to old school country, which had a lot of heartbreak, loneliness and disappointment in lyricism.
Peck never talks about his pre-Pony punk past, though his true identity has been the subject of the kind of speculation and countless Google Images searches experienced by other mystery artists — like Daft Punk, the Residents and Sia — ever since his fringed face appeared for the first time on Ponythe bold crimson cover. A self-proclaimed ‘very fiery kid’ who ‘wanted to do it all in anything in the arts’ growing up and trained in ballet for more than a decade, for years Peck couldn’t figure out how to launch a credible country career. , because he assumed there would be no place for him in this traditionally conservative world. Ironically, it wasn’t until he went into hiding that he felt he could reveal his true self, “one hundred percent,” and was able to find the visibility he craved.
“When I was a kid, there was no queer country that I knew about – no men singing my views,” says Peck. “I had no idea what kind of avenue to take. I didn’t know how I’d get an “in” in there [country music] the industry, especially the way I wanted to do it, which was this combination of theatrics and sincerity and doing it all in addition and visual. I’m the type of person who believes that sincerity and showmanship don’t have to be mutually exclusive, so I knew that was what I wanted to showcase as an artist. … But I put it off for a long time, because I guess I didn’t have the confidence to just go ahead and do it. I didn’t even know how begin to do it.
“And then something hit me at some point, where I just decided to go for it. Now that I’ve been doing it for a long time, and the older I get too, there’s a lot of times I surrender account: “Oh, okay, it is Why am I doing this !’ Peck laughs. “And I think [wearing a mask] probably helped put me forward and gave me the confidence to be vulnerable and scared.
Peck’s sophomore effort was recently released Broncos may be brighter and grander than its predecessor, but the album – which he made during the coronavirus pandemic, after all his Pony promotion and tour have been canceled – is even more vulnerable and intimate lyrically, offering a figurative look behind its mask.
“I had to unlearn not to be so hard on myself and so critical of myself. I had to learn to encourage myself more, which I learned during the pandemic, when I went on this journey of catharsis to just be myself and allow myself to be really, really vulnerable. A kind of journey of radical self-acceptance is what all the songs on Broncos are on point,” says Peck. “It’s this feeling of freeing myself from my own pressures, toxic people, toxic relationships, and really coming to terms with myself and breaking free from who I was before. … And I would probably say ‘Curse of the Blackened Eye’ [best exemplifies that]. It’s about trauma and the lingering effects of trauma, and I think it’s pretty much related to different things.
Music fans from all walks of life seem to find Peck relatable, despite all the secrecy and artifice surrounding him. He dueted not only with Trixie Mattel on the aforementioned ‘Jackson,’ but with the one and only Shania Twain on her 2020 Show Pony EP single “Legends Never Die”. He also managed to turn British synthpop trio Bronski Beat’s LGBTQ+ anthem “Smalltown Boy” – which he describes as “a very poignant account of what sadly remains a big part of the gay experience” – into a spaghetti western epic for the modern age. And he’s the rare artist who can play both Coachella and the following weekend, the Stagecoach country music festival, on the same desert terrain in Southern California, was enthusiastically received by both audiences.
“I think country fans aren’t recognized enough for their openness,” Peck points out. “I play a lot of true-blue, very country music festivals, and there are times when I get on stage and I feel a little nervous. But in the end, everyone dances and sings. I think country is about storytelling. And I think at the end of the day, if you’re a real country fan, you want to hear new stories. You just want to hear those new perspectives. I know I do. And while Peck readily acknowledges that “that innate sense of marginalization still exists,” he believes his success is a sign that the country genre “is absolutely changing and evolving.”
“I think that feeling of otherness or marginalization, even just in the genre with the country, I probably connected to that,” Peck thinks, again recalling female artists, like Cline and Twain, who he adored. when he was young. “That’s also why I think I like a lot of black country musicians too, like Charley Pride. … I think it goes through a big evolution. Pretty much every generation country music takes a big leap forward. in terms of who’s allowed to tell the country stories or the gatekeepers. There’s so much more exposure, of course, for queer country musicians – someone like Trixie, who’s a drag queen and sells great albums But there’s also Mickey Guyton, Amethyst Kiah, Brandi Carlile — you know, people who weren’t necessarily the face of mainstream country before, who usually would have been a straight white male, let’s be honest.
“I think there’s so much more diversity now that opens the door to the country. I think there’s no denying that we all have seats at the table,” Peck says, his smile visible even behind his ubiquitous mask of tailored country-western fringe. “And yes, I am absolutely a part of it, and I feel very, very proud and excited to be a part of it. I’m just thrilled to be here to witness this beautiful development that this country is going through.
The above interview is taken from Orville Peck’s appearance on the SiriusXM show “Volume West.” The full audio of this conversation is available on the SiriusXM app.
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