You may have thought the most bad ass country music thing you’d seen in a while was Kacey Musgraves’ iconic “I didn’t say fuckin’ yee” troll at this year’s Coachella festival, but Toronto-born masked musician Orville Peck is an entirely different entity, an “outlaw” some might say.
With a flamboyant twist on the typical outlaw cowboy look – and a mask that puts Zorro’s to shame – the mysterious crooner is a dark and compelling creative mastermind, telling stories of love and loss throughout his recent debut album Pony.
Combining elements from classic country greats with his rich Elvis-esque vocals, Orville revitalises the country sound with influences stemming from shoe gaze and rock, to folk and gospel, as he weaves between stories of homoerotic desire and heartache. Though he’s shrouded his face in mystery, he’s certainly unafraid to give us an in-depth look into his heart.
Having just announced a headline show at London’s Scala for later this year, we caught up with the man behind the mask to find out more.
Hey Orville Peck, how are you?
Howdy – I’m great thanks!
Congrats on Pony! How’s putting out a debut album been?
It’s been a really overwhelming experience so far. When I started writing these songs I honestly wasn’t sure what the response was going to be but not only do people seem to really love the album but they seem to connect with it on a deeper level which is great.
When did you start working on it?
In theory – for a really long time, but I began piecing it together about two or three years ago.
How would you explain what people can expect when they listen to it?
I think people can expect a classic country album, but maybe told in a different way.
What do you want people to take away from it?
I am happy for people to take whatever they want away from it. This album is extremely personal to me so if they can take something away that is personal to them – then that’s all I can hope for.
Where did you draw inspiration from when writing it?
Well the sound is obviously rooted in country (specifically the outlaw country genre of the 70s) but I am inspired by all genres and bands. I feel like my album has moments of new wave, rock, shoe gaze, pysch, gospel, folk. The anchor is always country but I don’t like to limit myself as an artist.
You’ve been called a “country” artist. Where does your love for that kind of music come from?
Well I grew up loving and listening to country. I think there is an emphasis on storytelling in country music. Whether it’s the biographical diary style writing of Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton’s wit or Johnny Cash’s tall tales – all the country I grew up loving had a focus on story. So thats what I try to do. Tell my stories.
What are some of the stories from the album?
You’ll have to listen and find out!
You sing about love and loss. What draws you towards writing about this?
Well I think those topics are probably pretty common in the history of songwriting but I guess I’ve experienced a lot of both. Pony is an album centred around heartbreak but it may not be the kind of heartbreak people would assume. Sure, I sing about past lovers and unrequited feelings but Pony is really about heartbreak within myself – feeling unsettled or lost. There are worse kinds of heartbreak than the romantic kind.
How is it putting out such personal stories?
It’s scary but liberating. I used to think I was an open person growing up but I think I’ve always struggled with being totally honest about my feelings. I carry around a lot of anxiety and I’ve been on the move most of my life so I think those elements build an innate loneliness within you. I think this album is me releasing all of that.
We have to mention the mask. What’s the story behind that?
It just appeared one day and now I can’t get it off.
Why the added mystery?
I don’t think I’m adding any mystery. People keep asking me if Orville Peck is my real name, or why I’m concealing my identity but if that’s what people are focused on then they are missing the point entirely. All I know is that I’m Orville Peck and I’m a country star. Ya’ll need to go spend some time in Hollywood – nobody there uses their real names or shows their real faces either for that matter!
What else do you have planned for this year?
I’m about to leave on a big North American tour. It will be the first time I’m playing most of these cities and I am so excited to spread some of the yeehaw feeling around.