- Words Russell Dean Stone
- Photography Chelsee Ivan
As he drops his latest music vid, we meet the outlaw cowboy crooner making desert hymns for lovesick hustlers.
Somewhere out in the badlands of North America, in-between the desert and mountain ranges of the Western state of Nevada, you’ll find enigmatic troubadour Orville Peck. Having lived in a lot of places, from Canada to Africa, and played in a bunch of badass bands over the years, Peck is now going it alone, armed with his anthems of love and loss for road dogs and lonely gamblers.
Peck’s is a handsome as hell sound that’s full of twangy guitars, shuffling 50’s percussion, and banjos. On tracks like debut single “Dead Of Night”, which tells the story of a biker hustler’s whirlwind romance and its tragic end, Peck throws back to a bygone era of queer lovin’ by channeling the cruising stories of artist David Wojnarowicz. With his inked torso and Stetson firmly on, Peck cuts an unmistakable figure. Saddle up as we head out into the dust to meet the man behind the mask.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
People have been calling it “weird Country” but I don’t really think it’s that weird. My aesthetic has been around for a long time in music, books and films but my type usually tend to stick to ourselves. I guess it’s music for loners. Or maybe it’s music for lovers. Actually it’s both.
You call yourself a cowboy but are cowboys a problematic figure in 2018 considering their historic associations or are they just misunderstood?
Nah I don’t think of them as problematic. The type of cowboys I grew up loving, both fictional and real, have always been on the fringes of society. Outlaw Country musicians like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and others, were the equivalent of punks in the Country community. Merle Haggard was inspired to play music when he saw Johnny Cash play at San Quentin prison, because he was an inmate there. Most people have a basic idea about what they think Country Music and cowboy culture is. I don’t think being a cowboy fits any of those basic stereotypes for me. To me cowboys are a symbol of rebellion. Anybody can be a cowboy. I know a whole lot of cowboys and most of them don’t wear hats.
When was the last time you cried?
I cried a lot as a kid and then when I was 20 i went for like a 4 year streak without crying and people used to give me a hard time about it and tell me I had to learn to cry. I actually sing about that in one of my songs. I finally cried again though.
Have you ever broken the law?
I’ve broken a few laws but I’ve broken those laws a lot of times. I got arrested in San Antonio once but they threw out my case.
How do you identify?
I guess I’m a cisgender male.
"Dead of Night" by Orville Peck
What does the word ‘queer’ mean to you?
It seems like everybody has a different definition for it nowadays. But maybe that’s attributed to what ‘queer’ inherently means? Personally, I don’t find it useful to define myself with niche terms. I’ve been with men, I’ve been with women and I spend most of my time trying to make music and art. I’ve never been interested in the lexicons or politics of sub-subcultures. I think in the wrongs hands that sort of stuff breeds exclusivity.
How would you describe your sound?
I find it hard to describe. An obvious starting point would be old Country music. I love Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline. But there are definitely elements of shoegaze, psych and 80’s synth pop/rock in there too. People would probably be surprised to know what I listen to in my spare time because it’s pretty far away from the music I make.
What’s your writing process?
Sometimes it starts with a melody. Sometimes with lyrics. A lot of the time I have a strong idea of what I want to reference or what emotion I want to evoke with it. But almost all the time it’s when I’m out walking around and I have to record it by humming into my phone.
What’s the deal with your mask?
Have you ever had your heartbroken?
Yes, many times. But not always in the romantic sense. There are worse kinds of heartbreak than that.
Is sex important to you?
Yeah sort of. But probably not in comparison to how important it seems to be for some. I see so many people making sex their whole identity and I just find it incredibly boring. I think sex is the least interesting thing about someone. It’s definitely the least interesting thing about me.
What would the Orville Peck biography be called?
Probably ‘Big Sky’. It’s the title of one my songs and I think the lyrics sum up Orville pretty well.
Are you a lover or a fighter?
I grew up a fighter. I think nowadays I’m a lover, but I spend my love sparingly. I don’t trust people that easily so unfortunately I’m quicker to fight than I am to love.
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