Orville Peck: The Masked Cowboy Dreamer We Can't Get Enough Of
Elusive cowboy and fashion darling Orville Peck is best friends with Diplo and Shania Twain; yet nobody’s seen his face.
The fashionably masked cowboy on stage (Photo: Jim Bennett)
Devastating, critically-acclaimed debut album Pony, released in 2019, introduced the world to alt-country with motown tendencies. No one had seen a cowboy doing ballet before,Let’s take a deep dive into the mysterious world of Orville Peck.
From stage to screen
Born in Canada somewhere in the 80s, Peck wasn’t born Peck, and trained for 12 years as a ballet dancer before moving into musical theatre. He flexed his vocal talents and moves playing colorful characters in musical tours worldwide, and in a play on the West End in London, before turning his hand to making coffee and living back at his parents. It was here that he conjured up his very own Ziggy Stardust, the character of Orville Peck and whipped up, almost single handedly, his magnificent debut record.
At first glance and hearing, many were intrigued by Peck’s mystery: his elegant, lithe body fit so spectacularly with his haunting, deep voice and sad tales of heartbreak and desire. Peck has become known for his heightened videos that are pure theatre, toying with themes of sexuality and masculinity with extremely stylistic direction and costumes.
The videos for ‘Turn To Hate’ and ‘Dead of Night’ show Peck dancing ballet and buckerooing in pony-rings; all the while donning his now-famed fringed cowboy hat, which works as a balaclava covering his face. Peck has collaborated with a bevy of top designers on these creations, and (like Daft Punk, MF Doom and The Knife over their active years) wouldn’t be caught dead without his mask. Pony won an immense amount of love and attention, as well as many physical accolades in the form of awards and invites onto coveted US prime time chat shows.
Self produced and released through revered, eclectic Seattle indie label Sub Pop (from Nirvana to Beach House to clipping.), Pony became an overnight sensation. Peck became a celebrity and was seen gracing red carpets with super producers and supermodels. The homoerotic overtones of his performance also made him a queer icon from the get go.
Staying true to his motifs, the gifted Canadian cowboy prince returned in 2020 with a glimpse of his forthcoming EP Show Pony, which has a Brokeback Mountain-meets-The Revenant inspired video, depicting pure Western drama on horseback.
Sisterhood and brethren
Country music and suppressed sexuality, bleak landscapes, late boozy nights, shrill cries of love and wonderment: Peck is an icon of Americana in his own fruity way. He’s edgy like many of those who came before, pushing boundaries and provokes with his image, but his command and talent for writing superb country songs allows him the space.Country music is also historically a rather hostile space when it comes to queer expression. In 2021 he collaborated with drag queen Trixie Mattel, of Drag Race fame, covering iconic country duo Cash and Carter. He also appears on Gaga’s Born This Way Reimagined 10th anniversary record, interpreting the song ‘Born This Way;’ Peck’s future is beyond.
If you like Orville Peck...
Bill Callahan’s 2020 album Gold Record is an intimate album where another introspective alt-cowboy holds a magnifying glass to the minute details of daily turmoil. There's even a song called 'Cowboy' - check out the moodagent it creates, with fellow rodeo brethren Peck combined as a flavor.
Words by Alexandra Pereira
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