“Members of the LGBT+ community that wouldn’t necessarily be at a country show. Mega-fans in Orville Peck masks. Couples in their 80s who are huge country fans. Drag queens. Five-year-olds!” Orville Peck is describing his average audience for Apple Music. “Maybe there are a million reasons for these people to be a room together,” he says. “But it’s lovely that I’m one of the reasons for them to be together.” It’s unsurprising that the fringe-masked, pseudonymous Toronto-based cowboy crooner’s debut album has attracted a broad church. Pony offers a very modern subversive spin on expertly informed country, tender torch songs of homoerotic desire and raw rock ’n’ roll decorated with his rich, sonorous voice. Peck may not want to show you his face, but here he’s happy to take you through his extraordinary debut, track by track. Dead of Night “This is a song about unrequited love. It's about being with somebody you know ultimately cannot give you what you want, and is only going to break your heart. But even just that is better than being without them, so you torture yourself with the inevitable demise. It was the first song I wrote for the album, and I wanted it to sound like something familiar, but something completely new as well. I wanted to provoke the kind of sensation of torturous nostalgia. I think we all go through somewhere where you remember a moment and you think that thinking about it is going to torture you, but you do it anyway, because we have this weird human nature of putting ourselves through emotional pain. That's kind of why I wanted the lonely guitar sound, and I wanted to go from very low to very high. I just wanted to give that same feeling sonically that the emotion is about in the song.” Winds Change “‘Winds Change’ is a song about traveling around not letting too much moss on your stone. I've lived in many, many different countries, and I've just felt like a drifter my entire life. The song is also about the things that you give up when you live that lifestyle. The benefits are adventure and freedom, but there are things—important things—that you have to leave behind.” Turn to Hate “I wrote the lyrics for this song about seven years ago when I was in a really low place. It's one of my favorite songs on the album. It's about the struggle I've had feeling like an outsider and an outlaw my whole life and not letting that turn into resentment. Like I say in the song, ‘Don't let my sorrow turn to hate.’ Anyone who's ever felt like a weirdo should remember that is your power, and that's what makes you powerful and unique. This song is a mantra to remind myself not to let it go dark.” Buffalo Run “I’m not a very skilled technical musician, because I just teach myself everything I play. So I write all my music from a visual or emotive place. Here, I wanted to have my version of a driving train beat: I wanted it to feel like a stampede, essentially, so it needed to start peaceful and calm and slowly build and finally you get that release. I wanted it to feel cinematic. There’s a place in Alberta, Canada, I was thinking about called Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, which is this huge canyon where they would do buffalo runs. Canada’s indigenous people would essentially herd the buffalo off cliffs and then gather them. Every time we play it, I genuinely am picturing buffalo stampeding.” Queen of the Rodeo “This is about a Canadian drag queen friend of mine called Thanks Jem. It’s funny, because when we first met, we did not get along. But interestingly, she really taught me a lot about myself. She’s from a small town in Canada and moved to Vancouver to pursue her drag artistry. I wouldn’t want to speak on her behalf about her stories, but the general theme of the song is around pursuing something you love, and even if it’s maybe not as fruitful as you’d hoped, it’s the act of chasing what you love in the face of adversity that’s important.” Kansas (Remembers Me Now) “This is a tricky song to talk about, as it’s the only song on the record that isn’t connected to my own life. I don’t want to give it away because I’m always proud when someone figures it out and tells me their version. But I’ll give a couple hints: It’s a song about something pretty dastardly. It’s my murder ballad. They have a very long history in country music. It’s about a real-life murder story which also involves a very interesting kind of homoerotic romance. This is my ode to that.” Old River “I wrote this very shortly after the death of a family member. It’s a cathartic song for me that I wrote literally driving through the mountains in winter on the way to the studio. I wanted sonically for it to be what is known in Appalachian country as a field holler, which is a mix of the old haunting Appalachian mountain music with a gospel influence. The Carter Family would do it really well. I also wanted it to be just short enough to annoy people. It’s an uncomfortable song for me, and I wanted everyone listening to it to feel uncomfortable too.” Big Sky “I grew up a very chatty, outgoing person and I was always performing. I’ve never felt insecure, socially. But the older I’ve gotten, I’ve realized I’m a very closed person with regards to sharing things about myself—real things about myself. I never knew how closed I was for a long time. The song is about three relationships I’ve had, and the funny thing is people tend to think it’s about those people. It is, sort of, but all of the lyrics are actually me exposing my own shortcomings, exposing myself and my role in those relationships, rather than holding anyone else at fault. The second verse deals with a pretty tumultuous relationship that I was pretty fearful of and had never even talked to anybody about before. It’s a really liberating song, as somebody who internalizes a lot.” Roses Are Falling “A song about loving somebody so much that they drive you crazy. You know that being with them is not good for you, but at the same time maybe that’s what we all need every now and again. I wanted to give a nod to the era of Santo & Johnny—that pedal-steel Hawaiian influence which moved into country—with a cheeky twist.” Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call) “There is a classic trope in country music that used to be known as hokum. It's funny, because I think it's—for people that don't really know country today—almost what gave country a stigma for being shallow. But there’s a long tradition in country to incorporate humor, wit, and Southern charm into the music. Dolly Parton is very famous for that, of course, and I love the very famous George Strait song called ‘All My Ex’s Live in Texas.’ So this is my hokum song with gunshots, whip cracks, and yeehaws. It’s a rootin’-tootin’ song about leaving somebody and that great feeling of telling them you’ll never take that back.” Hope to Die “Although I sing a lot about relationships, this is the only song on the album that’s about true heartbreak. It took a long time to record and I kept making revisions lyrically and to the production because I really wanted to capture a feeling within it. It was that feeling when you’re so at a loss that something fell apart. For me, it was that I was so heartbroken and spent months walking in slow motion. So I wanted to capture that sensation of feeling numb and watching the world pass you but all you can do is think about whatever it may be. It’s strange, because it’s almost a divine, serene feeling, but it’s so negative. It’s very still and peaceful, but it’s so very lonely. That serene unhappiness is something that I imagine people could probably get stuck in.” Nothing Fades Like the Light “This song is about the feeling of knowing something is coming to an end, and how that feeling can be more painful than when it does actually end. Embarrassingly, I still really choke up and cry in this song when I perform it. Which sounds conceited, but it’s not because I’m so moved by my performance. It’s very funny, as like I said earlier, I didn’t realize how closed I was emotionally for a very long time. A friend of mine passed away when I was quite young, and I remember being at the funeral and being incapable of crying. It dawned on me, ‘You know, I don’t cry very often. What makes me cry? Should I be crying? Do I feel things? Am I crazy?’ It’s nuts, because after that moment something clicked in my brain and I didn’t cry for about five or six years, at all. I think it became a compulsion where I just could not seem to cry. I eventually did, and it was actually a moment of bliss. Now I cry all the time.”

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