Orville Peck on fire

How the Pandemic Saved Orville Peck

“I hadn't written music in years where it was just totally for myself."

When your last three releases, in chronological order, are titled Pony, Show Pony and Bronco, it makes sense that you’d see yourself as a bit of a “Horse Girl”. It’s a title that mystery masked figure Orville Peck revels in with glee. 

“I’m gonna do a Gregorian chant album next and call it Equus,” he laughs when the fact is pointed out.


Though it’s a joke, the horse is not only an ode to the Old West for Peck – of which he has a vivid connection – it’s also symbolic of major emotional shifts at different points in his life.


Pony, his debut album, was a release that he says saw him at his least confident. It’s a title that calls to an animal Peck describes as “Not quite a horse, not quite a donkey – just a sweet, sad little guy”. Singing in a slow drawl, the Canadian artist burst onto the scene with his searching, questioning, and escapist sound.

That album threw Peck’s name into the global arena – and the question of keeping his vulnerabilities safe manifested in the form of his now-iconic fringed mask. It’s an aspect of his character that consistently gets mentioned, though its meaning is quite simple.

“I think when somebody really connects with the music it’s because they understand that what I'm doing is just trying to be my authentic, sincere self,” he told VICE. “And this is just what that looks like.”

The Show Pony EP was the bridge between his first album and his latest. Peck was still an artist on display, caught between the limbo of major success and coming to terms with that.

Set for release in April, his headspace had changed quite significantly. At the time, the claws of the pandemic gripped artists around the world, including Peck. It was a time for reflection, hitting low points, but also finding liberation. 


“I hadn't written music in years where it was just totally for myself,” he said.

“I didn't know if I ever wanted to tour again, I didn't know if I ever wanted to put out an album again. I was in this terrible dark place in my life.”

“I was really just writing music like I used to when I was a teenager, where it was just because I was really unhappy. And I wanted to get stuff off my chest.”

That’s essentially what became the collection of songs that is Bronco. For Peck it was a “beautiful therapy”. One that felt unrestrained. 

“‘Bronco’ is a fitting term for the album, too, because the general overarching theme of the whole album is about liberating yourself and freedom.”

Though the pandemic stands as a point of collective trauma for all, for Peck it was a moment in time that gave him peace. Without it, he says, Bronco would have never come to fruition.

“I think if the pandemic hadn't hit, and I hadn't been forced to restart my life on a personal level and really assess what was important to me, and what was gonna keep me around, I don't think it would have been this album.”

“It came from absolute necessity and I don't think I would have been given the opportunity to make Bronco if I had been running on empty and not dealing with my problems or my traumas.”


Channelling visions of the wild bronco, free to roam over the rolling hills and fading sunsets of North America, Peck’s track list is like a galloping stead on an endless adventure.


The tracks differ to ones of the past – they’re fast-paced and optimistic – unlike Pony, a release he explains is one as that led to a lot of external pressure.  

“I used to be really stressed about it, and kind of worried that I wasn't going to be able to make something as good as Pony. And I was worried about what people would think - all the kinds of stresses you can get into when suddenly this very private thing becomes a very public thing.

“Especially because the success of Pony was pretty obvious to a lot of us. I think I was nervous about that, and started to not change what I was doing for other people.”

The end result was an album that Peck is genuinely proud of, written with a spirit of total vulnerability. 

“I didn’t care if anyone liked it or not,” he said.

Learning from his album and looking into the future, Orville Peck now sits within a space that's seeing him hold his own needs above others: “I need to be good with myself, and care... I need to be gentle with myself.”

Cutting down his hectic tour schedule - that at one point had him travel for almost two-quarters of the year - Peck seems to be on the right track.

“I see a lot of disappointment online. I don't know if I'll ever be the kind of person that tours 200 days out of the year anymore, because there’s things in my life that I want to enjoy now.”

“I feel good about that.”

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