While Orville Peck likes to maintain an air of mystery surrounding his identity, he’s become one of the most recognizable names and (covered) faces in country music over the past few years. His many fabulous fringed masks have become a quintessential part of his identity, as wearing them allows Peck to be more raw and vulnerable in his craft. As an openly gay singer and songwriter, Peck is often attributed for a shift in country music, which has long been a straight white male-dominated genre.
On Apple TV+’s new reality competition series, My Kind Of Country, Peck, alongside Jimmie Allen and Mickey Guyton, handpicked artists from around the world to compete in Nashville for a “life-changing” prize from Apple Music. On his showcase episode, which is now streaming, Peck scouted four artists – including a female vocalist named Micaela Kleinsmith and a trio called The Congo Cowboys, both acts hailing from Peck’s home country of South Africa. Also on Peck’s roster are a woman named Alisha Pais from Goa, India, and Ismay, a nonbinary singer from Petaluma, California.
We chat with Peck via Zoom shortly before the premiere of My Kind Of Country, a show he feels aligns well with his modus operandi – to open doors for other diverse artists.
“[Apple] approached me about [the show] and I heard the premise, and obviously, I’m an advocate for blazing new trails in any genre, but especially within country,” Peck says, and having new perspectives and new stories told. So, when I heard that they were interested in me, for the show, to go around the world and find new stories within country, I was like, ‘Of course,’ it sounded perfect.”
Peck himself is all too familiar with the life of a homegrown artist. He recorded his 2019 debut album Pony independently – working in a coffee shop by day, playing a variety of instruments and writing songs by night – all while living in his parents’ home.
Pony, which was released via Sub Pop, caught the attention of some heavy hitters and made fans and collaborators out of Diplo, Shania Twain, and Lady Gaga. In 2022, he released Bronco, his sophomore album, and his major label debut via Columbia Records.
Though the masks allow Peck to maintain a brand of elusiveness, he feels this is the best way for him to express and vocalize his truth in song. Which, he says, after years of working to make it as an artist, is the best way for aspiring acts to break through in the industry.
“I think that country as a genre can seem daunting,” Peck tells INTO. “I didn’t have all of the connections, and all of the tools, and all of the plans to know what I was doing or which way I was going. But I stuck to my truth and who I was as an artist, what I wanted to say, and what I wanted to do. And if you’re showing up as yourself authentically and passionately, I think that’s your best bet.”
With Peck being an openly queer artist, and Guyton and Allen making waves as Black country artists, these three are often at the forefront of conversations about the shift in country music. However, while these artists have strong fan bases in the realms of streaming and TikTok, radio airplay doesn’t seem to reflect that.
At the time of writing, the polarizing Morgan Wallen holds the top spots on the Billboard 200, Hot 100, and Hot Country Songs charts, and on the lattermost, most of the top 10 spots are occupied by white straight men.
But Peck says the problem doesn’t lie within the listeners, who he feels are demanding a more diverse country music landscape. Nor does he feel that there is any shortage of artists who want to tell more diverse stories.
“I think the problem lies within the gatekeeping that happens at a higher level,” he says. “They’re starting to see that there is this demand for there are all of us out there. And I think that’s going to slowly turn the tide for them, that they realize that there’s profit involved, which is, you know, sad to say, but that’s probably what’s going to change it for the bigwigs. What needs to change the fastest is they’ve gotta get on board quicker.”
Many of Peck’s fans will say they discovered his music through different avenues; by way of TikTok, the Season 2 premiere of Euphoria, in which his song “Dead Of Night” was featured, his prolific collaborations, or simply through word of mouth within the LGBTQ+ community. As his star is continuing to rise, Peck says he will always remember who he does it all for.
“I have a beautiful, beautiful responsibility for my fellow brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ+ community that I take very seriously,” says Peck, “and I honor with a lot of pride to represent – really, anyone that feels marginalized – represent them within country music.”♦
New episodes of My Kind Of Country stream Fridays on Apple TV+