Prior to his sold out show at The Empty Bottle, I had the chance to hang out with Orville Peck, the masked country star, and talk a little about his debut album Pony:
It’s been about a month and a half since Pony was released and you started the tour for the album, how has it been on the road with fans?
It’s been really good! We’ve sold out I think every show except for one, which was one ticket away from being sold out. So I think, it’s been going really great. I’m meeting everyone. I hang out at the mech table after the show. I try and meet people and that’s been really nice.
Has there been a lot of fans coming up to you after the show telling you how much your music has meant to them?
Yeah! Lots actually. In like a sweet way. I get a lot of people telling me that that my music reminds them of other artists that they grew up loving. You know, funnily enough, I get a pretty wide range of people at my shows. Everything from like drag queens to millennial punks to older couples who are country fans. I think everyone seems to have their own different personal connection to [my music], which is really special because that’s kind of how I feel about country music. Music I grew up liking; I had my own personal connection to it. So that’s been really amazing. I mean, I get a lot of queer people, trans people, and LGBTQ people coming up and telling me that the music’s really important for them because maybe they grew up loving country, but they never actually saw much visibility in the country scene. Or just the song. The songs are about subjects that resonate with them that maybe other country artists, or other musicians in general, have given a voice to. I think that’s really special. As I said, I get a lot of different kinds of people and some of them are cis white straight men in their forties with their wives telling me that I remind them of Roy Orbison or Hank Williams, that’s really cool too.
When people are comparing you to these country legends, how does that make you feel with the music you’ve written?
I think it’s very flattering. Obviously, those are all people that I’m inspired by. I love Roy Orbison. I love Johnny Cash. I love Hank Williams. The people aren’t wrong. It’s definitely musicians that have inspired me and I grew up loving their voices. And so, I think that’s definitely rubbed off on the music that I make. I find it interesting. There always seems to be a comparison between two artists that people like to make for me. Like, they’ll say Joy Division meets Johnny Cash, or like, Nick Cave meets Merle Haggard or whatever. And I think that’s really interesting too because it tells me a lot about that person, like what their references are. And I find that really interesting.
So far on tour, what’s been your favorite thing to see on the road, traveling through America?
I like traveling through America. I’ve used to live in a lot of different parts of America, but some of the places we are going through on tour, like, I haven’t in Chicago for almost 10 years. And a lot of my album is about traveling, and a lot of my songs are about different people, places, and experiences. It’s nice to come back to some of these cities that inspired a lot of the stories that are on Pony. It’s a nice thing. And to write an album about all these places I’ve been to and all these adventures I got to go on over the last ten years, and them coming back to the same places and being able to sing about those experiences; it’s really kind of special.
Well, welcome back to Chicago. I’m happy that you’re playing the bottle tonight. Probably my favorite venue in the city.
Thank you. Yeah, I’ve played here. I think this is my third or fourth time playing here.
Being back in Chicago for the first time in about 10 years, is there one thing you really want to do or see while you’re back?
I really want to check out this western store that everyone keeps telling me about that I’ve never been to. It’s a vintage western store that’s pretty close to here (the venue), so I think we are going to try and stop in. I also have some friends here too that I’m pretty excited to see. I love Chicago. I think it’s a really cool city. Every time I’ve been in Chicago, I’ve witnessed something really kind of rough and crazy. Whenever I come here, I’m always expecting to see something crazy go down. Every time I’ve played literally at this venue, there’s been some crazy thing that happens. I’m kind of turning corners, like, waiting for a piano to drop. We’ll see. Maybe it’ll be uneventful now that I said that.
What’s been your favorite song to perform live?
I really like doing Big Sky because that song is really personal to me, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to translate live cause it’s a stripped-down ballad and it’s quite long. There’s a lot of repeating choruses, but it seems like that song really connects with people, which is really thrilling for me because it’s something very sincere for me. The fact that people seem to really like that one, it just makes it such a pleasure to be able to get that stuff off my chest and have other people connect with it too. It’s kind of cathartic, but also, it feels pretty special just to be able to sing that one and have it still hold people’s attention. I didn’t know if it was going to be able to do that or not.
So, the mask it is a big part of your personality – it is you as a person, as Orville Peck.
I have 17 or 18, almost 20. I have my original one, it’s kind of like a light pink one. I had to retire it cause it’s getting really kind of old now and I don’t want it to just disintegrate. I put that one in the vault. That’s probably my favorite one. They’re all different lengths and different vibes and wearing them kind of depends on what I’m wearing that night.
Lastly, as a person who has traveled a lot over the years, do you have any advice for someone who either hasn’t traveled as much as you have or for someone who has never really been on the road or a long journey?
Yeah, I think embracing the adventure of it and not trying to control it too much and kind of letting the spontaneity take its course is helpful. You can’t control the way it goes too much. I think the best memories I have and some of the most meaningful things that have happened to me while traveling or living in different cities have been unexpected moments or people coming across my path. Just giving into the adventure of relinquishing control.
Pony is out now on Sub Pop Records: