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This piece initially ran on Pride.com, read the original here.
Just after country star Orville Peck took the Lollapalooza stage by storm in Chicago, PRIDE caught up with the out musician backstage (him wearing his signature mask while we donned our own) where he opened up about his favorite artists, biggest musical accomplishments, working with Lady Gaga, advice for LGBTQ+ folks, and even hits on Dababy's recent controversial comments.
PRIDE: How does it feel to get back into live events?
Peck: It's honestly a very extreme mix of emotions. It's exciting and thrilling and beautiful and touching. And it's also scary and nerve-wracking. I think it's what everyone's probably going through just being here. This is the most people I've been around in two years. I already had pretty shoddy social anxiety to begin with so I'm coping, but it's a mix of emotions, but mostly good.
Who do you stan? Who is the artist of your life?
It's funny because of course I'm a country musician and I love country artists, but my all-time favorite artist ever was Whitney Houston. I mean, I'm a Whitney gay. I love, I just, I can't even. I don't even talk about Whitney that much because I honestly get pretty emotional thinking about her.
Yeah. [sings] So emotional, baby. I just think that she had the most incredible voice of all time and I stan Whitney for life. And Dolly, and Nina, but those are tied for second.
You covered Lady Gaga's LGBTQ+ anthem "Born This Way" for her 10th-anniversary album. What was that like for you?
Oh, God, it was like, I'm still not even really sure if I've digested it. She reached out and asked and it was flattering and exciting and then I got nervous and then it was interesting to do actually. For a song written 10 years ago, the message is still, if not maybe more so relevant, which is bittersweet in a way. It's sad that we still have to champion the message that we are who we are and that's all we can really be. And people seem to still have a problem with that. And so it's sad that it's a song that is still so relevant today, but I'm absolutely honored that I was asked to make it my own and carry on that message. And it's such an important one.
What’s the last tv show you watched?
The last TV show I watched? It was probably Queen's Gambit during quarantine. I don't really watch that much TV, to be honest. I'm a big fan of reading, not to sound like an asshole, but I did like Queen's Gambit, it was good.
We’ve come so far but there is still plenty of LGBTQ+ discrimination in the music industry and the world at large. Why is it important to you to be out?
I was never in. For me, I always thought that music and creativity and art and performing was a world where I felt absolutely free to be myself. The idea of having to hide who I am in that world never made sense to me. I struggled more with feeling accepted in other parts of my life. Making music and being an artist that was always such a release for me. Because I felt like there were no boundaries and no barriers, no matter who or what I was. I just had this backward in the sense of what maybe is what's typical, but in my mind, that just made sense to me that I would never feel like I needed to pretend I was anything other than myself. I don't know how to be anything other than myself to be honest.
Especially as young LGBTQ people oftentimes, there's always the joke about like the English teacher, or the choir practice, or the art class. Those are always safe spaces for us to feel like we could express ourselves and be who we want to be. And so the idea of going into that and not being myself just doesn't make any sense.
Talk about one way your identity shows up in your music.
Out of all of my entire catalog, I only have two songs that are fictional. Every song I write is autobiographical and usually about a relationship or a time of my life. So with most of my music, I feel like I'm reading from my diary. I actually do this sadistic thing to myself where sometimes if I write an embarrassing lyric and I want to change it, I actually force myself to make it more embarrassing because I know that's probably what I need to do. So I actually torture myself in the studio, my band always laughs because I'm always singing stuff and I'll sit down and be like, "I hate it. I hate it. I don't know why I'm singing about that." But I'd make them put it on the record.
So I would say most of my songs, but I have a song from my very first album called "Big Sky." And it's about three different relationships that I had. All terrible, all terrible relationships. And I feel like it's a very personal song.
What’s the last song you played on repeat?
Yola, who's a dear friend of mine and we just co-headlined Red Rocks together, she has new music that's been coming out and she has a song called "Diamond Studded Shoes." I cannot get enough of it. I think it's so cool. It's the perfect mixture of country and soul and activism. And it's just fucking great. It's amazing. If people don't know Yola, they should check her out. She's incredible.
What’s your favorite song you’ve released to date?
I got to do Legends Never Die with the incredible Shania Twain. So that was obviously like a dream come true. That one was incredible.
And then, honestly, there's a song on my EP called "Drive Me, Crazy." It's about truckers who are in love. It's so funny because with that one, I really just went all out with the fantasy of what this whole story was about these two truckers. I love that one because I get to play piano on it and I don't get to do that very often.
Do you feel like you face any challenges in your genre of music?
Well, I'm not necessarily a typical country performer in a sense. The irony is that my music is a lot more country than mainstream country music, but I wear a mask and I'm gay and all these things that shouldn't matter seem to sometimes matter. But you know what, I love a challenge. I'm addicted to challenges. So I feel like I'm in the right genre because it forces me to get louder and prouder and just continue to stick to what I do. If someone tells me I'm not allowed somewhere or I'm not welcome somewhere, you better believe I'm going to be welcomed there.
So of course I face challenges. I mean if you're not just the status quo, we all face those challenges in this industry. Women, non-white people. It's a nightmare for all of us at some point, but it firmly makes me realize that I belong even more so, and that it's more important that I make myself visible and stand up proudly and so it keeps me going. I guess in a way, I don't think of it as an obstacle. I think of it as motivation.
Any advice for any LGBTQ+ people going through their own trials and tribulations?
It's so much easier said than done, and it took me a long time to do this myself, but accept who you are as quick as you can and get familiar with it even quicker. Then learn to love it and cherish it and be so proud of it because that's not even just half the battle. I think that might be the entire battle to life is feeling truly in love with who you are, no matter what your circumstances, no matter what anyone else thinks of you, and just proudly loving and being who you are.
It's hard to get there, but I think, and I work on it every day as well, but I think it's a process and I think maybe the reassuring thing for people going through that is that we all go through that. Everybody on this planet is desperately trying to not be who they are at some point in their lives. And the real secret and the real truth is when you finally just accept and love who you are, it makes everything in your life easier.
Life's hard enough without loving who you are. So you got to love who you are. That's the best advice I can give.
There's a lot of people that maybe that's a danger for them or whatever it may be, but it's still hard times for the LGBTQ community. I mean, just recently with DaBaby. My jaw is dropped. I can't believe this sh*t's still happening. So we all have to be proud of ourselves and one another and support one another. It's really important in the gay community for us all to support one another and stick together.