meta-scriptOrville Peck On The Music That Made Him, 'Pony' & The "Visual" Way He Creates | GRAMMY.com

Orville Peck

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Orville Peck On The Music That Made Him, 'Pony' & The "Visual" Way He Creates

The Recording Academy catches up with masked country star while On The Road at Austin City Limits 2019

GRAMMYs/Jan 3, 2020 - 01:00 am

Masked country performer Orville Peck is an enigma if ever there was one. Never without a handmade fringed mask, the Canadian singer-songwriter broke through last year with his mononym'd debut album, Pony.

The Recording Academy caught up with Peck while On The Road at Austin City Limits 2019, where we talked about his influences, the music he grew up with and more.

"My parents exposed me to lots of different types of music," he told us. "Country, obviously, but also glam rock, punk, gospel, soul, world music, you name it."

Peck certainly carries a proto-punk mentality when it comes to his influences; he cites '70s punk pioneer Patti Smith as one of his idols. "Patti Smith had a big impact on me," he says. "When I was like 14 years old, I wanted to be a musician but when I bought Horses—which is funny because my album's name is Pony—it made me feel like I could make music in a different way than I knew how when I was a kid."

Speaking of Pony, which dropped n March of last year via Sub Pop, Peck explains that he "just wanted to make my love letter to a classic country album." 

"[It's] the country that I love," he continues. "It's just my stories of places I've been, people I've known, people I've been with, things I struggle with."

Hear more from Orville Peck in the interview above, including the "visual" way he approaches the creation process and more.

K.Flay Talks Inspiration, Politics & The Argument That Led To Her Making Music

Queer country feature hero
(L-R) Orville Peck, Allison Russell, Lily Rose, Adeem the Artist, Jaime Wyatt

Photos (L-R): Jeff Hahne/Getty Images, Erika Goldring/Getty Images, Erika Goldring/Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Americana Music Association, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach

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How Queer Country Artists Are Creating Space For Inclusive Stories In The Genre

As country music continues its global explosion, the genre is seeing a growing number of artists in the LGBTQIA+ community — including Adeem the Artist, Lily Rose and Jaime Wyatt — blaze a trail toward acceptance.

GRAMMYs/Jun 18, 2024 - 04:36 pm

When country singer/songwriter Jaime Wyatt announced she was queer with the release of her second album, 2020's Neon Cross, she was convinced doing so would destroy her career. Instead, something shifted — not only was she more free to be herself and to date women openly, but many fans reacted positively, too.

"Several times on the road I've had fans come up to me with their same sex partner, and they're like, 'Hey, we feel safe here. It's so awesome because we both love country music, and we're not out of the closet, and we're not out to our families, but we can be here,'" Wyatt says.

Modern country music is generally perceived as a conservative genre, and deep-rooted cultural and industry biases have long excluded LGBTQIA+ (and BIPOC) artists and stories from the genre. For example, in 2010, when successful mainstream country artist Chely Wright came out, her career stalled and record sales halved. Kacey Musgraves was criticized for lyrics supporting same-sex love in her beloved anthem, "Follow Your Arrow." More recently, even, Wyatt walked out of a recording session after the owner of the space asked if she was singing "'some gay s—.'"

But Wyatt is also one of a growing number of country artists who, in recent years, have blazed a trail through country music and toward acceptance. Among them, Adeem the Artist, Mya Byrne, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, Mary Gauthier, Lizzy No, Orville Peck, Lily Rose, and Allison Russell. Together, they're celebrating queerness alongside their love for the genre, and pushing it into diversity with patience, tenacity, and darn good country music.

"If you listen to popular music, or if you listen to hip-hop music, it feels like there's a broader diversity to a lot of subcultures as far as what you're able to access," nonbinary country singer/songwriter Adeem the Artist says. "Whereas with country music, it's very linear, it's very myopic, and singular in its expression."

By way of broadening country's storytelling, Adeem plays a honky-tonk blend of classic and '90s country music that's sonically aligned with the deep musical traditions in Tennessee, where they now live. Lyrically, though, their propensity for gorgeous, frankly worded songs complicate stereotypical southern narratives in rare and provocative ways. On White Trash Revelry, their 2022 studio album, they grapple with racism, economic entrapment, gun violence, and family heritage. And their latest, Anniversary, released in May, includes songs about mental health, the poignance of parenthood, and the pain and fear of being a queer person in a world that threatens their existence.

Indeed, some of the places in the U.S. with the strongest ties to country music remain the least hospitable to queer people. Just last year, Tennessee, home of Nashville, the country music capital of the world, passed a total of 10 bills aimed at LGBTQIA+ people, while Texas, perhaps country music's second-best known state, passed 20 percent of all anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in the U.S. What's more, LGBTQIA+ people and culture have been targeted by numerous attacks around the world — including the Pulse nightclub and Club Q shootings stateside — in the last few years alone.

For many, the consequences of not coming out, of not sharing their full selves with the world, are risky, too. Growing up, Wyatt had no role model to show her it was okay to be queer. She struggled for years with mental health and substance abuse and was convicted of robbing her heroin dealer as a young adult. "I needed to see someone who looked like me when I was a young child," Wyatt says. "And maybe I wouldn't have been a dope fiend in jail."

But while straight white men comprise most of country music's standard slate of forebearers, women and people in the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities have contributed to the genre since its beginning. Notably, it was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a queer Black woman, who in the 1950s introduced reverb to gospel and rhythm and blues music — and in doing so, she forever changed guitar playing, and inspired some of country music's biggest trailblazers, from Elvis to Johnny Cash.

In 1973 — four years after the Stonewall uprising kickstarted a widespread gay liberation movement — Patrick Haggerty and his band Lavender Country released what is generally considered the first gay country album. But after it sold out its first pressing of 1000 copies, the album was mostly forgotten until 1999, when the Journal of Country Music published an article hailing Haggerty as "the lost pioneer of out gay country music." Haggerty began performing again and in 2014, indie label Paradise of Bachelors reissued the Lavender Country album, securing Haggerty status as a grandfather figure to queer country.

Haggerty's reissue landed in a different world than the album's original run. In the interim, a handful of artists released more queer country music, including Jeff Miller, aka "John Deere Diva," known for his George Strait parody, "Not Really Strait," as well as Doug Stevens and the Outband's When Love Is Right and Sid Spencer's Out-N-About Again, which put lyrically gay songs to country music.

In 2011, shortly before the Lavender Country reissue, queer country singer/songwriter and music scholar Karen Pittleman convened the first Gay Ole Opry in Brooklyn's now defunct Public Assembly performance space, launching more than a decade of queer country events, tours and a far-reaching network of performers and supporters. And in 2015, gay marriage became legal nationwide.

As progress has accelerated culturally in the near decade since, it has in country music, too. In 2018, Paisley Fields' debut album Glitter and Sawdust merged cowboy grit with queer raunch. In 2019, Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" provoked country music to re-consider the nature and identity of country music. In 2021, T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne became the first openly gay male artist signed to a major record label; a year later, the duo's song "Younger Me" — which was written in response to T.J.'s coming out — became the first country song with an LGBTQIA+ theme to win a GRAMMY. And this Pride Month, longtime LGBTQIA+ supporter (and GLAAD's 2023 Excellence in Media Award recipient) Maren Morris declared on Instagram, "happy to be the B in LGBTQ+."

Read More: 9 Times Queer Artists Made History At The GRAMMYs: From Elton John's Collab With BSB To Kim & Sam's "Unholy" Union

"We as queer fans deserve to have songs that speaks specifically to us," says Rachel Cholst, a queer writer and educator. "And if that means putting in same gender pronouns, then we deserve that too. And if that makes a straight person uncomfortable, I don't know what to tell you. I've grown up my entire life having to internally change the pronouns to the love songs that really moved me."

Cholst started writing about music when she realized she couldn't be the only queer country fan out there. Her work aims to make queer country music accessible, and she has run the Adobe and Teardrops blog for more than a decade. In 2022, Cholst launched Rainbow Rodeo, a zine about queer country music, which appears bi-annually in print and regularly online.

"Everyone just assumed that country music is this one thing, and it never occurred to them to go look for it. That tells you a lot about how country music wants to present itself as an industry," Cholst says. "If we erase anyone who's not straight, anyone who's not white, then what you're saying is, you want those people to be erased from the conversation, from the culture."

Beyond using she/her pronouns in love songs (which she didn't get to do on her first album, Felony Blues), Wyatt's powerful, steely queer country music complicates social consciousness. Incisive and elegant in her delivery, she's equally compelling chronicling her conviction and jail time on Felony Blues, confronting demons and figuring out who she is on her Shooter Jennings-produced second album, Neon Cross, and outlining her hopes and frustrations for the world on her third album, 2023's sultry, groovy, Feel Good.

Wyatt's knack for catchy and advocacy-laced country bangers is clearest in "Rattlesnake Girl," one of her most popular songs. In it, she offers an anthemic celebration of joy unfettered: "I see my sweet friends out on the weekend/ They all look happy and gay," and a barbed warning to anyone who might impinge on that happiness: "Thank you kindly, don't walk behind me/ I've seen people slip that way/ And if you try me, boot heels beside me/ I might have to make your day."

Queer country music means something a little different to each artist. For many, it's about much more than simply being a queer person performing country music. Adeem the Artist considers queer country its own genre, complete with specific rules — many of which have nothing to do with sexual or gender orientation.

"It is explicitly political in nature. It is often kind of raunchy," they assert. "There's an element to queer country that is confrontational, that is willing to create discomfort for the sake of a relief that leans towards some greater social awareness."

To some degree, raising awareness and representation — which is essential for inclusion and acceptance — requires a bit of self-tokenization, Adeem says. "The very, very basic act of referring to me as a person who is queer, who is trans, who is nonbinary, who is whatever, those labels only do good as much as they illuminate the differences between us and the fact that I am more difficult for some people to relate with."

Adeem and Wyatt both operate within the alt-country scene, which has been marginally more inclusive than mainstream country over the years. Recently, though, rising country musician Lily Rose cracked through with her viral breakup single, 2020's "Villain." On her latest EP, Runnin' Outta Time (which she released in May), she sings a high-octane pop/country mix about her values and relationships. It's a well-worn country music landscape that has been almost exclusively dominated by heterosexual white men.

"To be one of the first to literally [and] figuratively, carry the flag... it makes me really proud. And it has its heavy moments for sure," Rose says. "Night after night, when I get to meet fans and see comments on social media that they feel seen for the first time in the genre, it's really special and it makes every single second of hard work to get here worth it."

The day after Runnin' Out of Time dropped, Rose made her Grand Ole Opry debut with two songs from the album, "Back Pew" and "Two Flowers"; Adeem and Wyatt also played the Opry for the first time in the last year as well. The Opry, one of country music's oldest and most lauded tastemakers, has welcomed a number of queer artists in the last few years, signaling a subtle shift toward a more inclusive country music institution. (In addition, all three artists recently scored high-profile touring spots: Rose with Shania Twain and Sam Hunt, Adeem with Tyler Childers and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit; and Wyatt wrapped up her first headlining tour.)

For Pittleman, an essential part of making music is ensuring space for anyone who wants to make music to do so, regardless of how they look or identify. "Most people who like country music, they just want to hear country music," Pittleman says. "I want to have a good time, too. But you have to ask at a certain point, 'Who is invited to the good time?'"

As she insists, there's a long way to go. In a digital world, radio play doesn't offer a complete picture, but it remains a dominant force in country music. For decades, women have been played sparingly on country radio and artists of color and queer musicians featured far less, a shortcoming which SongData's principal investigator, Jada Watson, spent years studying. Her research concludes that women country artists are played roughly 29 percent of the time, Black artists 5 percent, and other artists of color 7 percent. Queer artists, Watson estimates, make up less than 1 percent of radio play.

"The real problem is who's making those decisions; who has the power and as a result, who has the power and the resources to record their music, to distribute their music, to get it out on a broader scale," Pittleman suggests. "We have to make sure that everyone who's called to make the music has the resources and the power to make it and bring it into the world."

And in spite of multitude setbacks and naysayers, queer artists are creating country music. As Pittleman wrote in a 2020 essay in the Journal of Popular Music Studies titled "You're My Country Music," one of the joys of singing queer country music is making country music, plain and simple. "The point is to mark the deepest moments of human connection, our truest hopes and heartbreaks, and turn them into a sound that gives us joy and strength," she says.

"Because sometimes you love a culture that doesn't love you back," Pittleman continues on the Gay Ole Opry's about page. "We do it because we love the music and want to build a community to support queer country musicians. We do it because everybody needs a honky-tonk angel to hold them tight. We do it because we believe in country music for all."

Why 2024 Is The Year Women In Country Music Will Finally Have Their Moment

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Jungkook performing in New York City in 2023

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for TSX Entertainment

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New Music Friday: Listen To Songs & Albums From Jungkook, Meghan Trainor, Peggy Gou, & More

Bask in the pre-summer magic with fresh musical offerings from acts as diverse as Ski Mask the Slump God, Kaytranada, Thomas Rhett, and more.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2024 - 03:42 pm

We're still a couple of weeks away from the summer solstice, but the smell of cookouts and chlorine is already in the air. As parts of the country experience summer weather, there's plenty of musical delights ready to soundtrack the start of summer.

From pop to alt-country to rap, this New Music Friday sprouted sounds for listeners of all persuasions. Here's a cross-section of today's songs and albums to check out, from
Peggy Gou's debut album to the latest single from Jungkook.

Meghan Trainor — 'Timeless'

Just a few weeks before Meghan Trainor's breakthrough smash, "All About That Bass," turns 10, the GRAMMY winner rings in the anniversary in major fashion: a brand new album.

Trainor's sixth LP, Timeless, an irresistible split difference between bubblegum pop and woo-wop. Back in March, she released the lead single "Been Like This" with T-Pain; the "Buy U a Drank" star also appears on "Love on Hold."

"I cannot believe it has been 10 years since this all started. I have never been more grateful for this life that my incredible Megatronz have gifted me with," Trainor said in a statement — "Megatronz" referring to her rabid fanbase. "This new album and tour are all for them and my beautiful family."

Peggy Gou — 'I Hear You'

I Hear You might be South Korean DJ and singer Peggy Gou's debut album, but she declares it to be much more than that.

"It embodies countless hours of dedication in my journey to create something timeless, and is a testament to the power of listening, to ourselves and to each other," Gou said in a statement

And of the video to "1+1=11," in all of its shadowplay: "By bringing together dance — embodied exploration of space — with colorful shadows, lights, and mirrors, I was able to bring some of the key interests that have long shaped my art into an entirely new context."

If all this resonates with you, I Hear You is — well, a must-hear.

Listen: Leap Into AAPI Month 2024 With A Playlist Featuring Laufey, Diljit Dosanjh, & Peggy Gou

Orville Peck, Diplo & Kylie Minogue — "Midnight Ride"

As Pride Month kicked off, Kylie Minogue brought out two very special guests at Outloud Fest at West Hollywood Pride: her newest collaborators, Orville Peck and Diplo. The trio debuted the slinky, sparkling "Midnight Ride," a winning trifecta of their diverse talent pools.

Just a few days later, the studio version has arrived. In its full-fledged wonder, the track is just as much of a ride on record as it was on stage.

The single is the latest offering from Peck's forthcoming duets album, Stampede; though the full album's release date has yet to be announced, the alt-country star teased the exciting collabs to come with the seven-song Stampede, Vol. 1 on May 10, which featured Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Nathaniel Rateliff and more.

Glass Animals — "A Tear in Space (Airlock)"

On July 19, English indie favorites Glass Animals will declare I Love You So F***ing Much with their fourth album. They previously released the advance single "Creatures in Heaven." "A Tear in Space (Airlock)" arrives from smack in the middle of the forthcoming album.

A celestial, pulsing track replete with delicious production details, "A Tear in Space (Airlock)" marks another evolutionary step for the Oxford-rooted group. Their smash "Heat Waves" might be in the rearview, but they still know how to craft a song for just that.

Read More: Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Glass Animals' Dave Bayley On The Group's Slow Burn To Massive Success With "Heat Waves" — And How It Almost Never Happened

Jungkook — "Never Let Go"

Where would BTS be without its ARMY? It's an unthinkable prospect — and the boy band giants' beloved Jungkook has penned a worthy tribute to the fanbase that made them.

Released for BTS' annual debut anniversary celebration, Festa, "Never Let Go" opens its heart completely. "Without your love, I'm nothing/ You mean more than you know/ And words escape me whenever you're close," he croons. "I tried to put it into words but it don't measure up/ My pen and paper could never do quite enough."

Believe us: the radiant "Never Let Go" is more than enough. "It's the truth, it's the truth," Jungkook concludes. "We got something rеal nothing could break."

Learn more: Breaking Down Every Solo Act From BTS: Singles, Debut Albums & What's Next For The Septet

KAYTRANADA — 'TIMELESS'

The Haitian-Canadian producer, rapper, singer, and DJ born Louis Celestin has produced everyone from Anderson .Paak to Alicia Keys to Victoria Monét, but he's just as compelling when it's his name on the record sleeve.

The two-time GRAMMY winner proves just that with his third album,
TIMELESS. Of course, the producer recruited several collaborators for the project, and the list is a panoply of associates from across his career — not only .Paak, but Childish Gambino, Don Toliver, and more.

Maluma & Blessd — '1 of 1'

"A full production between two Colombian artists had never been done before," rapper and singer Maluma brassily proclaimed in a recent press statement. "If it's the first, it can't be done twice."

He's referring to the (aptly titled) 1 of 1, his new EP with fellow Colombian great Blessd. Co-produced by MadMuscik and the RudeBoyz, this six-pack is a reflection of the clear admiration and respect between the two reggaetón practitioners.

This pre-summer weekend, grab a bestie, hit the road, crank up tunes like "Call Me" and "Goyard/GTA," and let that feeling flow through you, too.

Ski Mask the Slump God — '11th Dimension'

Five years after his last LP, Floridan rap phenom Ski Mask the Slump God returns by taking listeners to the 11th Dimension.

If 11th Dimension's advance singles — the jovial "Ooga Booga!", the propulsive "Headrush" — whetted your thirst, get ready for the other 19 tracks, like head-spinning highlights "By Myself," "KillStreak" and "Him Jung Un."

And while Ski Mask the Slump God takes most of those tracks himself, the album's five features are equally as thrilling: Future and ATL Jacob, Skillibeng, Corbin, and two posthumous duets with late rap stars XXXTentacion and Juice Wrld.

Generally, when an artist has a blast making music, it seeps through the grooves — and Thomas Rhett had an absolute ball making his new album, About A Woman, out Aug. 23.

"I did this with a new batch of producers, a lot of different songwriters. This is the funnest album that I've made, I think," he told Backstage Country. "This is a very, very 'me' album. If you liked Tangled Up and Life Changes, Center Point Road, this album is sort of that on steroids."

He's already revealed the first single, "Beautiful as You"; its follow-up, "Gone Country," is a rough-hewn statement of down-home purpose. Every line and lick is true to his dictum that he "got back to the root of why I love to make music and put smiles on faces." 

Let that smile cross your face as you prepare for your summer adventures — and we'll see you on next week's New Music Friday!

On This Day In Music: 2 Live Crew's 'As Nasty As They Wanna Be' Becomes First Album Declared Legally Obscene, Anticipates First Amendment Cases

Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

10 Essential Facts To Know About GRAMMY-Winning Rapper J. Cole

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(L-R, clockwise): Hayley Kiyoko, Ricky Martin, Brandi Carlile, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Orville Peck, Omar Apollo

Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for LARAS, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images, Gustavo Garcia Villa

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More

Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 with a 50-song playlist that spans genres and generations, honoring trailblazing artists and allies including George Michael, Miley Cyrus, Orville Peck, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande and many more.

GRAMMYs/Jun 1, 2023 - 04:21 pm

In the past year, artists in the LGBTQIA+ community have continued to create change and make history — specifically, GRAMMY history. Last November, Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY Award when she took home Best MPB Album for Indigo Borboleta Anil; three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their sinful collab "Unholy."

Just those two feats alone prove that the LGBTQIA+ community is making more and more of an impact every year. So this Pride Month, GRAMMY.com celebrates those strides with a playlist of hits and timeless classics that are driving conversations around equality and fairness for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Below, take a listen to 50 songs by artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum — including "Unholy" and Liniker's "Baby 95" — on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.