Some of the best musicians in the world, manage to carefully walk the line between mystery and intimacy.
Artists like Johnny Cash, Patti Smith and Sam Cooke managed to give their audience a refreshingly nuanced looked at human relationships and society while remaining an enigma – in the personal sense - in the way that modern celebrities don't seem to want to or can do.
Today, most musicians use the superficial aspects of their art to trend on social media, in-between selfies and vanity. And while I love getting lost in the top 20 pop hits as much as anyone else (because there is a place for that), I was so grateful when I fell down a YouTube wormhole and found masked Canadian country artist Orville Peck. His mask and hats with cowboy boots got my attention, but his velvety voice and poignant lyrics keep me hitting repeat.
No, that's not his real name, and I haven't seen his face, but I feel like he's the cowboy I always wanted to be as a child. I feel like I know him, and we'll be friends forever. His music gives me this feeling of intimacy that I believe stems from his sultry lyrics and alluring stage shows, which are captivating and yet mysterious.
Orville also happens to be gay and injects the heteronormative and white world of American country music with a shot of queer culture that it badly needs. And that's where my knowledge of Orville offstage stops. I, and the rest of the music world enamoured with his sound, only know what Orville wants us to know.
As an interview GQ Australia contrastingly puts it: "In Big Sky, he croons about past relationships with a boxer, bull rider and jailer – none of which sound particularly healthy, [yet] there is little trace of his former life on the Internet."
WATCH THE VIDEO FOR BIG SKY HERE:
He fuses the traditional aesthetic so often tied with toxic masculinity and adds a vulnerability to it that makes it mesmerising to listen to and watch.
Orville's most recent video for Rodeo Queen highlights that for me. In it, the broody artist finds the place where bull riding and drag meet. Directed by Austin Peters, the eight-minute clip includes cameos by model Tess Holliday as well as drag performers Thanks Jem and Louisiana Purchase.
At the end of the video, a few lines and of black and white text says: "For all the LGBTQ+ and two-spirit community members working and performing in rodeos, ranches, and roadhouses across North America".
The song is featured on his album, Pony has been lorded by The Fader as one of the records of the year, in 2019, and I have to say that I totally agree.
LISTEN TO HIS ALBUM HERE.