Few musicians are as uniquely suited to a period of imposed isolation as Orville Peck. The masked cowboy, who released his acclaimed debut record Pony last year, writes booming country ballads about lovesick loners and quiet drifters who find solace in empty bars and open highways; he seems to understand a solitary life well. Peck puts it more plainly: “Isolation,” he explains, “is kinda the cowboy way.”
After a year of non-stop touring, and with a new single, “Summertime" out now, it might just be what he needs right now. “I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t on tour or traveling,” he tells me. “Obviously here’s so much craziness going on, but I’m trying to see the silver lining in the fact that I never have time off.”
Speaking over the phone from his new home in the Los Angeles queer haven of West Hollywood — his first solid residence in “four or five years” — Peck explains that he’s trying to see the best in this quarantine, rather than let it get him down. “I think you have to force yourself to use these times for self-reflection and creation,” he tells me. “Creativity and art can help people — it has helped people — through worse times than this.”
Naturally, then, Peck has been spending his time in isolation trying to stretch the creative side of his brain. He’s been indulging in usual quarantine activities a little — finally watching shows like Nip/Tuck and United States of Tara (“Toni Collette is like, my favorite actress”) — but, for the most part, Orville Peck’s COVID-19 quarantine involves writing, sharing music with his fans, and settling in to life as a homebody. Below, Peck explains how he self-isolates.
Writing music “the cowboy way”
Orville Peck: I like writing music in an environment where I can sit and focus and have some self-reflection. My songs are always from a place like that, so quarantine definitely lends itself to me in that way. Isolation is kinda the cowboy way. This isn’t the first time I’ve isolated myself and done some writing, so it feels fairly typical for me, to be honest. I would say the new music I have coming out is kind of a continuation of Pony. Some of it is a lot bigger, some is a lot more simple. The new music I’m writing is kind of like my old music, but with an even more dedicated confidence towards what I’m trying to achieve.
Cooking Bon Appetit Test Kitchen recipes
I’ve been cooking a lot because I love, love, love to cook, and I haven’t had access to a kitchen in like, I don’t even know, years. I’m really enjoying cooking for myself, like making food. I’m a big Bon Appetit Test Kitchen fan — I was on an episode, actually, which was a big thrill for me — so I’ve been looking at a lot of their recipes and trying to do them at home with whatever groceries I can find. I’ve been cooking a lot of salmon. I like to do adventurous recipes.
Video calling friends who are usually busy
I do lots of FaceTiming, some funny group FaceTimes. Obviously I’m trying to stay connected with family and friends, but it’s nice because a lot of us who spend most of our lives on tour and traveling as artists, we don’t really have that much time to FaceTime each other, or even our parents or whatever. It’s been nice to have the time to connect with people. I feel like I’ve been FaceTiming and texting so many friends who are other artists, like Trixie [Mattel] or Diplo. Usually we only see each other in passing, so in a funny way it feels like… If I call them, I know they’re gonna pick up, because they’re not doing anything.
Decorating and doing home D.I.Ys
Setting up my home has been helpful because it’s given me something to do around the house. I’ve been doing a lot of… I guess I would call it decorating, but… I like doing projects, I like building stuff, so I’ve been doing a lot of furniture building and hanging a lot of things on walls, stuff like that. I mounted this big, beautiful cowboy tapestry that I found at a flea market and covered it in lights, and I’ve been using that as a backdrop for the livestreams I’ve been doing. I like to look at that.
Livestreaming shows from home
I did my first livestream a few days ago to mark the one year anniversary of Pony. It was cool — I’ve never really done much of that and I’m terrible at technology, so I had a lot of people helping me, but it was cool. We streamed live on three or four different platforms, I had a bunch of my friends call in as guests, like Margaret Cho and Brad Leone from the Test Kitchen. It was cool, it feels like a new genre of performance.
I’m really enjoying the livestreams everyone’s been doing, I think it forces people to be creative, I think it forces people back into a DIY place. I come from that [DIY] world — I never had loads of resources to make music or videos, I’ve always used a shoestring budget and have had to be creative to pull things together. I think some of the best art comes under those circumstances, and from really trying, difficult times, so I’m really excited to see everyone rise to the challenge and find something special to create out of this.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do post-quarantine?
I think I’ll go see a movie. I love going to the cinema, I love the experience of going to the movies — I’ll watch any old trash, really. I got into the habit, on tour, of going to see a movie on days off. I miss going to the movies, I’d like to do that.