Orville Peck. Photography: courtesy of Warner Music

IT IS WITH ‘Midnight Ride’ stuck in my head that I get on the phone to Orville Peck. The country musician’s new track with Kylie Minogue dropped a few days earlier, and I haven’t been able to get its catchy little whistle out of my head since. It turns out that Kylie was the first artist Peck asked to be on Stampede, the second volume of which has been rumoured for some time, but was only just officially announced. But ‘Midnight Ride’, which also features production by Diplo, was two years in the making. 

“It was one of the ones that I got on the books early, and so sitting on the secret has been so insane,” he chuckles. The trio debuted the song at West Hollywood’s Outloud Music Festival on June 8, wearing coordinated black and silver fits, and already, it’s being referred to as “the bop of summer 2024”. No small claim during a time of such massive releases, but we’re not here to disagree. 

Stampede sees Peck venture into new territory, in the sense that the two-part album consists entirely of duets and collaborations. Vol. 1 saw the masked crooner team up with icons like Willie Nelson and Elton John for updates on ‘Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other’ and ‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’ respectively, as well as Gen-Z artists like Noah Cyrus, whose otherworldly voice harmonises perfectly with Peck’s deep tenor on the ballad ‘How Far Will We Take It’. 

Now, with Vol. 2 confirmed and set to drop in August, Peck introduces a whole new set of collaborators, from fellow country sensation Teddy Swims to more unlikely stars, such as Beck. Here, he chats about the logistics behind the expansive project, how it yanked him out of a depressive slump and why, slowly, he’s pulling back his signature mask to reveal more of who he is, as both a person and an artist.  

Esquire: I heard that making Stampede is something you’ve always fantasised about. Why is that? 

Orville Peck: I think such a huge part of country music, traditionally, is about duets. There’s so many great country pairings, you know, like Dolly and Porter Wagner, George and Tammy, June and Johnny . . . the list goes on forever. So I always imagined wanting to do this sort of . . . ‘Orville and Friends’, we used to call it. I didn’t know when it would come together, or who would be on it. But I didn’t in my wildest dreams ever imagine it would be the people that I’ve been able to get on it. I kind of imagined a long time ago, but I also couldn’t have imagined just how special it’s turned out. 

Is it true that Kylie was the first person you asked to be on the album? 

Yeah, she was the first person. I think I could so easily picture a song that was 50 percent me and 50 percent Kylie. I wanted it to feel like… I just thought it would be really cool (laughs). I told her from the start, I said, ‘I’m thinking of doing this duets album and I would love to have you on it’. And she was like, ‘of course’. I think immediately in the first message I said, ‘let’s make it a disco country song’ and she was down. It was one of the ones that I got on the books early, and so sitting on the secret has been so insane.

Why did you decide to sit on it for so long? 

Oh, there’s a whole method to the madness of what gets released first. But I think I also wanted to ease people into what I knew was gonna be . . . maybe a controversial album for certain people, because some of the songs are obviously a departure for me. I wanted to ease people into what the concept is for this album, which is true collaboration. It’s sort of a concept album. It’s not supposed to be just a straight up Orville Peck country album, you know, that was never the intention.  

Photography: courtesy of Warner Music

When are we getting a ‘Midnight Ride’ music video? 

(Laughs). I can’t say anything about that. I hope in the near future there will be, you know, a music video of sorts. 

Stampede is ostensibly a country album, but there are other genres in there too. What that was like for you to experiment with such a variety of sounds?  

It was so satisfying. I mean, last year I took a big break from touring and my mental health was in a really bad place, I was just in a crazy place in my life in general. But I think a lot of that also had to do with the fact that I’d become really jaded with the music industry. I’d become sort of uninspired about music in general. It just felt like work. It felt like work that I didn’t feel like doing because everyone was asking so much of me. I felt like I had no joy connected to it anymore, which is crazy because, you know, I’ve been doing this a really long time, and for the majority of that time I’ve been doing it purely for joy. 

And then in getting to do something so creative, where I can sit down and be like, ‘okay, Beck wants to do a song. Let’s like sit and think like what could be a cool concept for it. If Beck and I had like a musical baby, like what would that be?’ So just getting to be creative and excited and joyful about music again, it really was a huge factor in what pulled me out of a lot of my slump, my depression, because it just made me excited about making music again. 

I’ll almost inevitably be going back to my more usual genre for my next album, I’m sure. But, it’s really brought me to such a better place as an artist. It’s sort of reminded me what making music is all about. 

I’m not going to lie: making Stampede sounds like a logistical nightmare. How did you pull it off? 

I mean, I can tell you I’ll never do it again (laughs). 

I still cannot believe we pulled it off. I believe there are18 artists on Stampede, which in and of itself is insane. If you think about it from a logistical standpoint, every single one of those artists has their own release schedule, their own timeline, their own contracts with their labels . . . Never mind working with all sorts of styles of communication, speeds of communication . . . yeah, it was a logistical nightmare if I’m being honest (laughs). There were times when it just felt like it could not come together for so many different reasons. But it paid off. 

I want to ask about your change of masks, because I’ve noticed that for the Stampede visuals, you’ve been wearing masks without the fringing. Can you tell me about that switch up, and whether there’s any symbolism to it? 

It’s so interesting. because I think I learn more about the symbolism of the mask myself, all the time. I’ve never made too many hard or fast rules about the mask, even if since I created it. I’ve changed it slowly over time with each album; it’s gone through changes, if people look closely. And so the decision to get rid of the fringe came pretty quickly, as in, it wasn’t a big, long, thought out plan. It sort of came to me, spur of the moment, and I thought: you know what? The idea of doing that makes me nervous, and it makes me feel exposed and vulnerable, and I’ve just learned as a person and as an artist that’s the best way to be and to evolve. I think the second you get too comfortable, stuff starts to become boring and it starts to be not the best it can be. 

I think evolution is crucial to art. And so that’s sort of where my mind was about it. And also, I think just as a person and an artist, I’m always working on my authenticity and trying to be present and closer to myself. And I think that’s mirrored in the way that the mask is portrayed, without even really being intentional about that. It sort of parallels where I’m at with regards to sharing emotional parts of myself. I guess whether I know it or not it’s sort of reflected in me showing physical parts of myself as well. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

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