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Orville Peck and Diplo on why country music is inherently queer

The masked musician and the super-producer are championing the gay yee-haw agenda in Attitude's May issue.

By Will Stroude

Dolly Parton aside, country music hasn’t always led the way when it comes to the gay agenda.

While country-pop crossover records from Kylie and Gaga and the recent success Kacey Musgraves’s Grammy-winning Golden Hour have kept gay ears attuned to the yee-haw agenda in recent years, finding queer country stars is still like finding a rainbow needle in a haystack.

Enter Orville Peck, the masked but decidedly out and proud country music star whose arresting debut album, Pony, became one of the most acclaimed sleeper hits of 2019.

As he appears alongside friend and producer Diplo on the cover of Attitude’s May issue – out now to download and to order globally – the ‘Dead of Night’ singer explains why queerness is inherent in country music artistry despite the conservative trappings of the wider industry.

Orville Peck and Diplo, shot by Taylor Miller exclusively for Attitude’s May issue, out now

“I’m surprised more gay people don’t feel connected to country music. And that’s mostly because of the stigma that country music as an establishment has kind of pushed,” he says.

“The thing that I connected with country music when I was a kid is it’s about isolation, heartbreak, disappointment. That’s the gay experience for everyone at some point. I feel like that music is written for people who feel like the minority or feel somehow alienated.

“Somehow the stigma got twisted around where it’s like, oh this music is for well-adjusted, straight white men or whatever. And I actually disagree. I think that it’s meant to be for people who feel like freaks.”

For Orville, whose true identity remains unknown to all but those closest to him, country music isn’t simply having a ‘gay moment’ in 2020: the genre’s countercultural elements have long been shaped by queer vision.

Orville Peck for Attitude’s May issue. Clothing, Orville’s own (Photography: Taylor Miller)

“I play on the pastiche of over-the-top cowboy imagery because a lot of that comes from spaghetti westerns, which were directed by super-gay Italian directors in the ’50s”, he explains.

“So there’s loads of homoeroticism built into cowboy culture because of that, because a lot of cowboy culture now is based off those motifs, which are inherently gay.

“If you go to any gay bar in the world, there’s going to be somebody in a cowboy hat.

Diplo wears suit by Union Western Clothing, tank top by DSquared2, accessories and jewellery throughout, Diplo’s own. Orville wears suit, by Union Western Clothing, shirt, by ASOS, accessories and jewellery throughout, Orville’s own (Photogaphy: Taylor Miller)

“The two things are not far from each other.”

One of Peck’s most vocal champions is DJ and super-producer Diplo, who has enlisted the country star’s services for a track on his first mainstream label album, set to be released under his real name, Thomas Wesley Pentz.

The man with a hand in hits including Dua Lipa’s ‘Electricity’ and Justin Bieber’s ‘Where Are U Now’ credits queer artists like Orville with breathing new life into musicial genres throughout history.

“When I think about queer artists over the past 30 years, it’s always been the queer artists that have changed the way music exists”, Diplo says.

“The original guys who were creating hip-hop were queer, house music, Baltimore Club, New Orleans bounce music.

Diplo wears leather jacket by Coach, denim by RRL (Photography: Taylor Miller)

“Every time there’s a genre that falls out of nothing, it’s always been kind of like the queer scene that created that. It’s always been in the underground.”

The American hit-maker adds: “When you have that energy — the masculine energy, the feminine — you’re taking all the risks because there’s nothing to lose.

“I think it might be challenging for some straight men, but for queer artists it’s kind of second nature.

“They’re able to go wherever they want and, like I said, there’s no walls.”

Read the full interview with Diplo and Orville Peck in Attitude’s May issue, out now to download and to order globally

Buy now and take advantage of our best-ever subscription offers: save 45% on the cover price in print, 13 issues for £19.99 to download to any device.