For his sophomore album, Orville Peck let go of expectations to create songs that helped him sort out the trauma he experienced over the last couple of years. The result is Bronco, a record as full of freedom and endurance as the horse it’s named after.

Peck began unleashing Bronco in chapters, sharing a few songs and music videos at a time. Now, the album is out for the world to experience in full. Before its release, Alternative Press sat down with Peck to discuss the creation of the record for issue #405. Below is the anatomy of Bronco.

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From start to finish

Bronco began in the fabled month of March 2020. Not even a week into his tour supporting his Show Pony EP, Peck had to cancel the remainder of the run due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He traveled in an empty tour bus to an empty apartment in Los Angeles, considering quitting music altogether. Instead, he decided to wake up every day and force himself into his home studio, devoting seven to eight hours to writing. After experiencing a traumatic couple of years in both his personal and professional life, “it became this beautiful therapy in a way. At the end of the process of writing these songs, I kept saying, ‘[This is] the first thing in my life I’ve been truly proud of,’” he says. To Peck, it didn’t matter if anyone liked Bronco when it came out, simply because he loved it. 

Pony turned Bronco

The idea of the dreaded “sophomore slump” did cross Peck’s mind before creating Bronco, but not for long. While touring, he wondered if his next album could live up to Pony’s success and the way people resonated with the record. In perhaps a blessing in disguise, the wrench COVID-19 threw into his life made him focus his attention elsewhere. “I was just genuinely at my wit’s end,” he remembers. “On a personal level, and on an artistic level, I was so burnt out. I was so unhappy that I sat down and wrote for myself. For the first time in my life, I can truly say that I was making art with absolutely zero concern about what other people were going to think about it.” In Peck’s opinion, radical self-acceptance is the best place to make art from, and touching this feeling is where Bronco was born.

Coming home

At the time of its creation, Peck was reconnecting with the sounds of his childhood. His father, a sound engineer, would play ’60s and ’70s music throughout the house while Peck was growing up. During the writing process for Bronco, Peck began sitting down and listening to bands such as Jefferson Airplane, the Mamas & the Papas, Pink Floyd and Merle Haggard for the first time in years. “When something’s universally good, you almost underappreciate it,” he explains. “It was like listening with fresh ears — really listening to it and really hearing the essence of it reinspired me.” Thus, Bronco became a reincarnation of the flower-child era, inspired by psychedelia and bluegrass, with everything anchored in the sounds of classic country music. 

Love, longing and freedom

Peck had much to get off his chest with Bronco, the extent of which he didn’t realize until he started creating the album. The songs delve heavily into feelings of love, longing and finding freedom. “I find it easiest to write from personal experience… It’s just telling my story,” he explains. The album ebbs and flows from soulful crooning (“Outta Time”) to playful ballads (“Blush”). Additionally, Peck spent a lot of time working out the tracklisting. Inspired by classic albums that create their own legacy, Peck took about four months, maybe more, playing around with the presentation of the tracks. “I visualized it like a big film or a story where there’re different turns and twists,” he says. “It was a very thought-out, deliberate [construction] for the order.”

The bigger picture

Although Peck didn’t go into creating Bronco with a conscious awareness of what its theme would be, he started with the resolution to simply be vulnerable. The theme across the album ended up being the same as the spirit in which Peck wrote it: liberation and transparency. “I just felt such a release, and the whole thing felt almost untamed or wild or unrestrained,” he explains. “I was busting through these gates that were holding me back, and the whole album just feels free to me.” Where debut LP Pony was almost a confession of loneliness, and Show Pony was a primped-up version of that record, Bronco allowed Peck to let go of whatever was restraining him. The end product is a transcendent album worthy of its title.

This story appeared in issue 405 featuring Denzel Curry and the Maine, available here.