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Noah Cyrus and Orville Peck
Noah Cyrus and Orville PeckPhotography by Amaury Nessaibia

On Music and Heartbreak: Noah Cyrus & Orville Peck in Conversation

Along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, musicians and close friends Noah Cyrus and Orville Peck talk about heartbreak, mental health and their shared love of country music

Lead ImageNoah Cyrus and Orville PeckPhotography by Amaury Nessaibia

Like a latter-day Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill, singer-songwriter Noah Cyrus and queer, masked star Orville Peck have been galloping through life and music side by side since meeting in 2020, after they both guest-starred in a Fortnite virtual hoedown hosted by Diplo. While they may come from very different worlds – Cyrus was born into an American musical dynasty, daughter of Billy Ray, sister of Miley and Trace; while Peck grew up in South Africa, out of view of the TMZ spotlight – they also share a lot in common as artists, both fiercely devoted to the storytelling traditions of country, while daring to push the genre into new and exciting spaces. 

Sensing a connection with the masked romantic, Cyrus DMed Peck, and they wound up going for a drive in the Hollywood Hills together, singing hard to 90s country and blasting their favourite tunes like Strawberry Wine and various June Carter and Dolly Parton numbers. At the time, Cyrus already had a masked cowboy tattooed on her arm – before too long, she had added a fringe to the cowboy’s mask, in tribute to her new best friend.

DMing, texting and FaceTiming morning to night, they realised that everything they were going through as individuals would be so much easier if they did it together, including making their records – Peck was recording his critically-lauded second album Bronco at the time, and Cyrus was in the studio laying down her stunning, long-awaited debut full-length album The Hardest Part.

We met up with them along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at The Aster Private Members Club and Hotel, to hear about their story and how, through broken hearts and creative minefields, they held each other up through the toughest of times, just like soulmates do.

Noah Cyrus: Can I just say, I think we may actually be the exact same person. Which is really fun, because hanging out with you, it’s almost like having a mirror held up to myself. You help me understand myself better, and what I’ve gone through, because I can see it through your eyes. And you understand.

Orville Peck: Also, we’re both trying to do something similarly important for ourselves as artists. Like, you really, really care about the music you make and honestly, that’s sort of rare. But I think that’s another thing that really bonded us.

NC: Also, heartbreak.

OP: Oh yes. Heartbreak. I still maintain that I’ve never written a love song. Like, I’ve never written a song that’s all, “Oooooh, I love you.”

NC: [Laughs]. Me neither. Actually, I take that back. I wrote two love songs about you, and I haven’t even played you the second one because it’s just so heartbreaking.

OP: You and I definitely thrive – lyrically – on heartbreak. We’re really good at it.

NC: It’s because we’re both comfortable in a place of sadness. Heartbreak is where we get our creativity from. When we’re content, I think that’s when we start getting scared. Right? If someone really wanted to challenge me, they would ask me to write a happy song. Nightmare.

OP: Same. A hundred per cent.

NC: It would take me forever.

OP: Even the more upbeat songs on Bronco, they’re still lyrically dark, still about heartbreak.

NC: Well, you were going through a lot when we met, and you were writing those songs. We both were. Wow, we dove deep into our mental health. That year of coming out of Covid … God. What 2020 was to both of us … equally, the hardest years of our lives. In fact, I can’t believe we both went through what we did, without each other.

OP: Me neither …

NC: But then we found each other and we were like – I mean I can’t speak for you – but I was like, “Holy shit! Life is so much better with this person!” Plus, our albums were set to release around the same time. And we were in the studios around the same time. I mean, we’re even label mates.

OP: Remember driving around in your car, Noah, just singing along to each other’s demos and talking about mixes?

NC: Then I flew out to Nashville and hung out in the studio while you were recording …

OP: And I came over and hung out when you were recording …

NC: It was so cool being there, alongside each other during these two processes that were very, very similar. Hearing you write your record from start to finish was such a beautiful process to see. Seeing just how much of you and your soul is in your music.

OP: Girl, I knew every word to every song on your album before it ever even came out. Then finally seeing you play them live, I was screaming every single word. I scream along to Unfinished in my car all the time. Literally shrieking, going off so hard with the windows down, and people in the cars around me are like, “What the hell is happening in this car?”  

“We’re both comfortable in a place of sadness. Heartbreak is where we get our creativity from” – Noah Cyrus 

NC: You helped me make it what it is! Remember when I was recording, and I was like, “Orville, is this part too crazy?” You really helped me out with that bridge transition that had literally kept me from putting the song out for years. It always felt way too over the top. Then I called you and was like, “We’re cutting pedal steel this week, what do I do?” And you said, “Try something that’s a little bit more long and bendy, that might help make the transition feel less jarring to you.” And you were right!

OP: Yay!

NC: And that’s exactly what made that key change not so Broadway. Not so dramatic. But just dramatic enough. Although, you were like, “What’s wrong with the drama? Girl, do it. Own it!”

OP: Yeah, we are a little extra.

NC: I really feel so lucky to be a part of your life. To be able to watch you become the artist that you are.

OP: Aw, Noah …

NC: I love you. I feel like we both have been looking for so long to find personal fulfilment and joy. Not just with work, with everything. We both have so much love to give to people. All I want is for both of us to be able to find real fulfilment and happiness and never let our job just be a job, but to always keep creating things that are on our own terms, that make us happy. Because you’re my favourite artist of all time.

OP: OK, wait a minute. My turn. Noah, you have so much to give the world. As an artist, as a friend, as a person, as a family member. You’re always so worried about other people. You’re so considerate, so thoughtful, and always putting yourself last. Your capacity to love and care for other people is the most beautiful quality you have, even if sometimes you don’t give enough to yourself. I want you to be so happy, and so loved, and to feel that love in return. Because there’s not a single person that knows you that couldn’t say how much you love. That’s like, a hundred per cent who you are. That’s what you bring to the world. Pure love.

NC: Orville …

OP: It’s true! And as an outsider looking in, you come from this country legacy, and yet you make art that is so uniquely your own, while honouring that legacy. It wouldn’t matter whether you were a Cyrus or not – you’re an incredible artist, completely on your own. Sure, you could have been this nepo baby artist, but you’re not, because your point of view is so strong, unique and vulnerable. I know sometimes we wonder if our vulnerability and emotional sensitivity might be our downfall, but I think the reality is, Noah, it’s our biggest strength.

NC: I love you. I love you.

OP: And I love you too. I love you because we help each other feel brave. It’s hard to be vulnerable, but you and I, it’s what we have to do. It’s why we’re here.

NC: It’s also the best way to make art. I watched you do it with such confidence, with Bronco. I wish every single person could see what goes on behind the scenes. The work that goes into this. The fear that comes with opening up …

OP: One thing that’s really hard is to make a song that is both relatable and truly original. Like, if you really try and make something relatable, it’s probably not going to be original. Everything’s kind of been sung about or done. But that’s something you do really well, Noah. Taking something simple and familiar, and making it completely yours. I think that skill is a product of you being an authentic person. Because you’re just telling your story, and that’s your personal story – but somehow, you make it so we can all relate, and suddenly it feels like our story too. I mean … that’s art, right?

NC: It’s interesting … on my album, I’m talking about sobriety in a lot of the songs. Even in songs that might not seem like I am talking about Xanax or that feeling it brings. But I was. That’s what I was trying to capture with My Side of the Bed, for instance. I wanted to recreate that specific feeling in a way that anyone could understand. With that really heavy sub, you get that sinking feeling, that surround sound feeling of just everything around you … melting. Sounds, feelings, textures … all of that can make something relatable, even when it’s coming from a very personal place.

OP: Yeah, I remember you mixing that first big bass sound in. You were like, “It’s got to be bigger!” Gosh, you’re so smart as a producer, Noah. You’re very clear on what you want. I’m that way, too. I know what I want something to feel like, look like, smell like, and sound like.

NC: Which is why you had to drum on certain songs on your record, right? Because you knew like that only you could really feel that specific timing.

OP: Exactly.

NC: Orville, you have been doing this way longer than I have, this style of music. And as soon as I heard your songs, I knew immediately that I could trust your opinion. Country music has been such an influence, my whole life. Country … that’s where I feel like I belong, musically. But for a long time, I felt like I was far away from that, from who I was really supposed to be. That’s why getting your opinions on my songs was so life-changing. There were songs that I had felt so stuck on, for a long time, and you giving me your encouragement to just go for it helped me so much. I’m lucky that I have so many pieces of you, and those moments, in my music.

OP: Well, we understand each other musically because we both rely so heavily on songwriting as an emotional outlet. Right? It’s hard to be that vulnerable, and then open yourself up to feedback. But we can be vulnerable with each other, because we understand one another as very similar artists, and as friends. On both our records, there were things we were doing that were new for both of us, [we were] pushing ourselves lyrically, vocally, stylistically. That’s a hard and frightening thing to do as an artist, because as much as we want to be pure and authentic and unshakable, we still worry about what people are going to think, and we get insecure. So it was nice that we both have someone we can trust so much to share the creative process with.

“It wouldn’t matter whether you were a Cyrus or not – you’re an incredible artist, completely on your own” – Orville Peck 

NC: Oh, we have so many plans for the future, don’t we Orville? So many things we want to do …

OP: So many!

NC: And yet, no actual plans. I mean, there’s going to be movies, TV shows, books, of course, music – so many things we want to do collaboratively.

OP: But we’re not rushing it.

NC: Nope. Because it has to be really special. Not just a song, featuring one of us.

OP: Um, excuse me. There is no way we can narrow this down to one song. We need a whole plan.

NC: We’re Capricorns. We’re extra. We need to have a vision in place for something that is going to be so beyond special.

OP: Oh my God, I can’t wait!

NC: Me neither. I think it’s going to be an entire movement.

Everybody Needs Someone, the new single by Noah Cyrus (feat. Vance Joy), is out now.