It seems like cowboys are having a stellar moment in music lately, especially within queer spaces or referents: from Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter to Orville Peck’s song with Willie Nelson, Cowboys Are Frequently Fond of Each Other, more and more records are coming out putting these figures at the centre of their stories. Adding to these, we find Kaleb Rudy’s new five-track EP, My Own Volition, out today, which takes us on a journey of love, and addiction.
Speaking of how the record came to be, Kaleb Shares: “My Own Volition was born out of wanting to follow my instincts without outside influence. I felt I’d lost my way by trying to figure out what people wanted to hear rather than what I wanted to say. I think it’s easy to get caught up in that game. What’s in? What would get me playlisted? Approaching music that way was so unfulfilling.” Hence, he set himself free from outside voices and opinions, focusing on what his instinct told him was right. This honesty with himself is palpable through the entire EP, which is equally vulnerable and honest.
Unsurprisingly, the result of that has been so good. As the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter puts it: “The songs and videos I’ve released so far from this project have gotten more traction than anything else I’ve made. People have reached out expressing how it’s impacted them. I think that proves how important it is to trust your own taste and follow your gut. Your music will find the people it’s supposed to.”
In an increasingly visual world, Kaleb has decided to create a visualiser for each of the songs. Directed by himself and co-starring along actor M. Taylor Hall, these five audio-visual pieces help us better understand the heartbreaking story that he is trying to tell us. Starting with Mess, the first lyrics we hear say: “I’ve got a crush, I’m not in love / Funny how those feelings can get mixed up,” telling us about the way he’s processing his emotions. In the visualiser, we’re introduced to the starring couple in an intimate, hot scene set at night in their bed.
This is followed by Eighteen, the second song. It’s the morning after, and the pair of cowboys have a lovely breakfast by their improvised patio in nature, dance, and get playful – just like two teenagers at the beginning of their blooming relationship. Things go awry in Tornado (Lie With Me), where Kaleb and his co-star get into a fight that almost ends with a heroin overdose in the bathroom – very Christiane F.-coded. “This could hurt, you know / But do you not see it / The risk if we go down this road,” Kaleb warns his counterpart. “Baby don’t lie to me / Can we just fall asleep because I wanna see you in the morning just like I do right now,” he finishes beautifully in the chorus.
Selfish is probably the darkest of the songs and visualisers. With hints to Requiem for a Dream or Trainspotting, it captures the dangers of drug abuse and how it destroys everything within yourself and in your surroundings – lovers, family, friends. Closing the EP,  Lot’s Wife is maybe the most dramatic, both lyrically and production-wise. The instrumentals go hard in this one, and it makes you shed a tear for what could’ve been but didn’t.