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The success of Lil Nas X’s country-trap anthem “Old Town Road” may have been a surprise, but it wasn’t an accident. While no one could have predicted the unique string of cosmic coincidences that led to the urban cowboy theme song clamoring its way to the top of the charts for seven straight weeks, it was aimed, positioned, and promoted to do something of the sort by Lil Nas X himself.

He told me as much during the release party for the song’s video at Hollywood’s famed Saddle Ranch Chop House on Sunset Boulevard. The lanky 20-year-old was decked out in full rodeo regalia and would later make his grand entrance — how else — on horseback, but while we talk, he’s a bundle of nervous energy, bouncing from foot to cowboy-booted foot. In an edited and condensed version of our conversation below, we discuss his 2018 debut mixtape, Nasarati, which precipitated his calculated rise to stardom, the inspirations and innovations that set him apart from his peers, and why he chose Wingstop to cater the event.

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