Based out of the musical hotbed of New Orleans, Duff Thompson is a musician who embraces the city around him. As well as his own material, he’s a frequent cohort and collaborator with the likes of Esther Rose, Twain and The Deslondes. This week marks a big moment for Duff’s own music as he releases his timeless new album, Haywire, through the excellently named, Mashed Potato Records.
The thing that instantly hits you as a listener with Duff Thompson’s music is his voice, a welcoming, bassy croak, reminiscent of fellow modern crooners like Hamilton Leithauser or Cut Worms’ Max Clarke; the sort of velvety smooth, whisky hewn vocal chords that are always a winner to my ear. That most potent of instruments is balanced here on Haywire by his love for traditional American-folk and his production style, all vintage microphones, upright bass and semi-acoustic guitars, creating a sound that’s origins are probably closer to 1920 than 2020. Thankfully this is no mere pastiche of the past, and that is largely down to the sheer honesty that Duff throws at his song-writing, whether looking at the way time changes our perceptions of the past on the title track, or celebrating the joys of simplicity on You’re Pretty Good, Duff always seems to find room for his own self to be part of his musical offerings. It may arrive late in the year, yet Duff Thompson has made a record that demands wider attention, in the season of frivolity, there still has to be time for something this truthfully magical.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who is Duff Thompson?
I’m a songwriter and producer/recording engineer. I’ve spent the last several years mostly recording and performing in New Orleans but I’m currently stuck in Canada for the foreseeable future because of the pandemic.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
Well, my very first show ever is not a very exciting or memorable tale because I was probably 14. My first show as a solo artist though was four years ago in San Francisco. I was used to playing in a rock band that had very structured arrangements and we played all of our songs the exact same way every time we played them, regardless of any given situation. I remember enjoying the freedom of being able to play my songs however I felt in the moment. It was a pretty small show in a cafe but it was nice to feel like I was on some new kind of path.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Mostly because I’m obsessed with it. I’m generally pretty indifferent towards other artforms but ever since I can remember, music has been a top priority in my life. I do like watching movies and reading books but I can go a pretty long while without either and feel fine. Visual art like paintings or sculptures are nice and all but they don’t really do anything for me. I couldn’t tell you the last time I read a poem. This being said, I also couldn’t tell you the last time I went a day without listening to music.
Most art feels like a luxury and I suppose I’m drawn to music because it feels more like a necessity. Besides that, I’ve already put so much time into it, it’s hard to imagine taking anything else seriously.
FTR: What can people expect from the Duff Thompson live show?
Well, right now you can expect that there won’t be one for a good, long while but if/when the pandemic does end, the idea is that you don’t know what to expect. Sometimes I like playing with a small band or by myself, and sometimes I have a 12 piece band. I like to play my songs in different ways…sometimes folky and tame feels right and sometimes I want to be loud and thrashy.
FTR: What’s next for Duff Thompson?
If it looks like we’re all stuck in purgatory for the next year or so, I’d like to get some of my recording gear back from New Orleans and spend a lot of time recording all of my new songs. When normal life resumes I’d love to spend time touring and recording a bunch of other songs I have that are currently on the back burner with a big rock band.
They Listen To…
Black Lips – Family Tree
Link Wray – Falling Rain
T. Rex – Mambo Sun
Tommy James – Crimson & Clover
Bob Dylan – Key West