Introducing: Duff Thompson’s “Haywire”

A new track from the folk artist, plus an introduction to it by his friend Buck Meek (Big Thief).

The moment I heard the words “Do you look fondly on the day you tried to remember the way it felt to relive all the times you don’t recall that you don’t recall?” in Duff Thompson’s song “Haywire,” the following memories hit me all at once, folding in on themselves in entropy. A song like this can somehow bring you so much closer to yourself, while remaining a subjective truth unto itself.

I flew from Los Angeles to Houston last month and walked into my grandparents’ home without warning, shot a finger pistol at my grandfather upon entering the room, and he immediately burst into tears. We sat and spoke about bonsai trees and mountain oysters and Cuban cigars, we shared a bowl of grapes, my grandmother lectured us on Yeats’s “Second Coming” — but his eyes were wet and processing the surprise until the moment I left. As a boy, he would take me to Bailey’s House of Guns on the outskirts of town in his white Cadillac to shoot paper targets with an old octagonal Winchester .22 pump action rifle. By eight or nine, I had become a pretty crack shot, and one afternoon I asked him if I could take a sparrow in the tree behind the range. He told me it was my own decision to make. I shot the bird, felt sick, and swore to never shoot another.

On a summer afternoon in the mid-1930s, as his father was playing poker and drinking with friends in the kitchen, Charles’s mother told him to climb onto her back, and they snuck out of a second-floor bedroom window and descended the rose trellis to the street, leaving Cuero, Texas, for Louisiana. One of his first memories is her whispering “hang on Charlie” sweetly, as the thorns cut her body over. 

I still always find an excuse to dig through his closet. Until recently, he wore a suit everyday, but now he wears only denim, a temple for his blue opal eyes. In preparation for Friday nights throughout college in Baton Rouge, he and his pals would jump into the Mississippi River in their Levi’s, to lay upon the banks and let the sun bake the jeans tightly to their thighs. 

Meanwhile, downstream in the Black Pearl of New Orleans, my grandmother Elysee was sent to the levee to collect eels for her father Deluz, who was a professor of biology and zoology at Tulane University. He had met my great grandmother Julia when she was assigned as his graduate assistant, and while she went on to hold a degree, she was never able to work in science as a woman in the 1940s. In the summer they would traverse the country in an International Harvester piled full of steel cages, collecting snakes across the desert. Amma lived until I was 10 years old, and I would often sit on her lap in the easy chair playing gin rummy. When she’d fall asleep, I’d sneak into her walk-in closet and dig through towering file cabinets filled with shells she had collected along the coastlines in their travels, putting each of them to my ear in the mothball dark.

Later, while in junior high school, I found a box of old Playboy magazines my mother had inherited from Deluz, buried beneath a pile of raincoats. My folks had sold Volume #1 — December 1953 — featuring Marilyn Monroe in the centerfold, to pay for their first vacation together. 

There is a dangerous magic in digging through a loved one’s closet, like walking anonymously through a past life — a medicine I would prescribe to anyone. You can never fully know someone, and yet you know them in ways they could never know themself. The more you know, the less you know. The longing that arises from that dichotomy is reason alone to live.

— Buck Meek

(Photo Credit: Steph Green)

Duff Thompson is a songwriter, musician, and producer whose songs are a swampy blend of folk, pop, and garage rock. With special attention given to arrangement, his sound has been described as modern, classic, and timeless all at once. His debut album, Haywire will be out December 11, 2020 on Mashed Potato Records. 

He’s performed extensively throughout the US and Canada, and has shared the stage with Big Thief, Twain, and The Deslondes

In addition to his own project, he is co-founder of the New Orleans-based label and studio known as Mashed Potato Records. He’s spent the last few years recording a wide variety of artists, many of whom can be heard on the 2019 releases, Mashed Potato Records Vol’s I & II

(Photo Credit: Steph Green)