Posts Tagged ‘Meg Duffy’

“dirt” is the latest EP from Hand Habits, the song writing project of Meg Duffy. Sometime guitarist with Kevin Morby

Comprised of two songs, “4th of July,” a simmering swell of chaos and beauty and “I Believe in You,” a favourite of Duffy’s from the Neil Young canon, the EP finds the songwriter exploring themes of growth and finding ways to let go of the parts of their past that no longer serve them.

After cutting their teeth in the upstate New York d.i.y. music scene and several years of session and touring guitar work for Kevin Morby, and a long list of other artists, Duffy released their debut album “Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)”, a home-recorded, self-produced work that announced the project as a full-time affair.

While their follow-up album “placeholder” saw them working with producer Brad Cook at Justin Vernon’s April Base Studios and garnering praise from such outlets as NPR which called the work “their most fully realized statement” and the Los Angeles Times which praised the work as a “virtually seamless country rock album, with verses moving fluidly into choruses that travel unimpeded across sparkling, architecturally sophisticated bridges.” dirt showcases an artist returning to the fertile creative ground of their home.

However, this time around home-recording didn’t necessarily mean working in isolation. Duffy had relocated to a shared living situation in Los Angeles with musicians Sasami Ashworh and Kyle Thomas (King Tuff), which also housed Thomas’ studio. The resulting songs showcase this creatively collaborative environment, with Ashworh co-producing the lead single and Thomas co-producing “I Believe in You.” Such is the strength of this relationship, in fact, that this new single just may serve as a bridge toward a greater body of work the three will ultimately create together.

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The resulting EP illuminates the songwriter’s attempts to evolve beyond the confines of their past. As they put it, “‘4th of july’ feels like trying again, rolling around in the wreckage of the past and finding new ways out of the maze of memory.”

The sonic texture of the song complements this lyrical journey, with a simple and sparse introduction marked by a slow burn crescendo hinting at the rupture to come, followed by an ecstatic wail of transcendent emotion. Fittingly, it concludes with a reprise of the beginning but this time altered by new sounds, suggesting a new perspective.

Similarly, Duffy breathes new life into the Young staple, adding a foreboding weight and impact to the long-familiar words. For Duffy, the process of recording and the song’s themes of growth through trust dovetailed perfectly.

As they note, “There’s a foundation, and when there’s a foundation there’s opportunity to reimagine structures; physical and otherwise.”

Also check out this Session Meg Duffy performed for “Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe” 

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Releases February 19th, 2021

Quarter-Life Crisis is a collaboration between Ryan Hemsworth and various artists who’ve come to prominence over the past couple of years, many of whom got their start playing scrappy DIY shows. The self-titled debut EP released on December 4th, 2020 features contributions from Frances Quinlan (Hop Along), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), Charlie Martin (Hovvdy), Yohuna, and Claud. It showcases Hemsworth in a new phase of his career, one that is perhaps a bit less indebted to the nightclub dance floor. “It’s always been a goal to mix, like, 25% electronic sounds and 75% live indie rock sounds,” he says. Collaboration is paramount to Hemsworth’s process, and though he produced all of the instrumentation on the album, he left the lyrics and intention of the song up to the contributors. The resulting collection shapeshifts from track-to-track, taking on new personalities as it moves between artists.

Quarter-Life Crisis, Ryan Hemsworth’s shared another new track from their self-titled EP:  “Comfortable” featuring Meg Duffy of Hand Habits. Quarter-Life Crisis‘ debut EP also features collaborations with Frances Quinlan (Hop Along), Of the track Duffy said “When I was asked to do a writing session with Ryan, I had no idea who he was or what his music sounded like or what his life may be like. I completely showed up to this weird little studio completely blind to predisposition, a little embarrassed because the first time Ryan and I tried to connect I accidentally no-showed him after writing in the date on my analogue calendar wrong. I had never done any sort of co-writing session before and was a little nervous, but since I had no investment I went in with the intention of having fun and being open to whatever spirits wanted to move. We threw autotune on as a joke (half-joke because I can be pretty pitchy especially in the writing process) and it sounded kind of cool. I started thinking about AI and cyborgs and people/souls disassociating from bodies and identity and kind of just freestyled until a mildly understandable common theme started to swim up. It was really fun!!”

The collaboration is paramount to Hemsworth’s process, and though he produced all of the live instrumentation on the album, he left the lyrics and intention of the song up to the contributors. The resulting collection shape-shifts from track-to-track, taking on new personalities as it moves between artists. Quarter-Life Crisis announced the EP with “Postcard From Spain” feat. Frances Quinlan, which Stereogum, Paste and Under The Radar hailed as one of the best songs of the week upon its release. This was the followed by “Waterfall” feat. Charlie Martin of Hovvdy, which was highlighted by NPR, Under the Radar, and others.

The genesis of Ryan Hemsworth’s new project, Quarter-Life Crisis, can be traced all the way back to his childhood bedroom in Nova Scotia, where the producer spent the bulk of his high school years listening to emerging indie acts and playing guitar. Not loving the sound of his own voice and without a band, he eventually started making music on his laptop, which earned him accolades as he stepped out into electronic and club music scenes. His prolific output, paired with a voracious appetite for a wide range of genres and creation of his own label Secret Songs, has made Hemsworth a fixture since he released his debut solo album, Guilt Trips, in 2013. 

But now, Hemsworth’s trying his hand at something unexpected that is nonetheless close to his heart and origin story as a musician. Quarter-Life Crisis is a collaboration with various artists who’ve come to prominence over the past couple of years, many of whom got their start playing scrappy DIY shows. “This project has me in the process of going back to when I was a kid when I’d sit down and play guitar for hours and come up with melodies and chords by just messing around,” Hemsworth says. “It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for ages. Quarter-Life Crisis is just another way for me to work with artists whose music I really enjoy and listen to all the time.”

Working with musicians who largely fall into the category of “indie” gave Hemsworth the opportunity to revisit some of the artists who inspired him to become a musician in the first place. He cites bands like the Cardigans, Grandaddy, Bright Eyes, and Sparklehorse as being foundational to his writing process this time around. Quarter-Life Crisis a sharp turn away from his last project, 2019’s CIRCUS CIRCUS, which he made alongside the Japanese rap duo Yurufuwa Gang, but for Hemsworth, working in a wide array of genres and modes keeps him on his toes, and ultimately, keeps his career interesting. “Getting out of my comfort zone and bringing others into that process has always led to something really unique,” Hemsworth says. “As a producer, I really respond to other people’s ideas and whatever they can bring to a song. Being in a room with someone with a different outlook, or working remotely with them, I hopefully help facilitate something that feels new and exciting for both of us.”

Quarter-Life Crisis – from the Quarter-Life Crisis EP out December 4th, 2020 on Saddle Creek Records. 

Hand Habits, the working sobriquet of Meg Duffy, first entered our sphere in 2015 backing Kevin Morby at a house party. Their weapon of choice is the guitar, an instrument they wield with aplomb. However, to focus too heavily on this one attribute is to miss the greater whole of the songwriter. On the eve of their sophomore lp, Placeholder, Duffy cut a three-track Lagniappe Session for Aquarium Drunkard. Recorded over a three month period in Los Angeles and New York City, the selections simultaneously echo Hand Habits roots and aspirations. The artist in their own words, below …

Hand Habits :: Albatross (Fleetwood Mac)

People love to either forget about Peter Green or love to say they only like Fleetwood Mac for the early Peter Green records. Of course Christine and Stevie, along with all the various iterations, hit hard song after song. But it’s this record and song that really prove to me that the essence (swirls scotch around in glass) of Fleetwood Mac was conceived long before “Dreams” was dreamt. The lyricism of the guitar is extremely crushing. It feels symphonic and hopeful. When I was learning this tune, I realized that there’s an ‘hour long loop’ of “Albatross” on youtube…and the song really allows for repetition. Recorded with Chris Nelson and Branden Stroup in downtown LA.

Hand Habits :: Only Living Boy In New York (Simon And Garfunkel)

To me, this song is perfect. The second time I heard it was (fittingly) via a cover, courtesy of a band that used to exist in Albany called The Red Lions. They covered it in a packed out attic, and at the time I thought it was the best band I’d ever heard in person. The show exists in my memory as a warm, teary picture of nostalgia. A very good friend of mine who has since passed on was there, and we both just stood smiling in awe of the harmonies during the song’s closing. Gigantic and everlasting. This recording, my cover, was done in NYC with Sam Owens right before he moved out of his place in the city to live upstate. It felt right — a freezing cold Sunday in NY — just me, Sam and Lina Tullgren and a tape machine.

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Hand Habits :: When The Devil’s Loose (AA Bondy)

The first time I heard AA Bondy’s When The Devil’s Loose coincided with a lot of other firsts in my life. I had just moved to Albany after living in Schenectady. I got my first job bar-backing at a venue. And I started writing songs of my own after having backed many other songwriter’s bands. I sang along with this record many a night in my tiny brick bedroom with a window that faced a brick wall. My good friend Emily Sprague showed it to me and we would harmonize along with the songs. The rhythm section crushes me with its simplicity. When I first moved to Los Angeles, listening to this record felt like an old friend; complete with a housemate in the basement putting up with my singing along. I found out that Bondy was living outside of the city, looked him up, and had the pleasure of sharing some of my songs with him. He’s a mystery to me, still. I made this recording in my old bedroom in Glendale. I think you can hear my upstairs neighbours walking around.

Lagniappe (la·gniappe) noun ˈlan-ˌyap,’ – 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

yr heart

Welcome to our new series, Document, where we aim to highlight artists and music scenes from around the world that we’ve fallen in love with, but aren’t necessarily already part of the Saddle Creek family. Our third release in the series is the “yr heart” 7-inch from Los Angeles’ Hand Habits.

Meg Duffy, aka Hand Habits, is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Upstate New York. She has been putting her time in on the road and in the studio over the past two years with pacific northwest band Mega Bog, and the Kevin Morby Band, making an impression on everyone she comes across with her natural charisma and uncharted talent as a multi-instrumentalist.

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Release Date: August 25th, 2017

Folk singer-songwriter and Phoebe Bridgers super friend Christian Lee Hutson is about to release his new LP “Beginners”. “I went with “Beginners” as the title because that’s where I feel like I am in my life — like I’m still just learning and trying to figure out how to navigate the world,” Hutson says. He co-wrote several songs for Bridgers’ boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center records, and in return, she recorded and produced the entirety of his album at LA’s Sound City Studios.

Christian Lee Hutson shared another Beginners track “Get The Old Band Back Together”, which arrives with a video starring album producer Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst.

We’ve already heard a few songs from the upcoming Beginners “Northsiders,” “Lose This Number,” “Talk.” And now, Hutson has shared one last advance single before the record’s release later this month. “Get The Old Band Back Together,” which features Conor Oberst on Harmonica, Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy on electric guitar, Sharon Silva on harmonies, Anna Butterss on bass, and Marshall Vore on drums, is a warm, comfortably melodic folk-rocker.

“Get The Old Band Back Together” by Christian Lee Hutson from the album ‘Beginners,’

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“A few years ago I ran into the drummer of a still-together band from my high school, who had just been kicked out,” Hutson explains. “When he told the singer he’d been considering becoming a building inspector, the guy gave him an ultimatum: the band or inspecting buildings. He chose to inspect buildings, a decision that may have been impacted by the fact that the band never played a show or recorded a song. Still, he was pretty bummed about it, and that gave me the idea for this song.

“I had been wanting to make something with my director friend Michael Tyrone Delaney, who’d had this idea to splice up old talent show footage with footage of me and some friends showcasing some of our own ‘talents,’” he continues. “My partner, Sharon Silva, showcases her Irish dancing. My childhood hero, Conor Oberst, takes an aggressive, impromptu harmonica solo in the video (and on the recording). My adulthood hero and best friend, Phoebe Bridgers, plays a master of puppets. We shot it in April so everyone had to self tape. Every single he’s released has been stellar. I’ve been raving about “Northsiders” and “Lose This Number” for months now. This guy is the real thing and I can’t wait for the record.

Bridgers and Huston are good friends and frequent collaborators. He co-wrote songs for her Better Oblivion Community Center project with Conor Oberst, and her boygenius project with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus.

On how he picked the LP title, Hutson explains, “I went with Beginners as the title because that’s where I feel like I am in my life – like I’m still just learning and trying to figure out how to navigate the world.”

“Talk” by Christian Lee Hutson from the album ‘Beginners,’ available May 29th

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Five artists cover Meg Duffy’s “placeholder” song, with all proceeds going toward the Amazon Conservation Association. Meg Duffy aka Hand Habits has announced the “Wldfire Covers” EP, which sees five artists cover Duffy’s placeholder song “wildfire.” The EP, which is led by Hand Habits’ original, features covers by Angel Olsen, Lomelda, Kacey Johansing, Tara Jane O’Neil and John Andrews & The Yawns.

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releases December 25th, 2019

Meg Duffy wrote “wildfire” during the California wildfires in 2017. In a statement, they said:

Being a touring musician eight months out of the year, you are exposed to a lot of varying degrees of climate change effects in a short period of time. From the gasoline that’s used to fuel touring vehicles, to the massive amount of plastic waste at the end of every show, to the carbon emissions released into the air by all the travel, it’s often not the most environmentally conscious career. I wanted to contribute, even if in a small way, to the efforts at work by the people at the Amazon Conservation Association for being dedicated to preserving such a vast and heartbreakingly crucial part of our ecosystem that has been threatened by wildfires, deforestation, and the effects of climate change. I believe that writing and performing music can be a healing force, used for good, and not always for capitalizing on emotions and commodifying a personality or lifestyle. People need to be able to relate to each other, in times of joy, and especially in times of sorrow or struggle. The Wildfire Compilation, in partnership with Bandcamp and Saddle Creek, will be donating all of its funds raised to the ACA in hopes to lend a helping hand to those on the front lines of fighting climate change in places that may seem inaccessible to those of us unable to travel at length. I chose five artists, Tara Jane O’Neil, Lomelda, John Andrews, Angel Olsen, and Kacey Johansing to interpret and cover my song “wildfire” that I wrote during the California Wildfires in 2017. All of these artists are dear friends and have all taught me a lot about the complexity of emotions in music.

You may have seen Meg Duffy in the past, shining on stage as Kevin Morby’s touring lead guitarist. But with Hand Habits, Duffy has shown their own polished arsenal as a songwriter and their sophomore record, placeholder, dropped today on Saddle Creek Records. Hand Habits’ music gives rise to calming evenings and humble wanderings of the mind. Duffy’s sweet melodies provide a solace for a troubled heart and a salve for a heavy conscious. The gently operatic “What Lovers Do” and the wonderfully reprised version of “Yr Heart” are notable doses of what Hand Habits doe’s best: provide sheer comfort through song.

Meg Duffy describes the songs on their second full-length release, and first for Saddle Creek, as their most direct to date, crafted with clear intention.  Instrumentally, Placeholder can be situated alongside some of Meg’s folk-adjacent contemporaries like Angel Olsen or Big Thief, and the guitar work on this album proves that Meg continues to be one of the finest young musicians working today. Placeholder is another entry in the Hand Habits songbook, but it’s also a valuable testament of our time.

Meg Duffy - Five Favorite Records

Los Angeles via upstate New York songwriter and guitarist Meg Duffy has been involved in many great indie rock records of the past decade. She has recorded guitar and slide guitar on The War On Drugs’ A Deeper Understanding, William Tyler’s Goes West, Weyes Blood’s Front Row Seat to Earth, and their former touring mate Kevin Morby’s City Music. But with Duffy’s solo vessel Hand Habits, the virtuosic guitarist steps away from the sidelines for their best work yet. On the just-released Placeholder, Duffy’s second album under the moniker, the patiently composed songs are filled with sharp emotional acuity, like on the title track, which looks back on a dissolved relationship, or the intimate and vulnerable

Hand Habits is Meg Duffy’s solo project assisted by a “continuous amoeba” of friends when performing live. She has spent the last few years touring in both Mega Bog and The Kevin Morby Band, and created Hand Habits as an outlet for her own interests and self-exploration. The result is a collection of droney tunes that languidly lumber to their conclusion with Meg’s soft, reassuring voice and sparse, echoing instrumental work.

Band Members
Keven Lareau – Bass
John Andrews – Drums and Backup Vocals
Meg Duffy – Guitar and Vocals

Session Tracklist
1. Flower Glass
2. The Book On How To Change
3. Actress
4. All The While

Meg Duffy’s music seems to exist in miniature, but it’s not for brevity or lack of complexity. Just the opposite, in fact: Recording as Hand Habits, Duffy pays scrupulous attention to detail in songs that function like intricate dioramas.

On Placeholder, the singer (who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns) contemplates the fragility of human relationships and the hard-to-stomach reality that many of the people, experiences and places we’ve loved are only stepping stones on a journey of self-discovery.

“A big aspect of my songwriting and the way I move through the world depends on my relationships with people,” Duffy writes in a statement about the album. “The songs on Placeholder are about accountability and forgiveness. I don’t fictionalize much.”

After a string of bedroom demos made their way to Bandcamp in the early 2010s, Duffy became a fixture on a burgeoning Hudson Valley DIY scene alongside acts like Florist and Bellows. (Duffy was raised in Albany and attended college in Schenectady.) With momentum building, they chose to place Hand Habits on hold, leaving the Northeast for Los Angeles to play guitar with songwriter Kevin Morby’s live band. After several years of touring, Duffy signed to indie label Woodsist and, in 2017, released Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)a tender, captivating solo debut.

A gorgeous progression from Wildly Idle, Placeholder captures Duffy’s transfixing intimacy in elevated form. While their earlier work was entirely self-produced, Placeholder was recorded at Justin Vernon’s Wisconsin studio. Duffy’s vocals find new confidence amid gentle guitar strumming and warbling pedal steel, blending into a haze of dreamlike Americana. These songs evoke waves of warm, pop-driven nostalgia, with equal doses of melancholy and optimism.

The album’s title track captures the musings of someone scorned but not dejected. Duffy displays an adept ability to see their own duplicity, never resolving to pin blame on someone else: “Oh, but I was just a placeholder / A lesson to be learned / Oh, but now you’re just a placeholder / For someone wasting time.”

In “yr heart [reprise],” Duffy sings of a phone call to a distant lover with an almost Patsy Cline-like lilt: “And you are far but not that far / I can feel you push your fingers / Through the fabric of all my thoughts.”

The record’s furthest sonic wandering point arrives in a minute-long brass interlude in “the book on how to change part II.” Duffy leaves us with a proverb that doubles as a euphoric moment of clarity: “The book on how to change / Wasn’t written in one day / The book on how to change / Never taught me anything.”

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Meg Duffy of Hand Habits wrote their forthcoming record as wildfires burned through Southern California. For an album about love and relationships, it’s a fitting setting; there’s something inherently destructive in making space within yourself to bring someone else in. the new track is premiering “What Lovers Do,” the newest single from Placeholder ( via Saddle Creek Records) and a lulling, frank revelation on the complexities of desire.

Over gentle guitar, Duffy muses about the attraction between lovers, describing it as “halfway with your hands into the fire of my desire.” As the song plays out, it’s clear the relationship isn’t a smooth one, and feels more like a series of games. But the draw between the two continues to feel magnetic, and Duffy nonetheless, sounds sweet and warm in the retelling.

“Hesitation, revelation, and repetition-aspects of the story you can identify easily, and must be the witness and the participant,” Duffy writes via email. “When the shame baton gets passed back and forth between parties, who is the fool? I could never claim to have a complete understanding.”