Duff Ferguson's New CD, "More Than I Should," due to be released in September 2019
FOLK-POP CROONER DUFF FERGUSON IS A FAMILIAR FACE AROUND THE LOS ANGELES ROOTS ROCK SCENE, HAVING RODE IN CRAP TOUR VANS, RECORDED ALONGSIDE, JAMMED WITH, PHOTOGRAPHED AND BOUGHT PBRS FOR MOST EVERYBODY IN 20 YEARS OF CALIFORNIA MUSIC.
These days you’ll find him performing alone on a battered parlor guitar, singing lovely songs of loss, loose songs of love and portraits of life drawn from the many characters he’s met in a lifetime of traveling America’s dustier corners.
##ABOUT MORE THAN I SHOULD (2019)##
"I kept taking sounds away until there was almost nothing left. I was amazed by what flowed in to fill that space."
This was the simple path that led Duff Ferguson to his third solo record "More Than I Should." It is a 10-track acoustic bonanza that captures Duff performing alone with a humble 1960s student guitar into 3 vintage mics.
Small beginnings, yes, yet we're treated to intense perfomances, lush lyrical territory and a sweet run of musical surprises before the 35-minute run time is done.
Duff's too-tender voice is set free in this setting to trace a singularly personal line though the tracks. It has a tendency to float from one register to another, break like a wave and slide behind the beat when you need it most.
The guitar is all shuffling rhythms and woven bass lines... melodic chords and a dose of pure space. Why so low? Duff has left his guitar tuned somewhere around C# for years, providing an extra bass bite not often heard outside of heavy rock.
Fans of open-hearted solo explorers like Rufus Wainwright, Paul Westerberg or Dave Rawlings will feel right at home.
The record kicks off with the title track "More Than I Should" -- a bright love missive from one smitten heart to another. Love's sweetness is also heard in the indie-gentle "I Think Of You," which glows with a lover's desire. In contrast, the grungy "Lonely Like Me" chokes with pain from a bitter ending.
The sometimes-harsh struggle along the path of life is a recurring theme in Duff's music, acknowledging a painful side of human experience that we all share. "Beaten n' Broke" (on ukelele) is one dark side of this experience. "One Step to the Top" and "Open Your Eyes" represent support and hope for those suffering in their own dark times.
Glueing the last parts of the record together are three acutely personal reflections on the mysteries of death, memory and self-understanding. These include "Where the River Flows," "What Becomes a Memory" and the stunning album closer "Step Out of Time." A corkscrew-like Spanish instrumental "Spiralito" rounds out the sound.
Master recordist Ted Wulfers carefully placed each tune in its own signature sonic space, bringing Duff's voice and chording right into the ear in an intimate duet. There's no studio tricks or auto-tune to spoil the real.
More Than I Should production involved moderate peril in Wulfers's gear-packed 663 Studio in Sherman Oaks. The building was rocked hard by a 7.1 California earthquake as the last mixing session rolled, sending everyone and the cat diving under the board.
Two songs written with tuneful pals are part of the record. Tom Bishel is a co-writer on "One Step to the Top" and Allan Frank is a co-writer on "Open Your Eyes."
The record was mastered by Todd Herfindal at Sun Studio with 100% solar power.
Duff plays regularly in southern California at live venues, songwriter events and house concerts. His music has been heard on MTV, radio and on live morning television.
Duff was born in New York City to a family of classical musicians and raised in rural New Jersey. As the son of a choir director, he sang spirituals in church but bought rock and pop records with his allowance. After discovering an old Yamaha student guitar in the attic, he developed his own guitar technique simply because he didn’t know anyone who played guitar and there was no Internet.
Duff cut his performing teeth in Sea of Fuzz, a beer-soaked college cover band lauded by a Haverford, PA paper as “the local band with the largest amps.” The band entertained for four years and provided Duff’s first encounters with electrocution and arguments over band members’ girlfriends.
Duff’s first solo New York show was at the Lion’s Den in Greenwich Village as headliner at the NOHO Acoustic Guitar Festival. While living in Hells Kitchen and the Village, Duff recorded and distributed 5 EPs of original songs and managed Jared Barkan’s Hot Iris rock trio with Hans Glawischnig (Chick Corea) and Richie DeBonis.
Moving to San Francisco, Duff fell in with Americana roots artist Rich McCulley, joining his band as a lead guitar player for over 50,000 miles of national touring and promo appearances in a road-worn Ford Windstar minivan. The band’s drummer, Andrew Griffin (Felsen), and bass player Eran Ellerbeck then performed on Duff’s debut 2 song single “Wanna Get High,” produced by Griffin and fellow San Francisco producer Jeff Rolka.
In 2004, Duff joined an exodus of Bay Area musicians to Los Angeles, playing his first LA gig as lead guitar player for fellow San Francisco act Single at The Gig in Hollywood. The band included singer/guitarist Todd Herfindal (The Meadows) and drummer Tommy Rickard (Vain, Linda Perry).
Within a month, Duff fell in cahoots with bass player Rick Barrio Dill (Vintage Trouble), drummer George Bernardo (Cash’d Out, Evangenitals) and vocalist Teri Untalan – a band that was captured in the five song EP “400 Miles.” It was named a top 25 release for 2005 by Music Connection Magazine and the unsigned band played widely up and down California with vocalist Carlett Martin taking over for Untalan on harmonies.
Now managed by CLM Management in Burbank, Duff began a series of “jive and drive” solo tours of colleges, listening rooms and house concerts all the way from the Mexican border right up to Bellingham, WA and out east to Texas and Arizona, playing on live television and radio along the way. In Arizona, a morning television show appearance coincided with Nolan Ryan, one of Duff’s pitching heroes. “Suddenly” was used on MTV.
All this traveling and music making led to Duff’s next record “Good Things,” released in 2008 on Single Recordings. Strange coincidences and handshakes made in dark bars led to many of his favorite peeps in the LA roots scene joining in: Rick Barrio Dill, Mike Stinson, Tony Gilkyson, Tommy Rickard, Todd Herfindal, Kevin Houlihan, Rob Douglas, Heather Waters, Rich McCulley, Amy Farris, Taras Prodaniuk, Carmen Doane and Jared Barkan. Herfindal and McCulley participated also as co-writers and producers.
In 2014, Duff began issuing a series of songs starting with the track “Interstellar Poetry” mixed with the occasional video and the odd ukelele. These recordings showcased a stripped down sound with only acoustic guitar and voice performed live to iPad, a style that Duff soon came to focus on in public performances as well.
The record “My Story Is The Same” (2018), produced by Ted Wulfers and Todd Herfindal, featured 9 such tracks that showcase pop melodies combined with a driving rhythmic acoustic style and soulful topics.
"More Than I Should" (2019) soon followed, as Duff continues to mine the same fruitful vein of dueting guitar and voice for 10 new songs.
Duff is currently at work on his seventh record, working once again with Wulfers and Herfindal, slated for 2020 release. He and songwriter Tom Bishel have released a 2019 EP of rock co-writes also recorded at Wulfers’ 663 Sound Studio under the name Origin Story.
Duff can also been seen as 1/2 of the improvisational acoustic duo Blues At The End Of Time with Jared Barkan.
Duff has produced recordings for artists such as Jared Barkan (“Dark Blue”/2006), Carmen Doane and Kim DiVine. He has co-written songs with Simon Lynge (“One Day at a Time”/BMI), Todd Herfindal (“The Things That Lovers Do”/BMI & ASCAP), Rich McCulley (“Never Enough”/BMI), Allan Frank (“Open Your Eyes”/BMI) and Tom Bishel (“One Step to the Top,” “No Better Time,” “Walk to the Edge” & “Guardian Angel”/BMI).
Duff has also helped several hundred artists design artwork and create photos/video for their music releases, including Todd Herfindal, The Spencer Davis Group, The Meadows, David Serby, Grant Langston and Rich McCulley to name a few.
Duff lives in Los Angeles.