After graduating high school, Duffy went to Schenectady County Community College for guitar performance. She was the only female in the guitar program. Photo by Robbie Simon
What gear did you end up borrowing?
In terms of microphones, I borrowed a Shure SM7B and a Blue Dragonfly, one of those condenser mics, which sounded great on vocals. As for Pro Tools, I was using the LE version, and just whatever basic plug-ins come with that. I’m a big fan of the stereo pan—there’s a lot of hard panning on the record.
What did you learn from the process of recording yourself?
Anything I didn’t know how to do, I just looked at a YouTube tutorial—things like how to automate reverb without creating another track. If I couldn’t find an answer or didn’t have the capability, I would try to figure out how to do it a different way, which was cool.
It sounds like you sweated the details.
I’d actually try not to spend that much time on every track. I’ve been in recording situations without time constraints, and I think people can get really obsessed with options, in terms of getting sounds. I didn’t have a lot of experience, obviously, up until this point. So I made a promise to myself not to spend too much time on the sonics.
In terms of songwriting, do you start off with a strong idea of what you want before tracking or do you write your songs as part of the recording process?
I usually have a strong idea of what I want a song to sound like—at least for the rhythm section—and it’s usually very simple. My process is, like, “Oh, I’m going to record a scratch guitar and vocal, and then I’ll record over it and just do a lot of layering.”
Obviously, there’s a lot of overdubbing, because it was just me. A lot of the songs started with just a guitar and me singing a scratch vocal, and then I would add the real guitar and the real bass before spending a lot of days trying to come up with some cool percussion parts.
On “All the While,” you play some slide guitar, first just single notes, and then harmonized, with some intriguing effects.
That was just me running my guitar through a [Boss] DD-7. During the take, Kevin live-manipulated the oscillation, to get it to feed back. The DD-7 pedal was before that Diamond Quantum Leap that I was telling you about, with the pitch modulation. It’s super subtle, but you can kind of hear the warble at the end of it.
“Book on How to Change” has other cool guitar moments, like the spontaneous lead lines beneath the surface.
I did a couple passes of that one where I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to solo over the whole thing, and see what I get.” There are some cool little riffs in there that I was pretty proud of. I feel I should apologize to Nels Cline for ripping him off so much, but he’s my hero. And then just a lot of the soundscape building was fun because it’s like jamming with yourself.
You’re going on tour soon and will presumably be playing these songs with a band. What do you think that will be like?
I’m still learning how to communicate to a band how I want things played, especially since I made the record mostly on my own. Actually, I’m rehearsing these songs with other people for the first time next week, and it’ll be interesting because I get a little bit protective of some parts. There are so many subtleties that come out of making a record, and then the songs kind of grow around the recording, and they feed into each other.
It’ll be fun to let go of that—a little bit at least—and allow the other players to have their own voices within these songs I’ve created. I’m interested in facilitating a good time for people, too, musically speaking, and something that’s fulfilling for them, as well as for me and the listeners.
In this recent solo performance recorded live in Paris, Meg Duffy creates a huge shimmering sound with her trusty Fender Lone Star Stratocaster and delay pedals.