John Duff Serves Delicious Treats in New EP
By John Stein
John Duff admits that the first two videos he released as an independent artist, ‘Rich’ and ‘Girly,’ were not accurate reflections of himself. “I was so attached to the way I was perceived that I ended up hiding behind concepts and characters,” he says today. “You don’t get John Duff. You get John Duff trying to give a viral moment. You get John Duff the clown. I only got sober this year, so I’m actually really mortified looking back at a lot of my output. It wasn’t me. It was a mask; same with the drinking and the drugs.”
He says “Hokie Pokie” and the upcoming songs from his EP are more representative of the real John Duff. “I’m not attached to my success. I’m simply making things that I want to see in the world. Things that I would’ve wanted to do when I was a child. I am honoring that little boy that had to dim his shine to assimilate. This is a healing process for me. I feel bold and clear, and, above all, free.”
He explains more from his home in Los Angeles.
Do you put the hoe in Hokie Pokie?
I do not, and I don’t know if I’m happy about that or sad about it. I’m a prude. But I love being stupid and writing stupid songs, and sometimes that requires a bit of pretend. This song is me pretending to be a hoe. I wish I was a hoe. I wish I was a stupid hoe, in fact.
What in the world inspired you to create a song about cunnilingus?
I wrote the song for (drag queen) Willam, actually. I had done one for her called “Hoops”. He sort of commissioned that title, and while I was in the headspace of a girl who would proudly sing ‘the bigger the hoops, the bigger the hoe,’ I wrote “Hokie Pokie”. I decided to release the track myself while quarantine. We were all so stressed out while in the recording studio and I was like, “can I just be a clown for a minute?” If the world is ending, I’d like to have a party. A sexy party with funny people.
Has your mama heard Hokie Pokie?
My mom said she thought the song was fun and clever. She loved the video and even said “you’re a very handsome man.” That made me cry. I don’t know, it’s almost like I didn’t believe that someone would be able to recognize my beauty in something so out there. I’m literally aggressively writhing in a sea of things I was taught to be ashamed of.
Have you always been so bold and out there?
I started being a bold little freak around 12. Maybe before that. I used to stand in my basement, all doughy and awkward, trying to perform sexy to Janet Jackson tracks. Like, me with braces and Old Navy cargo shorts sulking around singing “Would You Mind”. I have a specific memory from around 14, being on a raft in a lazy river, arching my back and singing “My Neck, My Back” to a lifeguard. That provided a lot of inspiration for my video.
Are all the new tracks on your album so colorful?
They each have their own sense of identity, for sure. I think my music has a lot of personality, but not everything is as schticky as “Hokie Pokie”. I have songs about everything. My dog, monogamy, confidence, ayahuasca, being bipolar… I want to say it’s deeply personal, but maybe that’s not the best description. It’s definitely all really important to me.
What do you love most about the album?
It took a long time to develop a sound that is uniquely mine. All of the songs have dignity and hold true to my tastes, and that feels great. I believe we as artists are of service when we’re creating things that we want to hear. Whenever I make a pop song, I’m like, “you know what music is missing – augmented chords.” And so I write a song with augmented chords.
What is the ultimate message that you are putting out to the universe with your music?
Life is short. Make someone happy. Everyone is worthy of happiness. You are someone.
Why is happiness so important?
Because the earth is crying and she needs us to start living more intentional, purposeful lives. That work is done on an individual level – so I hope my mere existence as an artist helps someone else feel confident in their own expression. I think most people don’t know what would make themselves happy. They think the answer is in a mansion in the Calabasas. Or they don’t ask the question at all. I don’t know how one would do that though – there really isn’t much to do here.
Are you single?
I am single and I’ve been single for years. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been in the headspace to date until now. I was incapable of dating before this year and now it’s kind of hard to date, right? I was walking around earth with a lot of bullshit – very broken. I’m quite sure I wasn’t easy to be around. Who wants to date a manic alcoholic?
What would it take to make a John Duff a one-man man in 2021?
Not much. I want to be seen, heard and respected. I’d like to meet someone who is actively working on being a more harmonious, integrated person. Bonus points if you go to therapy, or have some time of healer on speed dial. I need to cool it with my porn intake though, because it definitely fucks with my head. I believe in love at first sight. When you know, you know… you know? So, I’m just waiting to look across the room and be like, “that’s him”.
Follow John Duff on Instagram @iamjohnduff