Thursday, February 28, 2008

28 Feb: The Sun article: The making of my debut album

The Sun have a excellent article today. It gives details about all the songs on the album and what they are about. I've pasted the text in below.

The making of my debut album


Published: 28 Feb 2008

DUFFY - Rockferry

Rating ****1/2

YOU’D expect the Welsh blonde with the bombshell voice to have her head in the clouds right now. But nothing, it seems, is further from the truth for 23-year-old Duffy.

Her song Mercy has been sitting pretty at No1 for two weeks thanks to downloads alone, but her feet remain firmly on the yellow sands of the Llyn peninsula.

“I’m genuinely shocked,” she says. “I mean, I don’t understand about downloads and all that stuff but, for me, I thought it would be cool to go Top 40 and then we could see it climb over the weeks. It’s done way better than I ever expected.”

The song is a sexy, sultry, soulful three minutes of retro-cool, with a “yeah yeah yeah” introduction that weirdly echoes the “no no no” of Amy’s Rehab.

It’s one of the songs on Duffy’s debut album Rockferry, arriving next week after a long but, as you’ll discover, not painful birth.

Four years in the making, it comes with an impressive supporting cast.

Her mentor has been Jeanette Lee of iconic indie label Rough Trade and her chief collaborator was the esteemed producer and former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler.

Further involvement came from Jimmy Hogarth (James Morrison, James Blunt), Eg White (Will Young, Adele) and Steve Booker, who co-wrote Mercy and Stepping Stone with the singer.

Much of it sounds like a throwback to the heady days of the Sixties when girl singers like Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw and Lulu ruled the charts but it’s also infused with cool, contemporary flourishes.

There’s the grandiose, mid-tempo setting for the title track, the airy lilt of Serious, and the gorgeous atmospherics of final song Distant Dreamer.

While they cover the familiar themes of love, longing, leaving and loss, Duffy says: “I don’t want to be too self-indulgent so I don’t search for the meaning of life in my songs. I’m only 23 and don’t know much about life yet. I can only write songs that feel right at this point.”

Despite her tender age, these ten songs are set to provide the soundtrack to millions of lives.

Here, their creator describes how they came into being:


It was the first song I wrote on the record and the first I ever wrote with Bernard (Butler). I was putting myself under a lot of pressure at that point because I really wanted to come up with something — almost like do or die.

I don’t know where I got the word Rockferry from but I was subliminally aware of it as it’s on the border between Wales and England. I thought it resembled something strong. It’s a song about struggle.

I wanted it to be big-sounding, quite noisy and epic, but I remember not really loving that song when I first heard it. You don’t write a song about struggle then listen to it the next day and forget everything you were feeling. Now that I’m going out and performing it live, I enjoy the song as a song. I’m quite detached from it.


I can’t really explain where Warwick Avenue came from. I’ve only been there twice, once by accident. I got off at that stop and the name just took me by surprise. The next day, we were writing songs and it just sort of came out. (The avenue is in Maida Vale, West London.)

In the studio, it was quite intense. You have maybe six hours to get something finished so you have to think on your feet. But I feel the record practically chose itself. The ten songs that were standing out were the ones we used.


Bernard and I would never sit around and talk much in the studio. We’d go in, say hi, and sit down straight away at the piano. We did Serious one afternoon and I immediately loved it. It made me feel really good. It was just about having fun. (“But it’s called Serious,” I suggest to Duffy. “Yeah, how ironic,” she replies. “It was serious fun.”)


That was written with Steve Booker towards the end of the recording process. I feel very lucky I met him because we wrote this song and Mercy. With Stepping Stone, I had the intention to say something. It’s quite personal where other songs are more about storytelling or creating scenarios.

I never really use music as a way of communicating my own feelings — I do it because I enjoy music. On this occasion, I abused my authority and let my emotions in. I really love performing it live. I met Steve because he was living in a flat I went to see when I was looking for somewhere to live in London. At the time, we were pretty much wrapping up the record.

I called Jeanette Lee (at Rough Trade) and said: “I’ve met this guy. Do you think it’s a good idea to do some songwriting?” She said: “It would be good for you to relax and forget about the production of the album and be creative.” Later, I called her back and said: “You know what, I’ve got something.”

It was quite special to go away from Bernard and Jimmy Hogarth, who I worked with so long over two years, and come back with a strong song. It meant a lot to me. Music has got to be impulsive and open-minded.


I wrote that with Bernard on the same day as Serious. It was right at the end of the day and we were winding down. We’d had a load of fun and thought ‘Let’s just see what we can come up with’. I remember wanting to write something with a social context.

I was realising that the urgency of the city didn’t allow for people to spend enough time with each other. Maybe I’d seen something on the news that afternoon.

I love Wales. It’s my home. I equally love London. It’s got this buzz about it — so exciting and so much choice. Everything’s on your doorstep. But maybe I was feeling the slower pace of Wales in that song.


I wrote that with Jimmy Hogarth and Eg White around the time of Warwick Avenue. We put it down as a template and I went to stay in a hotel. That night I remember feeling that the song was drowning.

I sometimes get these horrible, overwhelming feelings that things aren’t going the right way. I felt scared. I knew I had to sing it the next day and be really clever with my phrasing. A couple of days after that, I heard it back and was very grateful I had realised what to do. The agony of that sleepless night was worth it. It’s hard to turn a song around if you don’t approach it in the right way.


I’d achieved everything I’d wanted to achieve on the album at that point and I just wanted to let loose. I wanted something sexy. It’s about sexual liberty, being young, morals, temptation, all that kind of thing.

I just love organic sound. I love strings. I love the way chords can be cleverly arranged. The Sixties was the best era in music and it’s a real honour for me to think that it nods to that but it was never an intention. I also love the Seventies, the Nineties and so on. I remember when I was a child we used to listen to Steve Wright on Radio 2 when he’d play that real heartbreaky music. We were just hooked. A bit of drama on the weekends.


I had all these ideas in my head and the song really moved, had a snappiness to it. We recorded it in about an hour and a half. I remember Jimmy sitting in while I was finishing it off and Eg had just left for something. It was spontaneous and I love that song.

Over the four years, I was having more and more of a say because I was understanding more. At the start, I left a lot of room for people to bring things to the table. I needed to find a direction for myself because I didn’t really know music, didn’t really have any reference points. Now, I have quite a firm opinion and input. The whole thing was a learning curve.


That song is about losing somebody but not necessarily in a relationship. It’s really about death, the cold silence that goes along with it and that feeling of fear when somebody suddenly disappears out of someone’s life. I just wanted to create that atmosphere. I can’t say that I’ve lost somebody that I’ve lived with so I didn’t perhaps sing it from a personal perspective.

I didn’t want to make an album with every single song sounding the same. I remember Bernard and Jimmy probably thinking I was a lunatic, you know, because they were like ‘What are you looking for?’ We’d do one song and then I’d try and move as far away from that as possible. That’s why I think you just get this real mix of emotions, of light and shade.


There’s a lot of fun to be had with a song like that. I love singing it live, you know the glockenspiel bit and the saxophone part. We didn’t have sax on anything else on the record.

It was recorded on a tough day. I thought “All right then, I’m just going to let whatever happens today come out.” I might have wanted something a bit more groovy but Distant Dreamer just came out. Hats off to Bernard for the way he finished it just on the cymbals. Bernard’s a real artist and I am very grateful to have worked with him.

As our conversation ends, I wish Duffy the best of luck with her gig that night and, of course, when she storms The Brits next year. “Let’s see,” she smiles.

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