Duffy set for first Hub gigBy Christopher John Treacy
Let’s face it: Calling Duffy the next Amy Winehouse isn’t much of a compliment.
While Winehouse struggles with drug addiction, Britain’s latest white soul sensation is into clean living. Ten years ago, the Wales-born Aimee Duffy was placed in a safe home when police learned her stepdad’s alcoholic ex-wife had hired a hit man to kill him. The murder plot was foiled, but witnessing that sort of madness has kept Duffy, who ditched her first name five years ago, scared straight.
The only comparison that holds water is between the delectable soul-pop of Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and that of Duffy’s major label debut, “Rockferry,” which brings her to the Wilbur Theatre tomorrow night for her Boston premiere. But even then, Winehouse’s retro-soul is steeped in reggae, ska, beat-box and jazz, while Duffy’s sound is considerably less splintered.
We caught up with 24-year-old Duffy during a phone call from London.
Boston Herald: Hip-hop sister Estelle mouthed off about you and other white soul singers in the British press not long ago, but then you sang at Harlem’s Apollo Theater - a classic soul venue. Was that vindicating?
Duffy: I felt no sense of judgment in that room. It was one of the most spectacular moments in my life, actually. No one can ever take that away from me. When the lights went up and the show started, I thought, ‘This is how it’s meant to be.’ I didn’t put out this record to then sit back and be judged. The bottom line is, you can’t help what color you’re born; every person has emotion, and that’s what soul music is - emotion.
BH: Rumor has it that a game plan existed to groom you and your CD to produce a retro sound; is there any truth to this?
Duffy: Not really, no. And I don’t much like the word ‘retro’ - I’m not sure what that is, actually. I made loads of songs over three and a half years, and at the end of the recording process, these are the ones that fit together best. I felt like a curator for an art gallery.
BH: Coming from humble beginnings, does success feel strange?
Duffy: Success is very personal to me. I felt a degree of success in making a friend cry when I played her one of my songs, it was such a real emotional response. The rest is all dollars, dates and diaries.
BH: Is it unnerving to be repeatedly compared to a singer who, despite being talented, is thought of as a train wreck in progress?
Duffy: It’s like anything else. A young boy may crash his car somewhere or a baby dies choking, but you can’t waste energy worrying if you’ll meet the same fate because of some similarity between you and them. We have control over our own lives and what we do with them, but bad decisions can rob us of those very freedoms. I’ve seen it happen to other people. You learn from watching.
BH: What’s next for Duffy? Do you feel the pressure of expectation?
Duffy: Plans fail. It’s best to just go with what’s in front of you. Life has a funny way of making us feel like we have to adhere to rules and schedules - but all that’s just etiquette and social boundaries. I can’t concern myself with what anyone expects of me. I’ve got to just listen to my heart.
Monday, August 4, 2008
4 Aug: Boston Herald Interview Duffy
This article is from the Boston Herald.