Small town girl out to conquer the world
"The truth is the only thing that makes me feel successful is writing a song that people connect to, whether it's two people in Nefyn or 10,000 people in Tokyo."
As Welsh singer Duffy recently told The Daily Yomiuri about her musical driving force in a five-star Tokyo hotel, she revealed the importance of her small town roots.
"I always take Nefyn with me, in a weird way...I know it sounds like a bit of a cliche, but I feel like I'm still the girl from Nefyn," she says.
Yet a year ago, the North Wales coastal town was best known as an unassuming holiday resort. That all changed once Duffy's debut album, Rockferry, was released in Britain in March this year.
By the time the album came out in Japan at the end of September, sales had hit 3 million and it had topped the charts in numerous countries. The world had been introduced to Duffy--who goes by her family name, having dropped her first name (Aimee) in her teens--and her hometown.
From producer Bernard Butler's booming piano intro on the title track opener to the emotionally charged Phil Spectoresque passion of "Distant Dreamer," Rockferry is a powerful record that appears to be locked in the 1960s, yet manages to sound fresh and vital.
Two days before our interview, Duffy had wowed a satisfied audience packed into Tokyo's Liquid Room for her first concert in Japan.
Wearing a short white dress, she cut a striking figure on stage as she ran through all 10 tracks off Rockferry, a couple of B-sides and a new song, "Rain On Your Parade."
She was interviewed on stage after the show. In an exchange that seemed to be preoccupied with her love life, the 24-year-old cheekily revealed that she likes men "who are good with their hands."
While the single version of "Rain On Your Parade" was released in Britain on Monday, a deluxe version of Rockferry will hit the record shops there on Nov. 24. The record is slated to be released in Japan in March, just ahead of shows in Tokyo and Osaka.
"I feel that 10 songs just isn't enough, so I've been given the opportunity to release an extended version of the album where there's a few new songs. There's seven new songs, so it's like another album," she explains.
Duffy sees the repackaged album's bonus tracks as a chance to find an outlet for songs that might otherwise have been lost.
"It's a really great opportunity to not let those songs die, because that's what will happen. They'll die and they'll get forgotten about, they'll just be plastic things lined up in the Rough Trade [record label] office, named 'Duffy Songs,' you know," she says bluntly.
When I ask Duffy how her songwriting is progressing, she responds in a very down-to-earth manner.
"Really good. It's like asking me what my sex life is like, I suppose," she says with a chuckle, before adding in a mock doctoral tone: "Good. Strong, strong."
And there seems to be no sign of the well running dry in the near future. "I just keep having to create, you know, otherwise I feel dead. It's the only thing that I really have. I didn't have anything before and material stuff just doesn't give me a kick. I'm that sort of person.
"I feel that with wanting to create more, it's exciting, you know. It's the one thing that I think isn't greedy," she says.
Duffy's lyrics are very personal and document the trials and tribulations of dealing with relationships. Yet in an interview on Britain's Channel 4 TV Web site in February she said, "I've never fallen in love, by the way, so I don't really know what love is." Over the intervening months had anything changed?
"I think if I had been in love, I'd still be in it, surely. I'm a bit of a skeptic, actually. My family divorced, blah, blah, blah...I think there's only one or two, maybe one real true love in your life, so...I haven't yet," she says candidly.
What makes Duffy's creativity all the more remarkable is that she grew up almost exclusively listening to the radio, for the simple reason that Nefyn didn't--and still doesn't--have a record shop.
"I think I'm gonna change that. If there's one thing I can give back to Nefyn, it's a good record shop, surely. You know, full of old great soul records and collectibles," she says.
In her youth, she didn't tune in to the staple pop and rock diet of BBC Radio 1, instead opting for the easy listening sounds (at the time) of BBC Radio 2.
"Looking back now, it's easy to go, 'Ah, we didn't have a record shop and I was listening to Radio 2 and how romantic was that,' but the truth is that as you're actually living it, it's no big deal and you don't realize the subliminal and the kind of life-changing impact it has because, of course, music was some form of escapism," she explains.
And every Sunday, there was one program she never missed--the Top 40 countdown. "Amazing. [I] recorded [it] every weekend. I'd do my own compering [deejaying] as well, which was fun. Play and record, try and stop it before the deejay comes in," she recalls.
But having made it through her teenage years without the need for vinyl or CDs, Duffy finally discovered the joy of the record decks.
"I didn't have a record collection until I was about 20--it was only four years ago--and then I would discover things like Glen Campbell, Sam Cooke, Rita Wright, all these amazing artists that now are my total treasures," she says enthusiastically.
Not that she is about to shout about her favorite artists from the rooftops just yet--not even to her closest family. "I think the things that I've discovered, I don't know if my sister would be aware of. I think it really is true that music helps form your identity."
As a twin, Duffy's relationship with her sister is very important for her.
"You know, it's a real gift to share a life with someone; it really is, you know. You're born together, you're so connected, but we don't look the same, so we're just like best friends, really," she reveals.
While both of them live in London now, this was not the case a few years ago.
"I didn't suffer fools gladly, you know, and if I wanted to do something I'd go and do it, sort of regretfully leaving her behind. At 15, I left home, constantly in different places, getting in and out of trouble, moving to London at the age of 19, and she was just kind of steadily doing her own thing. I literally just didn't hang around for anyone, not even my twin, you know," she says.
Duffy's sense of humor is infectious, and in conversation she is seemingly unaffected by her success and very unpretentious. An article in the August edition of U.S. rock magazine Spin had two references to cups of tea as she chatted to reporter Amanda Petrusich in Britain.
So when I offer her some Yorkshire tea as an alternative to the usual yellow-labeled tea bags served up in her hotel, she can't hide her pleasure.
"Amazing. Home brew. Unbelievable. You are probably one of the most popular men we've seen today now after this. Thank you very much," she gushes.
And with a trip to Osaka later that day, Duffy knew exactly what she would be doing before she left. "That is definitely a flask's worth--because we're going on the bullet train tonight--a couple of flasks of good home tea," she says.
I wonder if anyone was able to provide some scones and jam?
Duffy will play at Ax in Shibuya, Tokyo on March 17 at 7 p.m., (03) 5738-2020, and Club Quattro in Shinsaibashi, Osaka on March 18 at 7 p.m. (06) 6281-8181.
The Daily Yomiuri will present a poster signed by Duffy to one lucky reader who can answer the following question:
In which month will the deluxe version of Rockferry be released in Japan?
A runner-up will receive a promotional Duffy blanket.
Send a postcard with your answer, name, address and phone number, to The Daily Yomiuri, Duffy Competition, 1-7-1 Otemachi, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo 100-8055. Alternatively, you can e-mail DYWeekend@yomiuri.com with the same details. Include "Duffy" in the subject line. Entries must be received by Nov. 28.(Nov. 21, 2008)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
21 Nov: Japanese Interview with Duffy
The below article appeared on the website of The Daily Yomiuri today. It's an interview and a giveaway for Japanese fans and also news that the Deluxe Ed of the album will be released in spring 2009... I'm hoping they stick in some bonus content. ;-) Anyway here's the interview.... Don't forget that they are airing the Liquid Room concert in Japan on