Thursday, December 18, 2008

18 Dec: Duffy featured in NZ mag

Click on the photos for larger images.

Duffy: Voice of the year

Ask Duffy what sort of a year she's had and the Welsh lass with the
booming voice is a little coy.

"Er ... an interesting one," she chuckles cutely. "I think my life is similar to the life I had a year ago. I still have the same friends
and same relationship with my family. But of course I went to Tokyo for the first time last week, I live out of a suitcase, and I'm doing
three or four gigs a week. I'm always on the road. There's not too much
glamour involved."

The Duffy roadshow heads to New Zealand for the first time in March and
April for three concerts in support of her debut album Rockferry. Here, and in many other parts of the world, it was the biggest-selling album of the year, thanks to songs like Mercy, Stepping Stone and the rousing title track which opens the album.

Since being released in late March it has sold just over 42,000 copies - not bad in a time when album sales are not what they used to be.

"I'm still at this point where I don't really know what I've achieved in a way," she says on the phone from San Diego during her recent tour of the United States. "A lot of people talk to me about success, but I
don't really know what success is because I just made the best record I'm capable of. I'm still on the same road. I don't feel any different."

She might sound humble but 24-year-old Aimee Ann Duffy, who ironically got kicked out of the school choir for having too big a voice, has always been ambitious and a wannabe pop star.

In short, her story goes something like this: she was raised in the tiny north Wales village of Nefyn, before moving to Pembrokeshire aged 10, and then back to North Wales for a time. When she was 15 she left home to pursue her dream of making it in the music business and appeared on Welsh TV show Wawffactor, where she came second.

"It was quite an awkward time in my life. I was young and didn't really know what I wanted but was desperately trying to progress," she says of those teen years.

But in August 2004, Jeanette Lee, part-owner of independent record label
Rough Trade, got her hands on Duffy and helped realise her dream of being a music star.

It took a few years for the debut album to surface but in late 2007 the limited-edition single Rockferry announced her arrival and since then her rise to the top has been quick.

At first she was compared to Dusty Springfield. These days she's sick of the comparisons and, to be fair, the likeness is just as much to do with Duffy's blond helmet hairdo as it is with the two singers' vocal styles.

There were other comparisons too but often Duffy didn't know the music of the people she was being likened to.

"In the beginning I was writing songs and I didn't really know where they belonged. People would say it sounds like Diana Ross and the Supremes, or ... this, that and the other. So it was very difficult for me to get excited about it, or confident about it, because I felt like I was backtracking constantly to discover all these things that apparently I should be quite well into."

One of the people introducing her to new music was producer Bernard Butler (formerly of Suede) who co-wrote the song Rockferry.

Butler deserves special mention because he has been behind some of the
year's best albums including Black Kids' Partie Traumatic and Auckland band Cut Off Your Hands' debut, You & I.

"There were actually three producers on the album but the fascinating thing with Bernard was you can't predict too much and you've got to go in with an open mind. Something just happens on the day. He's a real artist," she says.

For Duffy, parts of the music business took some getting used to.

In an interview in Q magazine earlier this year, which she did jointly with Paul Weller, she admitted being hurt by bad reviews.

Six months on, Duffy has a far thicker skin - she says she's faced her fears - and this has also helped her deal with the glare of celebrity
and the tabloids.

"It depends what's been said about me and what has been taken out of context and been sensationalised," she laughs. "But it's okay. Whatever, really."

She's not revealing too much about her future plans but says she won't be straying too far from what she did first time round.

"I just want to continue making songs that make people feel good and make me feel good and not think about my next record, my image, or public perception.

"But, you know, I don't want to be the kind of person who sits on the sofa for two years before the next record because I feel like I'm at the peak of knowing what I'm about and I think I kind of have to run with it for five or six years. Who knows, maybe I'll just make one more record. But I think I just have to go with the ebbs and flows of life."

Who: Duffy
Real name: Aimee Duffy
Debut album: Rockferry, out now
When & where: March 31, Vector Arena, Auckland; April 1, TSB Arena, Wellington; and April 2, Town Hall, Christchurch

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