Duffy is a soul-singing star, bursting onto Britain’s pop scene from an obscure corner of Wales in 2008 with her debut album Rockferry, which has gone on to sell nearly 5 million copies worldwide. Ahead of her visit to Hong Kong, Hamish McKenzie spoke to the Grammy and Brit Award-winning 24-year-old on the phone.
Hi Duffy, where are you at the moment?
I’m in London.
Cool. Are you working on anything, or are you just chilling out?
I’ve been doing phone interviews from my bed. I’ve got out of bed now you’ll be pleased to know. My sister’s standing here. She’s wearing a pink bathrobe – it’s like pink leopard skin.
Nice. And what are you wearing, I hesitate to ask?
I’m wearing a – I call it mushroom, what would you say, Kate? [Kate: ‘Yeah’] – mushroom-coloured bathrobe.
Oh good. I won’t go any further than that.Okay!
What’s next in your plans for life, or in music, at least?
I don’t think any of us really have a plan for life, and if we do we’re just kidding ourselves. But in music, I’m probably going to slip away under cover and think about making some more.
And what are you going to have for breakfast?
I’ve had my breakfast. My sister made me a cheese-and-ham toastie with mustard.She brought it to you in bed?
Yup. We’re twins. She has to do these sorts of things because of our twin connection. When I’m hungry, she’s hungry [laughs].Does she look like you?
No. Not at all, actually.
So you can’t send her out on stage in your place?
No. [Off phone] What did you say, Kate? Oh, she’s fooling around.
What? At this time of the morning?
Yeah! Honestly, she’s on it about 6am.
So how many phone interviews have you done so far today?
You’re my tenth.
How do you maintain such energy?
I don’t. I try to find humour in everything. I try to laugh about it. There’s something about phoners that – because you’re not there with the person – it’s really quite difficult. People always imagine talking on the phone is quite easy, but because you can’t see the person, it’s quite laborious.
Yeah, it’s harder to make that connection, isn’t it?
Yeah, but you know, I’m getting to that point now, where in the beginning I was speaking to people and no disrespect to them, but they just didn’t really know much about music, you know, or they just weren’t good talkers. It’s amazing, and you think, ‘God you’re journalists, how did you get a job at talking?’ But maybe they’re really great writers so it turns out really good on the other side or something. But in the beginning it was really quite difficult. I was getting the office apprentice coming in to talk to me with a piece of paper, like, ‘So how would you describe your voice?’ I was like, ‘You can listen to it – tell me what you think’ [laughs].
But you know, I think if you want to have a good quality of life, you gotta have fun. Like the other day, I was doing this advert, we were filming it in London, and I was cycling on a bike and I fell off the bike, and do you know what? It’s the youngest I’ve felt in ages. I fell off it – I love the fact that I fell off. Because sometimes life has a way of just ticking over and you forget that having fun and being happy is really important. That’s what it’s all about.
Did you cry when you fell off your bike?
Did I cry?
Yeah, because I’ve fallen off my bike a few times – I usually cry.
Oh, bless you. I got up and I think I went, ‘Oh, I fell!’, and it was 3am in the morning, so I was so tired that I didn’t tense – I just sort of flopped. We’ve got it on camera, so it might well appear in a few years.
It didn’t have anything to do with alcohol?
No alcohol involved at all.
Wow – that’s quite an achievement.
Yes! I know – I fell without alcohol. But I pressed the right-hand brake.
Oh, well that’s amateur. Moving on from bike accidents, you’ve sold almost 4.5 million albums around the world. You’re kind of in danger of reaching the Amy Winehouse level of popularity. What are you doing to prevent yourself becoming that sort of tragic celebrity figure?
I think there’s so many of them. You see it a lot. Somebody was asking me today about the tabloids in the UK. There’s a lot of people who just are kind of self-destructive, but I think it’s in your nature – you’ve got to be born that way. You’ve got to suddenly wake up one morning and get a sense of self-destruction. So I don’t think I’m in that nature, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got my fair share of personal problems, haven’t we all, but it’s a matter of keeping it together.
You seem to be quite proud of being Welsh – is that an important part of your life?
It is actually. I think your culture and where you’re from – it defines you. It’s who you are. I love being Welsh. I get forgiven a lot. People like the Welsh. We’re a good breed.
What do you think are the top three qualities of a Welsh person?
They like to have a good time. They’re very friendly. They’re very loyal to their roots. Good language, loyal to their roots, and good times, good fun. Well that’s my home anyway. And rugby. We’re great at rugby.Are you a rugby fan?
I am actually. I used to play it.Did you? What position?
No, I didn’t really.
Oh right – is this a story you’re just making up for the press?
Yeah, I am. Just a bit of fun.
That’s alright – it makes it more interesting for everyone.
Yeah [laughs]. Rugby-playing singer: nice.
How do you feel when you get dissed by the likes of Estelle and Alison Goldfrapp?
It’s not nice – but what can you do? You can control everything in life, but you can’t control other people. That’s a bit ironic [laughs]. But you can’t control what they say – that’s the freedom of free speech. They can say what they want. The world would be boring if we were all super-polite about each other. It’s good to have a bit of controversy now and again.
Duffy plays AsiaWorld-Arena on March 20.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
19 Mar: Hong Kong Time Out Interview Duffy