Nov 14 2010 John Dingwall, Sunday Mail (dailyrecord.co.uk)
AIMEE Anne Duffy says teaming up with legendary producer and songwriter Albert Hammond gave her the inspiration she needed to follow up her hit debut album Rockferry.
The new album Endlessly, released on November 29, is packed with more of the striking soul sound that earned her fame and fortune as well as a Grammy and three Brit awards first time around.
Recorded in London, New York and Spain, Duffy collaborated on the album with Hammond, responsible for over 360 million record sales and classic songs such The Air That I Breathe, When I Need You and It Never Rains In Southern California.
The 26-year-old admits: "Albert saw me on the television. He was drawn to something I did and he wanted to preserve that. He was going on about making sure we could hear the vocals and cutting everything back.
"My intention was to make people move, to dance through the good times and the bad times. I know how good that feels when you're young. I also wanted clarity on the sonics."
Having sold 6.5million copies of her debut album, her fans will be pleased to hear that her sound is firmly ensconced in the era of big female voices such as Dusty Springfield and Nancy Sinatra.
Duffy, born in Bangor and brought up in North Wales, has also retained that girl-next-door appeal and a retro Bridget Bardot fashion sense.
Amazingly, she wasn't even sure she wanted to make a second album.
"I thought about walking away, I really did," she says. "Not because I thought I'd done it. It's just that I missed the simple things in life. Life had got so complicated."
Remarkably, Duffy's parents had never heard her sing and only realised that she was serious about a career in music when they watched her debut TV performance, on the BBC's Later With Jools Holland.
She says the appearance sparked a "fantastic rollercoaster ride" that spawned hits Rockferry, Mercy and Warwick Avenue.
Duffy explains: "The first anybody from home saw me was on Jools Holland. That was my real debut. I was 21. Of course, I had done pubs and clubs but that was when I went public. That was when my parents realised I wasn't joking about it."
She says her parents didn't believe a career as a singer was anything other than a pipe dream for the former shop assistant.
"You can't blame people for not understanding," Duffy suggests. "How could they support something they didn't get? It was so far removed from reality. It was so dangerous, brave, risky and foolish to be leaving and going on these long journeys to London and New York.
"Remember, they had never really heard me sing. I hadn't allowed that. I had been singing in jazz bars since I was 16 years old. My mum and dad weren't in the crowd. These were things I did alone. My family didn't know my material because I kept it to myself.
"Trying to build a music career was something that I needed to prove to myself and do alone. I couldn't drag someone else with me. It was messy enough.
"I needed quiet so I never had companions along the way. I would travel from North Wales to Chester then from Chester down to London on the train, sixhour journeys between the ages of 19 and 21. By then, there was a buzz about me in the industry."
However, Duffy's rise to fame hasn't left her immune to trouble. At the Mojo awards two years ago, she was confronted by Sex Pistols legend John Lydon who grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against the wall as other attendees watched.
Shortly afterwards, the punk legend explained his actions by insisting she was a "a poor, young girl who made the mistake of trying to jump on my back".
When we spoke to Lydon last week, he had changed his story, insisting the reports of an altercation was a publicity stunt engineered by Duffy's people.
But Duffy is not ready to let the 54-year-old off the hook.
"Of course, he is not going to be very happy about his behaviour so you can't blame him for wanting to brush it under the carpet," she admits.
"That being said, there was definitely a time in my life after that happened where I started to feel very fragile. I was physically attacked in public by this public personality. It was a very tough time.
"I remember being on a plane the next day because I was flying to Los Angeles and my eyes were red and my face was really puffy and I kept my sunglasses on the whole time because I had been upset the previous evening.
"I don't hold any grudges. Who knows why he did what he did? I just think he was out to get somebody that night and it was unfortunate that it was me."
If her career is back on song, so is her love life, having dated the Welsh international rugby star Mike Phillips since September 2009.
It is a relationship she has described as making her "very happy, ill, nervous, selfaware, and breathless" and when I tell her that sounds like love, she's quick to agree.
"It sure does. What can I say? We went out on a date shortly after I came off tour and we have been inseperable ever since."
On the subject of marriage, she may be a little less forthcoming.
"I'm a bit of an old-fashioned girl so I don't think it is my place to be talking about stuff like that, certainly not on record," she laughs.
"So I don't know at this point if I should be vocalising any interest I have in that department. It's the sort of thing I'd discuss with my girlfriends over a glass of wine."
Her first whirlwind spell of success fuelled rumours that she was the daughter of Shakin' Stevens, while singer Estelle suggested that Duffy could not be regarded as a soul star because she's white.
But she admits these were all things that meant she had to find her feet in a business that takes no prisoners.
She says: "I remember being on a live news channel and being asked about me not being black. I could feel my heart thumping in my throat. I didn't know how to respond to be honest. I didn't know what had been said. That was one of those occasions where I felt slightly alone."
On the Shaky rumours, she says: "I put it down to assumption. We all assume. I just had to put it down speculation.
"I hear things said about me, good stuff and bad stuff. I find things out on the spot and have to be quick-witted and think on my feet about how to respond to that.
"It's one of those industries where there is smoke without fire. I got a call from my publicist asking me if I was pregnant. That was painful and hilarious."
Duffy's album Endlessly is released on November 29. A single, Well, Well, Well, is out on November 21.