She’s the multi million-selling soul diva who went from an unknown to one of the world’s biggest singing stars. Here Duffy tells Dave Owens all about fame, fortune and her love for a Wales rugby international
THE last time Wales On Sunday spoke to Duffy, she was standing barefoot outside her London flat smoking a crafty cigarette – and asking us not to tell her mum about it – while going completely unnoticed by passers by.
Now, almost exactly three years to the day and six and a half million sales of her debut album Rockferry later, nipping outside for a crafty anything would most likely result in a swarm of screaming fans and the strobing flashes of the waiting paparazzi cameras.
But despite being caught up in a dizzying whirlwind of success that’s seen her bag BRIT Awards and Grammys alike, score a No 1 single and album simultaneously and play to sell-out crowds worldwide – not to mention have a Daffodil named after her – the 26-year- old from North Wales said she always knew she’d make it.
Why? Because her family told her so.
“They always knew that this was going to happen,” smiled the girl from Nefyn, who went onto become one of the biggest female singers in the world.
My mum and my sisters knew I was going to succeed or die trying, because I’ve always been like that.
“I remember being 16 years old and I was sat on the bed with my two sisters, around the time when I was at college,” added Duffy, who, despite the exhaustive schedule of a mega-selling artist with a new record coming out, still finds the time to ring home up to six times a day.,
“ I was singing in bands, waitressing in a café and my sisters Kelly and Katy were asking me why I was doing all of this.
“But I just used to push myself to do it. I didn’t even know why I wanted to belong in music and, to this day, I still don’t.
“My determination was something that simply couldn’t be measured, that’s all.”
However, that’s not to say that, in the harshest light of the spotlight’s glare, there weren’t the occasional moments of doubt.
“I thought about walking away, I really did,” she confessed of the moment her fame went stratospheric.
“Not because I thought I’d done it. It’s just that I missed the simple things in my life, a life that had got so complicated.
“I found myself longing to be on an empty beach in North Wales, walking with only myself and my thoughts for miles around – but that being said, I never have any regrets.
“I don’t really yearn, don’t look back; I’m constantly looking forward, so I don’t give myself the opportunity to lick my wounds and pine to be somewhere else.
“I decided that this is the place I’ve chosen to be and to accept it whole-heartedly.”
Even, she added, if that does mean having to scrutinise everything you do or say for fear of it coming back to haunt you in the most public way possible.
“I am very much one of those sort of wild, young girls, I like to enjoy myself,” revealed Duffy.
“When I get drunk, I either laugh or cry.
“So I think of how many moments in the last few years where I could have been seen with mascara on my face, pouring my heart out to friends over numerous bottles of wine and how lucky I’ve been to have done it in private.
“I don’t want to look back when I’m 60 and see pictures on the internet of me coming out of a nightclub really drunk and half naked,” she shuddered.
That hasn’t prevented her being snapped with her Wales and Lions rugby ace beau Mike Phillips, doing their grocery shopping around Penarth though – not that she actually minds the world knowing that she’s currently spoken for.
“Mike is 6ft 3in and more than 16 stone. I need some solid arms around me when I feel vulnerable,” Duffy grinned.
“He’s a huge influence on me, I’m blushing just at the mention of his name.
“Last week was the first time I’ve actually admitted I’m in love,” she chirped.
“An American radio DJ asked me out, said, ‘I’m falling for you, are you single?’ And for the first time ever, I went, ‘No, I’m not’.
“It was an out-loud acknowledgement that I am officially off the market and we just try to ignore the whole fame thing and enjoy being with each other.
“We don’t do showbiz parties. What would we do there anyway? We would only end up sitting in a corner together chatting,” she added.
“Obviously, I’ve had to get into the rugby.
“I don’t think I’ve missed an international match for a while now.”
However, she refused to be drawn on whether she was going to give Wills and Kate Middleton a right royal run for their money with news of her own impending nuptials.
“I don’t want to be looking too far ahead as I’m a girl who lives for now.
“But I am very old-fashioned and I wouldn’t want to presume,” she laughed.
“Besides, I think the guy has to be the one to propose.”
And what of the other man in her life, the one 40-years her senior with whom she’s become inseparable?
We’re talking, of course, about Albert Hammond, celebrated hit songwriter and father of Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jnr, who helped her pen her new album, Endlessly.
“He was in his house in LA one day and his wife went, ‘Albert! Look at this girl on TV, she sounds like a black woman!’” recalls Duffy.
“And when he looked he went, ‘Oh my God’.”
The show was Saturday Night Live, the song was Stepping Stone, and the moment marked the 66-year-old legendary music icon’s return to the industry after a decade away.
“He asked to meet me and I had no idea about his background,” explained Duffy of the London-born hitmaker.
“He told me he had this song called Don’t Forsake Me and I said, ‘That sounds like the soundtrack of my life!’”
The pair sparked off each other and wrote new tunes until well into the dead of night.
“It was four in the morning and I remember looking at him dancing around and thinking, ‘You’re 40 years older than me. I do not know where you get your energy from’.
“I had to be like, ‘OK, focus. Albert, I know you’re dancing, but what we need to do now is record the second verse’!” she said.
Duffy’s new album Endlessly is released on Monday, November 29.