Welsh singer Duffy is ‘Endlessly’ contradictory
The soulful chanteuse keeps her focus on her art on new album
By Elysa Gardner USA TODAY
NEW YORK — The Welsh singer/ songwriter known as Duffy will be the first to admit that she’s a bundle of contradictions.
The pretty blonde, who made a striking debut with 2008’s Rockferry, alternately describes herself as strong and fragile. She is “a control freak” but also can be “like a leaf blowing in the wind.”
So it should come as no surprise that the sense of inspiration fueling Duffy’s second album, Endlessly, out Tuesday, was deeply conflicted.
“While making the record, I kept asking myself, ‘What am I doing this for?’ ” says Duffy, 26. “To be honest, I would have enjoyed myself more eating cake and watching Cinema Paradiso while snuggling up to my 6-foot-3 boyfriend” — Welsh rugby star Mike Phillips.
Still, “there was this yearning that always makes me go back and write. It’s like an addiction.”
It was thus long before the blue-eyed-soulful Rockferry, 2008’s bestselling album in the U.K., which sold 877,000 copies here, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It also earned her a Grammy Award (for best pop vocal album) and comparisons with other R&B-informed British songbirds such as Amy Winehouse and Adele.
“From the time I was 6, I wanted to be a star,” Duffy says. Her role models were American roots icons whom she discovered via the BBC. On rainy Welsh weekends, she and her twin sister “would sit with our heads in our hands, listening to the radio.”
On Endlessly, her chief collaborator is veteran tunesmith Albert Hammond, whose career stretches back to the 1960s. “Albert gave me these songs that I think will help define me,” says Duffy. A funky, feisty first single, Well Well Well, featuring The Roots, was released in October.
Duffy hopes to tour next year, “but first I want this record to live, for people to play it in their cars and bedrooms and on their iPods. Then I can go onstage and share it.”
In conversation, she is soft-spoken but has the poise and easy sparkle of someone who’s comfortable in the limelight, whether discussing her music or dishing about Phillips, whom she calls her first real love.
“There’s a real sense of safety with him,” Duffy says. “He has very nice blue eyes as well. An elderly woman once told me, ‘Marry someone with nice eyes and a nice voice, because the rest will change.’ He’s got both.”
Duffy also prefers to take the long view, careerwise. “Crazy as this may sound, I wonder what people will say about me when I’m no longer on the planet, not what they say today. I don’t read my media.” You won’t find her on Facebook or Twitter, either: “I don’t want to be part of a trend.”
In fact, Duffy still prefers the old-fashioned medium that provided her first musical education.
“I remain a big fan of radio,” she says. “I always imagine there’s some young girl in Birmingham listening to one of my songs. Maybe it’s raining, or her parents are financially struggling, but she’ll hear that song, and it just might make a small difference.”