Duffy. Singer, songwriter and rising soul star enchanted the world with her lyrics and incredible voice. She reveals her life in genuine songs. She’s young but already has the world at her feet. Don’t compare her to other singers, she’s different, she’s real, and she’s the new soul queen. The star is born.
Duffy, a Welsh singer and songwriter, is a rising soul star winning the world with her strong voice and genuine lyrics. She’s young but she’s already cited as one of the brightest soul stars of the day. Though being often in the spotlight now, Duffy manages to balance sincerity and openness in public and privacy of her personal life.
Aimee Anne Duffy was born on June 23, 1984 in Gwynedd, Wales and raised in Nefyn on the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales. When she was 10, her parents divorced and she moved to Pembrokeshire with her mother, older sister Kelly, and twin sister Katy. When Duffy turned 19 she dropped her first name Aimee, calling herself Duffy professionally and personally.
According to Duffy, she grew up without a record collection of her own. Duffy started singing at the age of 6 and at that age carried around a notebook in which she scribbled lyrics. She wanted to sing in her school choir but she wasn’t allowed because her voice was “too big; I didn’t fit in.”
Her first experience of music was seeing a VHS cassette of Mick Jagger singing ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, but it wasn’t this that kick-started her decision to pursue music. Duffy’s early interest in singing was apparently inspired by her father John Duffy’s videotape of the 1960s television rock show Ready Steady Go! Performances of the Beatles and Stones left an indelible impression so when Duffy was 15 she was already singing in local bands herself.
After an unsuccessful music project in Switzerland, Duffy returned to Wales in 2003 and was invited to appear on Wawffactor, a Welsh television show similar to American Idol. She was expected to win, but came second.
As a teen, Duffy wanted and expected to be a world famous pop star. At the age of 18 thinking her dreams were not going to come true she “became almost a quite withdrawn singer.” Eventually she decided to just make music for her own pleasure.
Duffy went to College Meirion-Dwyfor in North Wales where she was elected president of the Students Union. Then she transferred to the University of Chester in England. A lecturer advised her to “go on the dole, love, and become a singer,” she left the university and worked for an optician and performed with guitarist David Burton from the band The Invisible Wires.
Duffy recorded a three-song-EP in Welsh in 2004 and appeared on two tracks on the album See You in the Morning by Mint Royale the same year. In August 2004 Duffy was introduced to former Public Image Ltd. member turned music manager and part-owner of Rough Trade Records, Jeanette Lee. Lee moved Duffy to Crouch End in London, and arranged her meeting with Suede’s ex-guitar player Bernard Butler.
Butler not only co-wrote for her album and helped create a new retro sound, he was giving Duffy soul music classes by downloading tracks onto her iPod. The music included Al Green, Bettye Swann, Ann Peebles, Beyoncé, Doris Duke, Scott Walker, Phil Spector and Burt Bacharach.
Duffy entered into the contract with A&M Records in 2007. Duffy became the most prominent of the so-called “new Amys”. “Duffy, Gabriella Cilmi and Adele lead the charge to be the next Winehouse. First sightings seem to indicate that they are all bright-eyed innocents with bags of talent—a familiar starting point, no?” Adam Thompson from The Times wrote on December 30, 2007.
Duffy herself often states she doesn’t like to be compared with Amy Winehouse or Dusty Springfield, saying she wants to be recognized in her own right. She said: “To be honest, if it’s not Leona Lewis, it’s Amy Winehouse. I’m being compared with Lily Allen or Dusty Springfield, bless her soul, she was an amazing woman. I just feel like one day I’ll be known as myself, but time will tell.”
Meantime, singer-songwriter Alison Goldfrapp said while Duffy has a great voice she was trained to sound essentially like Amy Winehouse as part of a business plan. Though Duffy’s manner of performing is obviously similar to Amy Winehouse’s ice-cold 60s grooves and Dusty Springfield influence, Duffy is outstandingly different from Amy at least in one but important thing – her squeaky-clean image has nothing to do with Winohouse’s rollercoaster life.
It was the end of 2007 when Duffy got to be often invited to perform at different shows as a part of promoting Rockferry. She performed on the BBC2 television show Later with Jools Holland, and later on the related New Year’s Eve show Hootenanny, on which she performed with soul legend Eddie Floyd. On February 22, 2008 Duffy appeared on Later with Jools Holland for a third time and performed ‘Rockferry’, ‘Mercy’ and ‘Stepping Stone’, songs from her debut album Rockferry that was released in March 2008.
In January 2008, she came second in the annual BBC News Sound of 2008 website poll of industry experts for acts to emerge in the coming year.
When her first single, the lonely hearts-friendly tear jerker ‘Rockferry’ was released in December 2007, Duffy instantly captured media attention and adoration for her strong sanguine, melodic voice and sincere lyrics.
First Duffy released a debut limited edition single ‘Rockferry’ in November 2007, and then a follow-up single, ‘Mercy’ (released February 25, 2008), which went straight to number one on download sales as of February 17, 2008.
The debut album Rockferry was released on March 3, 2008 reaching number 1 in the UK. Rockferry has become the best-selling album of the year in the UK so far.
In North America Duffy is seen as the latest in a recent wave of British singers, so-called “British invaders,” consisting of females with a unique take on writing and performing songs. Duffy first performed in America at the SXSW conference and in New York City in March 2008. The Coachella Festival was her first festival gig.
By May her song ‘Mercy’ was a VH1 hit and a hot Adult Contemporary radio hit, and had been featured in TV shows ER, Smallville and the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy as well as included into the soundtrack album for Sex and the City: The Movie.
Rockferry was released in the United States on May, 13. It debuted at number 4 in charts. To coincide with the album release Duffy performed at New York’s historic Apollo Theater and made a number of television appearances. By the week of May, 22, ‘Mercy’ was at number 27 position on the Billboard Top 100 propelled by digital downloads.
By the end of May Rockferry had sold more than 700,000 copies in the United Kingdom. In France, Rockferry had sold 159,583 copies between March 3 and the end of June. On 12 June the album topped the European albums charts. ‘Mercy’ was number 2 on the European singles chart. As of 9 July 2008, The Official UK Charts Company confirmed Rockferry had already sold over 1 million copies.
Rockferry’s success in the US was very impressive for a newcomer. The Los Angeles Times predicted Duffy was likely to win a Grammy Award if the voters were willing to vote for a United Kingdom soul singer in consecutive years (Amy Winehouse got 5 Grammy Awards in 2008).
According to the source, Duffy was the fifth best selling artist worldwide in the first half of 2008, selling 2.25 million copies.
Duffy’s latest video for ‘Stepping Stone’ (out September, 1) is set to surprise fans, as it will be a steamy one, depicting Duffy as a 1960s sexpot who is seduced by a stranger in a nightclub.
“This video will be one of the hottest ever released – very suggestive but tasteful. The sexual encounter will be hinted at but not shown,” a source told The Daily Star.
Duffy has lately claimed that she fears her quick rise to fame will lead to a breakdown. “As a girl I thought I was superhuman… but I’m borderline on a breakdown. The scary thing is that this feels like the beginning. It would be easy to become a recluse… I have sold my soul.”
Duffy says it’s difficult for her to deal with all the fans. “It can be scary when there are 15 lads on one side of a pub and a gang of girls on the other who all want a photo. I’m never calm anymore. There’s a lot to it I didn’t think of. It’s not the physical stuff – it’s mental.”
Success in music industry provided Duffy with a number of proposals to star in ad campaigns. Duffy’s first endorsement ad in the U.S was for Nivea that has chosen her as their new face. She appeared in the brand’s ad exclusively featured in the Fashion Rocks Magazine September issue.
On October 28, 2008 Duffy performed her hit ‘Stepping Stone,’ on The View, confessing that it was Whoopi Goldberg, one of The View hostesses to inspire her soul sound. “My first introduction to soul music was Sister Act, so I’m having a Whoopi moment. I’ve gone full-circle.”
Duffy appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman on September 4. On September 5 Duffy performed at the Fashion Rocks benefit concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
In fall 2008 she was an opening act for five Coldplay shows during her first ever North American tour. Her shows with Coldplay started in Cleveland on October 21 while her own tour to support the debut album Rockferry kicked off in San Diego on October 9. When her American tour was over on November, 1 in Philadelphia, she headed back to the UK for a month-long tour.
Duffy made her MTV EMA debut on November 6 in Liverpool, UK. She was nominated in three categories: Album of the Year for Rockferry, Most Addictive Track for ‘Mercy’ and New Act. If she did win her nomination in the New UK & Ireland Act category, she would have lead with the most nominations in EMA’08 awards (total of four). Though she didn’t win she performed her super hit ‘Mercy’ on stage during the show.
Duffy is still bemused by her fame: “If I sat and thought about everything, I’d probably lose my mind. So I just go, ‘That’s weird, isn’t it?’ You’ve just got to get on with it – don’t give yourself a chance to dwell,” adding she’s still got a lot to learn. “It’s been like baby steps along the way. It wasn’t like one day I won the lottery. I’ve got a few more years and a few more lessons to learn.”
The singer also confesses she gets every emotional on stage now and then: “I wish I could explain it. Once in every 15 shows, I get teary. The lights are so bright, I can’t hide. I feel very exposed. At the moment, I am growing up under a microscope.”
In January 2009 it was reported Duffy is chosen face of new Diet Coke’s European ads. Duffy said she “loved the attitude of this new Diet Coke ad” and drank “so much of the stuff, they were either going to give me shares in the company or put me in the advert.”
“Duffy is a great embodiment of today’s modern female attitudes,” the beverage company said in their statement.
In February 2009 Duffy received a very special present. She was honored with a special new variety of Daffodil called the Duffydil. “The Duffydil – brilliant. Maybe now I can forgive myself for stealing them from people’s gardens,” Duffy said in the interview.
Duffy’s sophomore album hit shelves on November 29, 2010. Video for the first single ‘Well, well, well’ featured American hip hop band The Roots.
Duffy’s debut studio album Rockferry (2008) has generally received only positive reviews from critics. The Observer described it as “a fantastic album of burning blue soul.” According to some reviews, Duffy managed to do an entire pop album without one hip-hop beat. Rockferry is “an interesting mix of up beat and slower tempo pop music borrowing much from the styles of ‘60s chanteuses while still being in touch with current tastes.” Rockferry managed to “respect the past of pop music, while showing the way for the future of the genre.”
On its first day of release in the UK the album sold 60,000 copies becoming one of the fastest selling debuts ever. It sold 180,000 copies in the UK alone during the first week, and spent a cumulative total of 5 weeks in the number 1 spot of the charts.
In America, the album sold 16,000 copies during the first day, and 72,000 copies in its first week, debuting at number 4 on the Billboard 200. Universal Records stated that Rockferry is the best American debut for one of its UK acts.
|1 Rockferry||Duffy, Bernard Butler|
|2 Warwick Avenue||Duffy, Jimmy Hogarth, Eg White|
|3 Serious||Duffy, B. Butler|
|4 Stepping Stone||Duffy, Steve Brooker|
|5 Syrup & Honey||Duffy, B. Butler|
|6 Hanging On Too Long||Duffy, J. Hogarth, E. White|
|7 Mercy||Duffy, Steve Booker|
|8 Delayed Devotion||Duffy, J. Hogarth, E. White|
|9 I’m Scared||Duffy, J. Hogarth|
|10 Distant Dreamer||Duffy, B. Butler|
Duffy was nominated for MOJO Awards for Song of the Year (‘Mercy’), Album of the Year (Rockferry) and Breakthrough Act. The awards ceremony was held on June, 16 with Duffy winging Single of the Year. The three nominations were the largest amount of nominations for any one act. “This time last year I was eating fish and chips on a North Wales beach! This is my first big awards ceremony. No one cared about me then so I don’t know why they do now,” Duffy said.
Duffy was nominated for World’s Best Pop/Rock Female Artist and World’s Best New Artist at World Music Awards 2008 but won in neither of the categories.
Duffy was nominated for Best International Album for her hit LP at the French NRJ Music Awards but did not get the award.
She also got three nods at Ivor Novello Awards. Duffy is nominated for Best Selling British Song, Most Performed Work and Album awards. The Ivor Novellos honours achievements in song writing and is considered one of the most prestigious honours in the music industry.
Duffy was honored a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album for Rockferry in February 2009. And later that month she won three awards at 2009 Brit Awards, becoming the best in such categories as Best British Album for Rockferry, Best British Female Solo Artist and Best British Breakthrough Act. “I’m overwhelmed. I didn’t think I would win three awards. The chances were slim. It’s been the most amazing night,” she said.
Duffy manages to keep her personal life private so there’s not much information about her love life available. Duffy has revealed she is happiest living the simple life. “I guess my life is a lot more glamorous than it used to be in terms of the things I wear, the places I go, the places I stay, the places I eat at and the people I meet. Everything is just wonderful, it’s really fantastic – but I don’t get too caught up in it,” she said.
Duffy says she’s a confirmed singleton for two years, adding a glass of merlot is “better than a man” because she’s not interested in complicated relationships, all she wants is to be able to be herself.
“My music is the most honest thing I have. Actually, it’s the only thing I can be honest in, because everything else in life – like love and friendship – is so complex,” she said.
Duffy spent five years with Mark Durston, whom she met while studying for A-levels.
“I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe. Why? I don’t know… It’s the only thing I’m afraid of. And besides, I’m really happy on my own. Because, that way, no one can hurt you,” she said.
As for her ideal man, Duffy would like him to be someone who is charismatic and funny and intriguing and dresses well, “who’s good with his hands, a real man”.
In October 2008 it was reported that Duffy is dating her guitarist Jon Green. “They’ve gone to great lengths to play down their feelings in public, but the truth is Duffy and Jon are completely loved up,” an insider told the News Of The World. “They have had plenty of time together as Jon is touring with Duffy to promote her hit album. It all stemmed from their chemistry on stage – he’s a wonderful guitarist and she absolutely loves performing with him.”
Friends say that Duffy has finally found her Mr. One.
Though being really busy recently, Duffy always has time for her everyday routine:
“I like getting home after a day’s work, taking everything off, slipping into my bathrobe, pouring a glass of red wine, having the radio on in the background, then calling my friends and family and gassing on the phone all night. I like to hang out in my bathrobe a lot and just kick back. Sometimes I’ll stay like that the whole weekend,” she said.
Duffy says vintage is her favorite fashion style: “I like to wear vintage designer clothes, you can never go wrong with that.” “At the moment I’m wearing vintage Chanel and I also like vintage Gucci, especially little handbags that are battered and have been around for 40 years. I love wearing things that have been around longer than me.”
Though being often compared to Amy Winehouse, Duffy keeps away from the rock and roll destructive lifestyle. She’s not into drinking, or using any drugs. She limits herself to a few glasses of wine and lives on seafood on which she was raised. Her favorite dish is lobster linguini.
Also, Duffy says fame hasn’t changed her personality a bit. “It’s weird because I don’t really feel any different since I became famous. I remember being in the bath one night and calling my mum, and saying, ‘When you reach a goal you always think you’ll feel different but the truth is you don’t.’ I remember saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to feel elevated, famous, special?’ But you don’t, I’ve tried pretending but you don’t,” Duffy said in November 2010. “In Britain I constantly seem to attract this sorrowfulness, ‘Is it difficult? Is it hard? How are you coping?’. I think it’s because I’m blonde, young and from a small town. People want to protect me from the success I’ve achieved.”
1. Duffy is the first Welsh female to achieve a number one pop single in the past 25 years, and the only female from the Llŷn Peninsula to ever top the UK music singles charts.
2. Duffy was put in a safe house in 1998 when police uncovered a plot by her stepfather’s ex-wife to pay a hitman £3000 to kill her stepfather. The tabloid quoted Duffy as saying about the alleged incident: “I was so terrified. I felt so ill.” She cites the effects of her stepfather’s ex-wife’s alcoholism as the reason for her not being a user of alcohol or drugs.
3. There were claims in American media that Duffy is the lovechild of fellow Welsh singer Tom Jones. She had to deny those rumors. “I’m dealing with this every day here. It’s kind of bizarre. You’ve got to laugh”, she told a UK tabloid.
4. Duffy’s real farther runs a bar in North Wales.
5. She reached the number 1 spot on Siart C2 with her Welsh language EP entitled simply Aimée Duffy.
6. Duffy has nothing against illegal downloading of music. She has said it will encourage more of kids to buy records in the long run. “Well, I mean, it can go two ways. Some people think it creates illegal access, but I think the big wheel is round, y’know? I think it’s got more positives because it basically gives people access, what’s the harm in that? So it’s just making music a part of everyone’s lives.”
7. The video for ‘Warwick Avenue’ was filmed at Warwick Avenue underground station and Merrick Square, London.
8. Duffy’s debut studio album Rockferry is written about the place Rock Ferry on The Wirral, where her father is from.
9. Duffy is 5ft 4in tall, her shoe size is five.
10. People often say Duffy looks like Brigitte Bardot
As of summer 2008 Duffy was constantly writing material for a second album while getting inspiration from “loads of books”. Duffy said that she would not constantly reinvent herself for each album.
Besides musical career, Duffy will pursue another one, this time as a fashion muse for Dolce & Gabbana.