Duffy ready to take it easy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 May, 2008, 12:00am

The sleeve is retro-cool: Duffy, in a black-and-white photo, gazes downwards melancholically like someone from a Francois Truffaut movie. It reflects how this 23-year-old Welsh singer-songwriter of soul -tinged music is writing tomorrow's classics.

She spent four years on her debut album Rockferry, working with a band of experienced musicians, including former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, his music partner David McAlmont and Jimmy Hogarth who collaborated with K.T. Tunstall.

The record was an instant hit in Britain. Yet Duffy appears unmoved by the success.

'I focused so hard on that record for four years that there's no rush for me for people to appreciate it,' says Duffy.

'If it takes them four years to buy it or to love it or to hate it or whatever, it's totally fine by me, you know. I kind of think I have achieved everything that I wanted to achieve inside myself, so I don't really long for it to become anything.'

It took Duffy some time to get where she is. Brought up in Nefyn, a small coastal community far from the world of hip hop and pop, she only realised she might have a gift when her music teacher invited her to sing solo.

She began singing with bands and built a reputation. 'When I was in Wales, I used to do lots of really random gigs. I'd perform in front of a rugby team, which was not an easy crowd,' she says. 'In hindsight, I did all the normal things I think that any musician has to go through - down-and-out bars and things.'

One less normal thing was meeting Butler, a meeting set up by the part-owner of Rough Trade Records Jeanette Lee, who moved Duffy to London.

The pair worked together on creating a new signature sound: white soul, a mix of soul and Britpop.

Four of the 10 album tracks are collaborations between Duffy and Butler, including the arresting opening number Rockferry, a beautifully sad song with a blue soul.

One highlight is Serious, a catchy tune reminiscent of the music of French poet and musician Serge Gainsbourg. Duffy's tender vocals render this straightforward love song sexy and poignant.

Syrup & Honey has a gospel feel, while Mercy (co-written and produced by Steve Booker, who has written for Natalie Imbruglia and Lindsay Lohan) has a retro-soul style that fits Duffy's voice perfectly. Both songs demonstrate Duffy's versatility and capability of singing different genres.

The wonderful album ends fittingly with Distant Dreamer with its hopeful lyrics 'I know there are better things to come'. Duffy fans, too, know there are even better things to come from the modest star.