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Duffy singing at SXSW, 15 March 2008
Background information
Birth name Aimée Ann Duffy[1][2]
Born 23 June 1984 (1984-06-23) (age 25)
Origin Nefyn, Wales
Genres Blue-eyed soul,[3] pop,rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Years active 2003–present
Labels A&M, Mercury (US)
Associated acts Bernard Butler

Aimée Ann Duffy (born 23 June 1984), better known by her stage name Duffy, is a Welsh singer-songwriter. Her 2008 debut album Rockferry entered the UK Album Chart at number one. It was the best selling album in the United Kingdom in 2008[4] with 1.68 million copies sold.[5] The album was certified several times Platinum[6] and sold over 6 million copies worldwide, spawning the hits "Mercy" and "Warwick Avenue". With "Mercy", Duffy became the first Welsh female in 25 years to achieve number-one on the UK Singles Chart.[7]

In 2009, she won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album for Rockferry, and she was nominated for two other Grammy awards.[8] In 2009 she won three BRIT Awards, British Breakthrough, Best Female Solo and Best British Album.

Duffy concluded recording sessions for her second album in January 2010.[9]


Life and career


Early life

Duffy was born in Bangor, Gwynedd and raised in Nefyn on the Llŷn Peninsula, in Gwynedd, North Wales, with her twin sister, Katy Ann, and older sister Kelly. She grew up speaking Welsh as her mother tongue.[10] Duffy's parents divorced when she was ten and she moved to Pembrokeshire with her mother and sisters. She dropped her first name, Aimée, calling herself Duffy both professionally and personally.[11]

Duffy's early introduction to soul music and inspiration to get into the music industry occurred while watching Whoopi Goldberg's performance in the movie Sister Act.[12] It is known that Duffy did not hold a large record collection in her youth,[13] instead being inspired by her father's videotapes of the 1960s television rock show, Ready Steady Go![14] Duffy was interested in music from an early age, beginning to sing at age six, carrying a notebook in which she filled with scribbled lyrics. Despite this, she was later asked to leave her school choir because her voice was "too big" and she "didn't fit in."[15]

In 1998 (aged thirteen), Duffy was briefly put in a police safe house when authorities uncovered a plot by her stepfather's ex-wife to pay a hitman £3000 to kill her stepfather, identified as Philip Smith. Smith's ex-wife, Dawn Watson, was sentenced to a 3½ year jail term for soliciting to murder. "I was so terrified. I felt so ill", Duffy recounted in 2008, as reported by the NME magazine and The Sun. A 1998 article in the Daily Mirror, another British tabloid, quotes a man identified as Philip Smith describing similar circumstances, though the stepdaughter's name is spelled Aimy — not Aimée — and the surname Duffy is not mentioned.[16][17][18][19] Duffy describes living in the safe house as a dog eat dog, claustrophobic and isolating experience. At age fifteen she ran away back to her father's house in Nefyn. Duffy said in retrospect, "It was a horrendous thing to do". Her mother and her sisters did not speak to her for about a year afterwards.

Duffy has admitted to smoking "not just cigarettes" during her teenage years, at a time when she was "quite mischievous" and always looking for trouble. She says that these activities with friends occurred as a result of boredom. Duffy cites the effects of her stepfather's ex-wife's alcoholism as well as her desire not to become a "celebrity" as reasons she does not use drugs or alcohol currently.[15][20] Duffy was elected president of the Students' union at Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor in Pwllheli, North Wales before transferring to the University of Chester in England. She was advised by a lecturer to "Go on the dole, love, and become a singer".[13] She also built up a following at Alexander's, a local jazz and blues club, performing with guitarist David Burton from the band The Invisible Wires.[21] She was 6 when she realised she loved to sing

Early career and eventual breakthrough (2004-2008)

After finishing her GCSEs in Pembrokeshire,[13] Duffy returned to Nefyn when she was fifteen, and started singing in various local bands. Duffy then spent a year in Switzerland, collaborating with the writer-producer Soren Mounir, under the name Soulego.[22]

Duffy returned to Wales in 2003 and was invited to appear on Wawffactor, a Welsh television talent show. She was expected to win, but came second to winner Lisa Pedrick.[23] She claims that she was conned into the appearance; later calling it "the unhappiest time in my life."[24] After a re-evaluation she decided to just make music for no other purposes than her own fulfilment.[25]

In 2004, following success on Wawffactor, Duffy recorded a three-song Welsh extended play, titled Aimée Duffy, while working part time in two jobs as waitress and in a fish mongers.[26] It later achieved 2008 Welsh chart success, charting at number-one on the "Siart C2" music chart. Duffy, now in high demand, appeared on Mint Royale's See You in the Morning as a backing singer.[27] Duffy was introduced to Jeanette Lee of Rough Trade Records in August 2004, after singing Richard J. Parfitt's "Oh Boy".[28] Lee moved Duffy to Crouch End in London, orchestrating a meeting between Duffy and Suede's ex-guitar player Bernard Butler.[29] Lee with Rough trade would eventually manage Duffy.[30] After Butler had given Duffy a soul music "education" by downloading tracks on to her iPod that she could listen to while around London or traveling back to Wales, the pair co-wrote with her and helped create a new retro sound.[31] The tracks included Al Green, Bettye Swann, Ann Peebles, Doris Duke, Scott Walker, Phil Spector and Burt Bacharach.[13] Duffy was quoted as saying Bettye Swann "is one of my biggest inspirations" particularly her song "Cover Me" because "it marks the time I got interested in physical contact. I was 19, and here was a woman singing "Cover me, spread your precious love all over me". It's very tender, but it's also, hilariously, quite crude".[32]

Duffy was contracted to A&M Records (UK) on 23 November 2007, a sublabel of Polydor. She performed on the BBC Two television show Later with Jools Holland,[33] which resulted in a second appearance on the related broadcast Hootenanny, where Duffy performed with Eddie Floyd. On 22 February 2008, she appeared on Later with Jools Holland for a third time and performed "Rockferry", "Mercy", and "Stepping Stone", in promotion of her debut album, also to be titled, Rockferry. Duffy also made appearances on the BBC Two television programme The Culture Show on 23 February 2008, performing "Mercy". In January 2008, Duffy came second to Adele in the annual BBC News Online poll of industry experts Sound of 2008, for acts to emerge in the coming year.[34] In Wales, following Duffy's recent promotion of her music, Aimée Duffy reached number-one on the "Siart C2" music chart.[35]

Duffy performing at the SOS 4.8 Festival in Murcia.

Rockferry (2007-present)

By 2007, Duffy was finalizing her debut album effort, to be titled Rockferry, after Rock Ferry, where Duffy's grandmother lives.[1] She subsequently struck a US label deal with Mercury Records, a newly re-activated imprint of Island Def Jam Music Group. The first single from the album, also titled "Rockferry" was critically well-received with Allmusic calling it a "grand, sweeping ballad".[36]

Butler and his musical partner David McAlmont, and a number of other musicians formed the backbone of Duffy's band for her debut album, Rockferry, which was released on A&M Records on 3 March 2008.[37] The black and white album art and video for the title track were shot by directors Luke Seomore and Joseph Bull, on and around the Ffestiniog Railway in Porthmadog, which was renamed 'Rockferry' for the occasion.[38] According to Duffy, "The album took nearly four years to make. We had to hire cheap, tiny studios and sometimes there would be three-week periods between writing and recording." Bernard Butler, who was not initially paid, produced four songs for the album, including the single, "Rockferry".[39] The singles "Mercy" and "Stepping Stone", were co-written & produced by Steve Booker, and the second single "Warwick Avenue", by Jimmy Hogarth and Eg White. Duffy released the debut limited edition single "Rockferry" in November 2007 followed by the Steve Booker co-written & produced single, "Mercy", which went straight to number one. "Mercy" was the last song written for the album.[40] The single was physically released on 25 February 2008.[citation needed]

She revealed that both "Mercy" and "Stepping Stone" are autobiographical; "Mercy" is about "sexual liberty" and "not doing something somebody else wants you to do", and "Stepping Stone" is about not expressing her feelings to a person she fell in love with.[41] "Warwick Avenue" was the second single released from the album. The song occurred when Duffy then 19 years old was familiarizing herself with the London Underground and accidentally found herself at the Warwick Avenue station. The following day the song "just sort of came out". At first the video for the song was meant to be an elaborate production but ended up a tearful head shot in a taxi cab with Duffy's mascara smudging. Duffy has said "That's as close as I'm ever going to get to doing a performance that's real in a video."[42]

By May, "Mercy" was a staple on VH1 and a hot Adult Contemporary radio hit and had been featured in the season finale of the American television medical drama Grey's Anatomy as well as being on the soundtrack album for Sex and the City: The Movie.[43][44][45] A remix of "Mercy", featuring rap artist The Game, was released on 10 May.[46] On 13 May Rockferry was released in the United States to positive reviews.[47][48][49] Because of its cheap production values the album is reaping Duffy substantial financial benefits.[39] Despite her album's success in the United States Duffy was quoted as saying “I don’t like how big American stars consider themselves an exception from humanity".[50]

In November 2008, the single Rain On Your Parade was released. The song was co-written & produced by Steve Booker. The song was first released on download sales only on 10 November 2008 before being released physically on 17 November 2008.[51] Duffy describes this song as "a big, disco-y dance song".[52] The song entered the UK Singles Chart at number twenty-two before rising to a peak of fifteen the following week. The track was included on the deluxe edition of Rockferry.

At the 2008 MOJO Awards, Duffy won the "Song of the Year" award for "Mercy"[53] and was nominated also for "Album of the Year" and "Breakthrough Act". These three nominations were the largest number of nominations for any one act.[54] She also received a 2008 Q Award in the category of Breakthrough Act,[55] a nomination for the Q category of Best Track for "Mercy",[56] a Music of Black Origin Award nomination for Best UK Female.[57] At the MTV Europe Music Awards, she received three nominations in the categories of Album of the Year,Most Addictive Track, and New Act.[58] She performed at the EMA show.[59]

At the 51st Grammy Awards held in February 2009, Duffy won a Grammy Award in the category of Best Pop Vocal Album for Rockferry. Earlier she had been nominated for awards in the categories of Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her single "Mercy".[8]

Duffy equalled Coldplay with four 2009 Brit Awards nominations. She eventually won three awards, including Best Album for Rockferry, one behind the record held by Blur for the most won in one night.[60] "I cannot tell you what this means after five years of hard work," said the singer.[61] At the awards ceremony she performed "Warwick Avenue". Record producers & songwriters Steve Booker & Bernard Butler gained awards for their work on the Rockferry album. She shared a 2009 Ivor Novello Award in the category "Most Performed Work" with Steve Booker for their work on Mercy. Songwriter Eg White won the award for "Songwriter of the Year" in part for Warwick Avenue which he co wrote with Duffy.[62][63] "Mercy" was played on United States radio and television more the 3 million times earning Duffy a 2009 Broadcast Music Incorporated award.[64]

Duffy and Bernard Butler wrote the song Smoke Without Fire which appeared on the soundtrack for the film "An Education".[65]

The album has been nominated for the Album of 30 Years category to be presented at the 2010 Brit Awards.[66]


United Kingdom

In February 2008 Duffy's EP Aimée Duffy reached the number 1 spot on Siart C2. When the single "Mercy" hit the top of the charts in February 2008 Duffy became the first Welsh female to achieve a number one pop single in the past 25 years to ever top the UK Singles Chart.[67] It remained at number one for five weeks. The second single from the album, "Warwick Avenue" was at the number 3 position on the UK Singles Chart.[68] The title track "Rockferry" peaked at number 45.[39] The single "Rain on Your Parade" debuted at number twenty-two on 10 November and rose to a peak of number fifteen the following week.[51][69]

With a total of 1.685m physical and digital sales, Rockferry was the best selling album in the United Kingdom in 2008. "Mercy" was the third best selling single for the year with over 500,000 copies sold.[4]

As of 26 December 2008 in its 43rd week on the charts Rockferry had risen to the number 6 position from number 10 the previous week.[70] The week following her 3 Brit Award victories in February 2009 the album rose from number 19 position to number 4.[71]

United States

In the United States, the album peaked at the number 4 on the Billboard 200.[72] The singles "Mercy" and "Warwick Avenue" peaked at number 27 and 96 respectively.[73] By November 2008, 500,000 copies of Rockferry had been sold and had been certified Gold by the RIAA.[50][74] "Mercy" has also been certified Platinum by the RIAA for sales of more than one million copies in the US.

In the first quarter of 2009 Rockferry sold 107,000 copies ranking it 13th among international artists and 73rd overall.[75]


Rockferry topped the Pan-European Album Chart, and "Mercy" topped the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles chart on 21 April 2008.[76] On 12 June the album topped the European albums charts with Mercy at number 2 on the European singles chart.[77] By 21 August Rockferry had reached number one in 11 markets.[78] On 30 October Rockferry had been in the top 100 on Billboards Euro Albums chart for 34 straight weeks and was residing at the number 10 position.[79] Rockferry was the world's fourth bestselling album in 2008.[80] By March 2009 the album had sold nearly 6 million copies.[81]

Second album

As of 12 January 2010 Duffy had begun recording sessions for her second album in New York City. The sessions were scheduled to last three weeks. The album is scheduled for release sometime in 2010. Hip hop drummer Questlove a member of The Roots and Albert Hammond who had a string of 1970's hits are contributing songwriting and production ideas for the project. A source told Billboard that the early material "feels like it was born in 1963" and sounded similar to Rockferry.[9]

In late January 2010 Rough Trade Management whom with Jeanette Lee had managed Duffy announced that they and the singer had parted amicably and noted that Lee had not been fired. Duffy's new management said that "professional relationship between Duffy and Rough Trade management has run its course" and also confirmed the split with Rough Trade was amicable.[30]

Comparisons with others

Under the sub-title, "The New Amys", Adam Thompson wrote in The Times on 30 December 2007 that "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?" Duffy herself dislikes being referred to as "the new Dusty Springfield".[82] She said at first she did not understand the comparisons to Springfield and believes the comparisons with others or putting her in a movement is "a gimmick" and noted that "nobody is replaceable".[52] 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, mistakenly believing that Duffy had attended the Brit School.[83] Noel Gallagher of Oasis has a similar perspective.[84] By 2009 people had stopped referring to Duffy as the "New Amy" or "New Dusty" a prospect that is a "bit more frightening because before I had certain references but now it's just me on my own".[81]

British singer Estelle said that she does not agree with those who describe Duffy and Adele as soul singers but that she is happy that they have been successful.[85] In North America, Duffy is seen as part of a recent wave of British singers or "British invaders" consisting of females with a unique take on writing and performing songs. Motown has been seen as an influence in this wave.[86][87][88][89][90]

On 1 February 2009 The Times Encyclopedia of modern music named her album Rockferry an "Essential" Blue Eyed Soul recording. Albums by Amy Winehouse and Adele were also named as essential Blue Eyed Soul recordings in the "recent" category.[91]

Touring and live performance

"Every time I'm in America, I feel there's some atmosphere -- I can't put my finger on it [...] but there's some excitement that exists nowhere else. And I think it's because soul music, black music, is basically what started pop music"

San Diego Union Tribune[52]

Since releasing "Mercy", Duffy's fame has meant she has performed at concerts and festival gigs around the world. Her first American performances took place at the SXSW conference,[92] and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was her first festival gig. The Coachella performance started off with sound problems but she "delighted the crowd with 'Rockferry', 'Serious', 'Warwick Avenue' and 'Mercy'."[93] To coincide with the release of Rockferry, Duffy performed at the Apollo Theater in New York City.[94] Duffy received the honour of performing at the Royal Variety Performance 2008.[95] In 2008, Duffy played many festivals in Europe. This included visits to French,[96] Swedish and Irish[97] summer festivals, amongst others. In the United Kingdom, Duffy visited venues such as Glastonbury and the Evolution Festival. She also toured the American summer festivals in 2008 for example a visit to Lollapalooza in Chicago.[98] Duffy toured the United Kingdom and Ireland during November and December 2008.[99]

In order to promote Rockferry, Duffy made many visits to American television, including Late Night with Conan O'Brien,[100] and Saturday Night Live.[101] Duffy played a fourteen-city North American tour. Plans had called for her to open for Coldplay on six of the dates.[102] During a concert in Cleveland, Duffy accidentally set the left side of her hair on fire.[103] In New York, Duffy was left apologising to an audience after briefly crying. She explained to the audience that this happens in one out of every 15 of her shows when she feels exposed for reasons she does not fully understand.[104] Duffy also made a recording for British broadcaster BBC, performing at the LSO St. Luke's. The performance was televised in 2009 on the British television station BBC One.[105]

Endorsements and charity

Since her fame, Duffy has endorsed several products. In August 2008, Duffy was advertised in Fashion Rocks, supporting a new range of Nivea products.[106] Duffy has also appeared in various European television commercials endorsing the beverage Diet Coke. The campaign, showing Duffy cycling through a supermarket singing "I Gotta Be Me", was launched on British television station itv, following the 2009 BRIT Awards, which saw Duffy take home three awards for her work.[107] Duffy was named as the "face" of the brand, alongside other famous women.[108][109] The advert went on to spark unexpected complaints about the health of children when it showed Duffy riding without protective gear, to the United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority. However, these claims were ultimately rejected.[110] Duffy has said that she did not mind people illegally downloading her music because she believes most people who do are kids who cannot afford the CDs and will buy them when they get older.[111]

Duffy recorded a cover of Paul McCartney and Wings' song "Live and Let Die". It was used on the War Child charity album entitled War Child Heroes, Volume I.[112] Acclaim came from Paul McCartney, saying that Duffy's version "is great — I was really impressed".[113]

Controversies and fame

Duffy claimed that at the Mojo Awards show in June 2008, Sex Pistols lead singer John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) heckled her.[114] According to Duffy, when she went to make peace with him, "I walked past him, said 'Hi, you all right?', and next thing I was literally slammed against the wall, pinned by his arm at my throat. He called me a c***. The violence was awful".[50] According to Lydon, "I was doing an interview and she came up behind me — I didn't see anything".[115] He claimed she was a "young girl who made the mistake of trying to jump on my back".[116] He said he hadn't realised who Duffy was, saying: "Oh, she got an award? I quite like her."[117] Although she left upset, Duffy later blamed herself for what happened.[50]

In September 2008, Duffy mentioned that she was "on the borderline of a nervous breakdown" because of the pressure that fame has brought her. She also said that she had considered becoming a recluse, but eventually decided against the idea for the sake of her fans. Although acknowledging that most people do mean well, she finds it "scary" when people recognize her in the street, and has been fearful of her image possibly changing the person she truly is.[118][119]

In April 2009 Duffy had a special variant of daffodil (a flower traditionally associated with Wales) named after her called the "Duffydil".[120] She picked the variant she wanted to be named after her from a selection grown by the Really Welsh Trading Company.[121] Duffy said of this, "The Duffydil, brilliant! Maybe now I can forgive myself for stealing them from people's gardens!".[121][122]

Duffy's estimated fortune of £4m placed her in 16th place in the 2009 Sunday Times listing of Great Britain's wealthiest young musicians.[123]


Awards and nominations


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