Having grown up listening to the 60s music in her parents record collection Aimee Anne Duffy began her music career after leaving school by singing in
local bands. After initially attending Coleg Meirion-Dwy in Gwynedd, Wales she then studied music production and performing at Chester University where she also worked as a waitress and regularly sang at Alexander's jazz club with Invisible Wires guitarist David Burton. Encouraged to take part in the popular Welsh TV talent show Wawffactor the young singer was a well-liked contestant who was expected to go far but despite being disappointed finishing as runner-up she was far from being discouraged and went on to record the three track Aimée Duffy EP. She also sang backing vocals on two tracks on Mint Royale's 2005 third album See You In The Morning and more importantly there was a light bulb moment when she met Rough Trade Records executive and former singer Jeanette Lee who would later become her manager.
Urged to move to London by Lee, she settled in Crouch End and was introduced to ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. The partnership clicked and the pair started writing songs together and recording what would become her 2008 debut Rockferry. Butler gathered a small group of musicians, songwriters and producers including his long time musical collaborator David McAlmont, and recorded the songs over a four year period in a number of studios. With such a long gestation time the product needed to be worthy of the effort.
The result was immediate; released on A&M Records the album was preceded by a minor hit in the shape of the Bernard Butler produced title track and soon followed by the huge international platinum selling smash 'Mercy' (co-written with and produced by Steve Booker) which topped the charts around Europe including the UK and broke into the US Top 30. Suddenly, being hailed as the next big thing, Duffy was booked for dozens of radio and TV appearances including two performances on 'Later... with Jools Holland' in a four month period. An instant classic, the album also topped the charts in the UK (and five other European countries) and debuted in the USA at No 4. Duffy dominated the charts and received numerous honours; 'Mercy' won several awards including a BMI Pop Music Award, an Ivor Novello for the PRS Most Performed Work and Song Of The Year at the Mojo Awards. Rockferry won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album and a BRIT Award for Best British Album while Duffy herself received BRIT Awards for Best British Female and Best Breakthrough Act. She also won a Q Award for Breakthrough Act and a number of foreign accolades including an Irish Meteor Award for Best International Female. The record's success was compounded by the third single 'Warwick Avenue' which Duffy co-wrote and co-produced with successful songwriters Eg White and Jimmy Hogarth which peaked at No 3 in the UK. The the subsequent singles 'Stepping Stone' and 'Rain On Your Parade' reached No 21 and No 15 respectively. A heavy touring schedule found her performing at South by Southwest, Glastonbury, Coachilla and Evolution Festivals and prestigious appearances at the 2008 Royal Variety Performance and at New York's legendary Apollo Theatre.
Duffy had further skills and made her acting debut in the 2010 drama Patagonia and is set to take a leading role in as well as composing music for the soundtrack of the film Secret Love, directed by Dewi Humphrey which is tentatively scheduled for release in 2015. Following a split with her management team Duffy released her second album Endlessly which was co-written (apart from one track) and co-produced with veteran singer/songwriter Albert Hammond Snr (father of The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.) While it was never going to replicate the success of her extraordinary debut, the record sold respectably and peaked at No 9 in the UK charts although the only single releases from it 'Well Well Well' which featured The Roots, disappointingly failed to break into the Top 40. Duffy let it be known that following the album's release she would be taking a break away from the music business for at least two years.
Given that her early influences were bands and artists from the 60s it's unsurprising that her sound has echoes of Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin, but to label her a clone of these singers is to do her a disservice. Similarly comparisons to Amy Winehouse are equally unfair, but almost inevitable from a music press obsessed with pigeonholing everyone. Although her image (like Winehouse's) often leans to the retro Duffy has a distinctive and powerful voice full of character which is as capable of delivering soft and tender emotion filled ballads such as the magnificent 'Warwick Avenue' as well as R&B belters such as 'Mercy'. While artistically she clearly has the talent and ability to carve out a hugely successful and enduring career, her past problems dealing with fame and the music industry puts into question whether she is too fragile and too nice to cope with the demands placed on a high profile singer/songwriter.
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