Page last updated at 08:00 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 09:00 UK

Music is a piece of cake for Duffy

By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Duffy's single Mercy was number one for five weeks in the UK chart

With the UK's best-selling album of the year so far and an enthusiastic welcome in the US, Welsh soul singer Duffy has taken just six months to become the world's favourite new star.

Yet she is not interested in fame, she says.

"Do you want a cake?"

Duffy has only just sat down, but cannot contain her excitement about a basket of goodies at reception.

She gets up and returns with two buns topped with stars and stripes icing. Her debut album has just gone straight to number four in the US, and her record label has sent novelty baked goods to celebrate.

"Isn't that amazing?" she bubbles.

"This is for the American debut. Normally people would send artists champagne and the like. But me, cake. What does that say about my personality? Sweet?"

I didn't want to be famous - I still don't want to be famous

Her label has reason to be pleased. As well as her swift and seemingly painless US conquest, Duffy's album Rockferry has sold more than 600,000 copies in the UK, where her single Mercy was number one for five weeks and its follow-up Warwick Avenue is now in the top 10.

But as she begins talking, disaster strikes. With a gesture of her hand, Duffy's celebratory cake flies through the air and lands upside down with the thick icing sticking to her manager's wooden floor.

"Oh my God!" she shouts. "No, no - two second rule!"

She leans over and picks up it.

"Look, it never happened." Shoving it into her mouth whole, she mumbles joyously: "No-one will ever know."

Keeping it real

Those few words probably sum up Duffy better than an in-depth interview. She clearly does not belong to the breed of preened and paranoid celebrities who would never be seen dead eating a cake, let alone scooping one off a floorboard of questionable cleanliness.

She is not your average Spice Girl.

"I'm not lying to you, that was my breakfast and I probably only woke up about an hour ago," Duffy says.

I made a record that was just about music - no dreams, no ambitions, no expectation

"Threw things into a bag and left my house. People offer me hair and make-up all the time, but I do my own hair and make-up, wear what I want, say what I want and I feel as though that's the only way to survive.

"I'm just trying to be myself, not trying to kid myself. So I just kinda want to be real with it, because that's the only way I'm going to keep my sanity."

In a post-Winehouse world, the 23-year-old subscribes to the belief that image is less important and quality cannot be manufactured. "People want something that's real."

Her attitude towards image and fame can be traced back to her early attempts at pop stardom.

In her teens, Duffy "wanted the world and I thought I could achieve it", she says, speaking of a "dangerous ambition where I thought I could make a record".

But she continues with some bitterness: "I knew what I wanted for many years but people used me a lot along the way as a vehicle for their vision, not mine.

"And so I really pulled back when I was about 18 and decided I couldn't achieve what I wanted, I couldn't go all the way in music.

"I think then my shift changed completely and I just became almost a quite withdrawn singer."

Struggling with fame

After accepting that she would never realise her dream - or so she thought - she decided to make music just for her own fulfilment.

But once you stop looking for something, you often find it, as they say, and that personal project became Rockferry.

"And so now I get this place," she explains. "I made a record that was just about music. No dreams, no ambitions, no expectation, nothing. I just made a bunch of songs.

"The pop star thing really, really wasn't at all in my mind or a priority. I didn't want to be famous. I still don't want to be famous."

I don't want to become self-indulgent and consume everything you can possibly consume

Six months into her newfound career, she is still learning how to deal with the attention and speaks with some bewilderment about how an album that was so personal to her has also become so personal to others.

One of the hardest things to handle is when people tell her she is amazing, she says. "I don't really know what that means, and I don't dwell on it but it doesn't make me feel any different.

"I feel like they're just being nice. I don't look for that reassurance. I'm not longing for people to tell me I'm great. I don't do this to be loved - I make music because I love music."

But like it or not, she is a pop star - so what is her new life like?

"The door's open to everything," she says. "You can go where you want, you can do what you want, you can have what you want.

"But I just don't want any of that. I don't want to become self-indulgent and consume everything you can possibly consume.

"My nan used to have a motto, which was: 'When you stop wanting, you stop wanting to live.' I don't want to have everything.

"So when the door's open to everything, I have to step back and say I don't want to fill my life with meaningless shit.

"Everything is meaningless unless it's something you're passionate about and believe in, and that's the music."

US album chart success for Duffy
22 May 08 |  Entertainment
Duffy leads Mojo awards shortlist
01 May 08 |  Entertainment
Singer Duffy secures chart double
09 Mar 08 |  Entertainment
Sound of 2008: Duffy
03 Jan 08 |  Entertainment

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