Duffy Tries New Dance Sound, New Team for 'Endlessly'
If it ain't broke, most people wouldn't try to fix it. But Aimee Ann Duffy -- more commonly known by just her surname -- has responded to the multimillion-selling success of her debut album by breaking up a winning team for the follow-up.
"Everything in life has a chapter," she says. "You can't always stay the same."
The Welsh singer/songwriter is speaking during a break from her Vanity Fair photo shoot, part of the campaign for her sophomore set, "Endlessly," due Nov. 29 in the United Kingdom on A&M/Polydor and Dec. 7 in North America on Mercury. It's the follow-up to her March 2008 debut, "Rockferry," which has sold 6.5 million copies worldwide, according to Universal, including 874,000 in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and 2.1 million in the United Kingdom, according to the Official Charts Co.
That album was largely co-written and co-produced by Bernard Butler and Steve Booker, neither of whom have returned for "Endlessly." Duffy has also parted company with longtime manager/mentor Jeannette Lee of London-based Rough Trade Management.
"It just felt as though the relationship [with Lee] had run its course," says Duffy, who's now represented by Angela Becker of London-based Becker Brown Management. "What we had set out to do, we'd done -- I was developed, established, and I had to think: 'OK, so what now?'"
Lee didn't return requests for comment.
Duffy maintains that the split with Butler and Booker was less calculated, almost accidental. They've been replaced by veteran songwriter Albert Hammond, Sr. -- the man behind songs including "The Air That I Breathe" and "It Never Rains in Southern California" -- who produced the record and co-wrote all but one of its 10 tracks.
The collaboration with Hammond came about when he saw Duffy perform on "Saturday Night Live" and contacted her team to arrange a meeting. Productive songwriting sessions followed, with the pair eventually recruiting Philadelphia group the Roots as the backing band to give Duffy the "added danceability I so desperately needed," she says.
But the album largely retains the retro-pop sound of "Rockferry," albeit enhanced with more uptempo, pop radio-friendly anthems this time around. While "Rockferry" spawned four top 30 hits in the United Kingdom, her Billboard Hot 100 peak came when "Mercy" reached No. 27 -- and the song has sold 1.5 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Highlights of the new album include the funk-fueled opener "My Boy," the disco-esque drama of "Lovestruck" and the joyous, string-fueled pop of "Keeping My Baby."
"Her fans will see it as a natural evolution of her last record," says Mercury president David Massey, who's confident of eclipsing its predecessor's U.S. sales, despite the slump in the market since the release of "Rockferry." "The strength of the record, the fan base that she has already adopted and the opportunity to have multiple singles means we can go further with this record than the last."
Lead single "Well, Well, Well" -- the track on the album most reminiscent of "Mercy" -- was serviced to pop, hot AC and triple A formats in mid-October, while Duffy will appear on NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" the first week of November.
Back home, the campaign is focused on what A&M U.K. managing director Orla Lee calls "major TV moments."
"The thing with Duffy is it's about the voice," she adds. "Live, you really see that."
Duffy appeared on BBC 2's "Later... With Jools Holland" on Oct. 19 and will visit BBC 1's "Strictly Come Dancing" on Nov. 21, in addition to release-week slots on ITV1's "This Morning" and BBC 1's "The One Show." She played a showcase at London's Cafe de Paris on Oct. 21, and European and U.S. dates are expected in early 2011.
Meanwhile, the global success of "Rockferry" (the album went top 10 in 20 other markets, as well as the United States and the United Kingdom) means she will also visit Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Denmark and Spain for promotion before the end of the year. The target, Universal Music U.K. VP of international marketing Hassan Choudhury says, is "multiplatinum sales in every market."
Duffy herself, however, remains relaxed at the prospect of trying to follow up one of the biggest global debuts of recent years.
"I feel like there is a massive amount of warmth and excitement for this new record," she says. "I want to make people get up onto the dancefloor and get their feet tapping."