Welsh singer Duffy trumps U.K. heavyweights

Soulfull songstress hit big with single 'Mercy'

Unlike many of her nouvelle soul singing peers, Duffy didn’t enter the pop scene trailing an easily defined image — or much in the way of personal baggage. But by dint of a powerful yet not overpowering voice and a warm but not terribly fuzzy image, she managed to clamber her way to the top of both sales charts and awards lists with remarkable aplomb.

The Welsh singer — who combines neosoul with classic pop arrangements that evoke everyone from Burt Bacharach to Petula Clark to Al Green — scored a trifecta at U.K.’s equivalent of the Grammys, the Brit Awards, in February, with best album, best British female solo artist and best breakthrough act, leaving such competition as Coldplay empty-handed in the process.

Thrush’s debut album, “Rockferry,” has sold more than 5½ million copies worldwide since its release last year — nearly a third of that in the U.K., where it was the year’s bestselling disc — and which also won her a best pop vocal Grammy.

Much of that success can be pegged to the infectious single “Mercy,” the most played song on radio over the U.K. airwaves in 2008.

“I’ve been following that song, like a bad smell, around the world,” she says with a laugh. “It took me off on a train, and it’s been really exciting. I didn’t have a chance to really reflect, because I think you have a certain amount of time in your — and I hate to say the word — career.”

At 25, she’s taking the whole process in stride. In an interview earlier this year, she noted: “A lot of things have changed, but you change every seven years. So I think I’m in a seven-year period where I’m gonna do things. We’ll see what happens at the end of that.”


Job title: Singer/ songwriter

Inspiration: Bettye Swann, whose “Cover Me” struck a chord. “She’s the unsung heroine of soul music,” Duffy told the Observer.