Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1067

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Feature

Amy Winehouse: Classic interview (April 2004)

AMY WINEHOUSE : LAUNDRY
AMY WINEHOUSE : LAUNDRY AMY WINEHOUSE: STEP

"The song 'In My Bed' actually came about after I`d had sex with an ex boyfriend. I was like 'Now get out of my bed and take a cab home!.' Then, when he said he had no money, I gave him a tenner and told him goodbye!"...

"Basically I think the message of the song is 'Even though you`re familiar with me physically and you know what I like, it doesn`t mean that you`re welcome in my bed whenever you think you can come round," continues the 20-year-old North Londoner: "You know, I`d always wanted to write a song around the theme of having sex with an ex and about the contrast involved. While physically it`s probably gonna be amazing 'cause they know what you like, at the same time it`s sad because you don`t feel the same way about each other anymore. So, when I did fall into that situation while working on the album, I was like 'Well, this is the time to write that song.' And musically the Nas loop came about because the producer Salaam Remi was the one who originally created it for Nas anyway. As it was still on his MPC, he tried it out with 'In My Bed' - and the two just came together really neatly."

...Current darling-of-the broadsheets Amy Winehouse sits opposite yours truly in a busy Camden tapas bar, lunching - perhaps appropriately! - on a plate of hot meatballs. Fact is, with her large, mascara-circled eyes, striking dusky looks and moden-day-city-girl attitude, she truly is as entertainingly-outspoken a storyteller in person as she is through her music. Current topic in question being her edgy, head-nodding single (the third from her universally-acclaimed, Brit-nominated debut LP 'Frank') 'In My Bed.'

Which part-explains why lyrically Amy`s songs dispense with traditional torch themes of yesteryear in favour of the complexity of relationships in the Noughties. Nevertheless, while the bittersweet and highly-personal qualities of the new songs like 'Stronger Than Me' and 'You Sent Me Flying' do deal graphically with real-life, modern-day boy/girl issues, she still manages to regularly inject humour into the proceedings via such provocative-yet-funny lines as "The only time I hold your hand is to get the angle right" or "Feel like a lady but you`re my lady-boy."

"While I have written about times in my life that have given me trouble and there are points on the album where I am really upset and really angry, I `ll always put a punch-line in there and I`ll always make it funny," she explains, while attributing much of her confidence in her own quirkiness to working with Salaam Remi: "Yeah, Salaam drew me out of myself musically. Because, while I`m a really wacky songwriter, he`s exactly the same. He`ll always strive for something really different, and I`d never met anyone who can tap into an artist the way he can. Which to me is the mark of a great producer. With Salaam I feel like musically anything can be done - and I`ve never felt like that when working in England, where they don`t wanna listen to a girl who thinks she knows what she`s talking about. Basically all they care about in this country is listening to the record company."

Born to Jewish parents in North London, Amy`s early musical influences stemmed from her mother`s love of American singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Carole King, before she became more drawn to her father`s jazzier taste for singing legends like Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington. Meanwhile, with teen musical phases also incorporating grunge and Jimi Hendrix, alongside her enduring love for jazz she eventually settled for the more conscious end of contemporary urban (Mos Def, Erykah Badu). All of which helped mould her into the strikingly original singer/songwriter/guitarist she is today.

Nevertheless, with black artists playing such a dominant role in her musical upbringing, Amy`s validity as a 'white artist performing black music' has predictably become the subject of discussion in some urban music circles: "If someone actually did come up to me and say 'Hey whitey, get off my music!' - though I don`t think that would happen! - I`d be like 'I don`t really understand where you`re coming from. I wrote my songs on a guitar; I went to a producer, and he did them for me. What`s the problem?,'" she retorts. "You know, I just sing and write reflecting everything I`ve ever heard. And, while there are white artists that figure in that, the people I listen to are predominantly black. But at the same time I`m never consciously like 'I`m gonna do that little Dinah lick there,' or 'I`m gonna do that little Minnie Riperton twiddle there.' Because the minute I even start to think about what I`m doing I just lose it. I have to just shut my eyes and flow!"

Which could also, in turn, be said of Amy`s acclaimed live shows: "Yeah, to play and sing live for me is like just going on auto-pilot", she enthuses: "I`m not there to be like 'Hi everyone! If you don`t have my album go and get it!.' It really is just a case of me wanting to please the crowd by giving the songs their just due every night, mainly because I`m really, really proud of them."
Words PETE LEWIS

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz
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