Sex, Drugs And A Lot Of Soul - Amy Winehouse
Tuesday 19th December 2006
by Sam Villis
Amy Winehouse is giving a TV interview, the problem is, once she starts talking, the words just flow out of her; she gets on a roll and can talk for hours. Gigwise struggles to wait patiently with every newspaper report and countless drunken TV show appearance firmly entrenched on our mind. Eventually she saunters in, ripped skinny jeans, Adidas jacket, and of course that trademark eyeliner and shock of black hair piled high on top of her head, adding an extra few inches to her tiny frame. But the wait isn’t over, “Sorry I’m just gonna call my boyfriend and tell him he’s a cunt.” A conversation follows in which the words Jack, and Daniels, are mentioned, and then she’s ready to begin.
The release of radio-friendly ‘Rehab’ has lead to an inevitable feeding frenzy by the tabloids to paint her as a diva on the edge. Add to that talk of a collaboration with Pete Doherty, and the rumour mill has begun turning nicely. The first thing Winehouse notices is the newspaper article sat on the table. A gossip feature reporting on her interview and dinner at a posh restaurant with a reporter from The Independent. Where, it claims, she didn’t eat anything and got particularly drunk, leading to speculation about her weight and alcohol problems.
“Can I have a look at that?” she asks, eyeing it cautiously before reaching over the table and reading aloud. “That’s actually a nice picture of me for once... ‘She didn’t look at the menu’ that’s correct… ‘She loudly ordered Champagne’… wrong… I don’t go to that pub… oh dear…” After just 2 minutes with her it’s easy to see that this diva reputation is all a construction, Winehouse is intelligent, articulate and enthusiastic, as well as being at times brutally honest and down to earth.
“The thing that bothers me is that they do get it wrong. But it also makes me laugh because I’m such a selfless person, I don’t go out all like, “Don’t you know who I am?” I’m the complete opposite of that, I’ll be out going, “Don’t you know who he is?! Look he’s pretty! Come here boy!” I’ll just be drunk and not a mess mess, but I don’t give a fuck.”
Immediately the subject of weight rears its ugly head, the article mentions “worried friends” and “eccentric eating habits.” But the tiny star openly admits to having eating disorders, and hopes talking about them she will help other girls. “I realise that I have a chance to bring certain things to certain people’s attention, not necessarily the masses, I’m not Bono.”
“My friends aren’t worried now; I’m a lot better than I was! And they’re not worried, primarily because I work so much I hardly see my friends. Everyone’s got their own shit to get on with and who gives a fuck about me missing a meal a day? I’ve had a flirtation with every eating disorder there is. I wouldn’t tie myself down to one. And then I realise that I have to eat and I will fatten myself up and put on half a stone in a week ‘cause I’m good like that.”
“Usually I would be like, “Fuck off I’m a musician, why do you wanna talk about that?” but I’ve realised that there are a lot of girls who are in exactly the same boat as me. People don’t know how hard it is, and how common it is, and how dangerous it can be. A lot of girls are ashamed, like I was ashamed. I used to make myself sick and be ashamed. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s a compulsion, if you can control it great, if you can’t then you are in the grip of something bigger than you. It’s not a physical thing; it’s very much a psychological thing. I’m glad I can talk about it.”
Fortunately she doesn’t feel pressure to be thin from being in the public eye, stating, “I don’t actually, I think it’s a security thing for me. I’m a musician; I’m not really a pop star, so that takes precedent.”
She also sympathises with the comments that Lily Allen made on her blog about the ‘patronising’ NME feature, The Cool List, and the unexpected cover change make way for a male fronted act seemingly to sell more copies of the magazine, Muse. “The thing about Lily is she’s like me, she just says it! And she’s not wrong! She’s right on the money that girl. I think that in Lily’s position, she’s just released her first album and she’s like, ‘Right! Now I’ve got a voice I can say anything.’ Because I was like that when I released my first album and I was worse than her! I reckon when she does her next album she just won’t bother with stuff like that, she won’t care so much. And in support of Lilly, I think they just put Muse on the cover because they tour 300 days a year, they’ve probably got 10 albums out or something, and nobody knows what the fuckers look like!”
For a singer and songwriter who lays her relationships bare on her records, she naturally goes on to openly talk about her current relationship. Explaining that the reason she was “depressed” during the interview mentioned in the article, was because her boyfriend had found out that she’d cheated on him. “I cheated on him like a month ago when we first got together, which I didn’t think really counts, which is subject to speculation…”
Back to the nitty gritty then, and she tells us that she’s much happier with her new record ‘Back To Black’, after being quoted as saying that she couldn’t listen to Frank because she was so unhappy with it. “I smoked a lot of weed then which makes you a) paranoid and b ) defensive, and this time, I go to the gym, I don’t smoke anymore, and I know them all. I trust them.”
“With Frank I was like, ‘Shit! Why didn’t I put that in?’ and, ‘Shit! Why did I let them put that in? But it’s a learning curve, and the thing is, the album isn’t a complete disaster but it was a learning curve. You always want to make what’s in your head on CD, I think I’ve done it 150% on this one, I’ve surpassed myself. And people like Mark (Ronson) and Salaam (Remi) really pulled it out for me. I am so lucky I get to meet people like them.” She enthuses: “Mark is great. I’m like his little brother and he’s my big sister! He’s a very influential boy. He’s like me, he’s a geek, a real music geek and nerdy with it, so we’re always trying to impress each other.”
Her new album takes a tip from ‘Frank’, but her vitriolic take on relationships has softened somewhat. Still essentially a break up album this record takes a more introspective turn, especially on tracks like ‘Love Is A Losing Game’ where the specifics are left out and an overarching melancholy pervades. Her albums back to back seem to suggest she has been through a series of tumultuous relationships, and she admits this to a certain extent.
“Yeah, I have the sensitivity and the romance and the, fuckin’, throw myself into a situation thing that a woman has. But I also have the ‘fuck yourself I don’t care’ thing of a man. So I will throw myself into someone but the minute they fuck me up I’ll be like, ‘It was nice, thank you for letting me know what a shit you are, bye!’ And I don’t regret throwing myself into any situation because if you don’t do that you’ll never know.”
“I’m not even that sexual, I’m like a boy. You know, if a boy goes out all night the girlfriend is like “Where have you been?!” and he’s just like “Shut up I’ve been drinking and playing pool.” I’m like that; all I wanna do is have a good time, have a laugh with people. I don’t need intimacy, I don’t need love, I always look after myself perpetually and forever so… ah huh… (with a coy smile which suggests this statement isn’t entirely true) my boy just text me…”
Shortly before she is rushed off to do a phone interview with a magazine from Brazil, Gigwise asks her what she thinks about ‘Rehab’ being covered in Jo Wiley’s Live Lounge by Paulo Nutini. “I heard about that! That’s so nice! And I can’t even think of his voice now, which is really insulting, but yeah! Is he fit? No I think I’ve seen a picture of him and he is fit… hmmmm…”
Sex, Drugs and a Lot of Soul - December 2006 Gigwise Interview
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