Looking back - interview with Amy Winehouse
Back in June 2004, M magazine spoke to a new wave of British songwriters on the cusp of something big. Among the rising stars we cornered for our Young Guns Go For It special were Amy Winehouse and Jamie Cullum.
Back in June 2004, M magazine spoke to a new wave of British songwriters on the cusp of something big. Among the rising stars we cornered for our Young Guns Go For It special were and Amy Winehouse and Jamie Cullum.
Following Amy's untimely death less than a week ago at the age of just 27, you can read her full interview here.
A former student of the Sylvia Young Theatre School, 20 year old North Londoner Amy Winehouse, the daughter of a London cabbie and a Brooklyn-born pharmacist, shot from Obscurity to a Mercury nomination with her first album of jazz-infused R&B, Frank, on Island records. Key to its success was co-producer and co-writer Salaam Remi who also produced Ms Dynamite's debut album, worked on the Fugees The Score, and tracks by Wyclef Jean, Ini Kamoze and Toni Braxton.
"I really wouldn’t know how difficult it is to get record company attention because I was never in a position where I was shopping myself round going, hi, this is me and my product! By the time I got a record deal, I already had publishing and management in place. I got my break through my friend Tyler who’d been working with these A&R guys. They were in a car one day and Nicky (Shymansky) said, ‘There’s this girl on the radio singing jazz, we could use her, ’and me mate Tyler says, ‘Nah, I know someone who’s a wicked jazz singer! And that was it.
Writing is a very natural process for me. I wait for when I’ve been through some horrible thing and there’s nothing I can do but write about it.
I’ve always loved jazz. My brother introduced me to Theolonius Monk by saying, ‘If you like Miles Davis, you will love Monk.’ He was right. Monk woke me up to the fact that jazz was much more than mood music. As for getting into someone like Roy Ayers, it was Salaam Remi (producer of Frank, co-writer and fellow musician) who said, ‘You gotta listen to Roy’. My mum loved Carole King’s Tapestry, that was always in the house. But man, there are so many wicked contemporary people I love, I mean, Missy Elliot, obviously. She is a powerhouse. Then there’s Mos Def– love him.
Writing is a very natural process for me. I wait for when I’ve been through some horrible thing and there’s nothing I can do but write about it. I follow my heart because otherwise you get so caught up in other peoples opinions. Not that I’m any great authority! I’m a fucking idiot like the rest of the world, but I trust my instincts, and that’s what has got me where I am, y’know?
I know I appeal to all ages. It’s amazing backstage, you get these kids, and some of them bring along their mums, nans even! But when I write songs I don’t care who’ll hear it or how many will buy it. The only consideration is pleasing myself. The lyrics I write -‘Dressed like a star / Rocking your fuck me pumps’ Fuck Me Pumps, ‘I always have to comfort you every day / But that’s what I need you to do / Are you gay? Stronger Than Me- I talk like that, that’s me. I realise its different to all the manufactured pop out there, and that’s the one thing I pride myself on.
I always thought the homosexual community would love what I do ...well, I thought there might be one or two nasty bitches, I mean, someone came round once and he was like, ‘You’re homophobic!’ I was like, ‘Yeah? I can’t be that homophobic, you’re in my fucking kitchen, aren’t you?’ The guy says, ‘D’you think gay men are weak?’ I says, ‘Yeah, some of you. And some straight men are fucking weak and all.’ And that’s what Stronger Than Me is about.
Now everything’s taking off, there isn’t the time to play guitar all day and write and think of bullshit to do. How do I feel about being tagged the ‘New jazz diva? Um, that’s okay.”