It hasn’t been an easy few months for Amy Winehouse, as a quick scan of the headlines over the past several months readily attests. But for all the sturm und drang being played out in the press, the fact remains that Winehouse is first and foremost a musician, and news that she’s starting to kick around ideas for her next album is welcome indeed to the legions of those who have become fans of her sultry, r&b-infused pop.
Born to a taxi-driving father and pharmacist mother, Winehouse grew up in the Southgate area of northern London. Through a close relationship with her mother’s side of the family, which included several professional jazz musicians (her paternal grandmother was reportedly once romantically linked with British jazz legend Ronnie Scott), she began absorbing the musical lessons of such giants as Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.
Once she’d hit her teens, however, she quickly found herself attracted to such then-current American r&b and hip-hop acts as TLC, Salt-N-Pepa, and the Fugees. By the end of 2003, when she was 20 years old, Island had released her debut album, Frank, in the U.K., racking up impressive reviews and sales and paving the way for her 2006 breakthrough Back to Black.
That album includes probably her most famous song, “Rehab,” inspired after she fired her management company for suggesting she check herself in for her extracurricular problems. One month after Winehouse won Best Female Artist at the Brit Awards in February 2007, Universal released Back to Black in the U.S. and found itself with an album that charted higher than any other American debut by a British female recording artist.
Winehouse rode that success to five Grammy Awards (making her the first-ever British female artist to win so many in one night) and the eventual release of Frank in the U.S. (slightly tweaked, with two songs removed and one added). Nevertheless, according to interviews at the time, Winehouse had never really set her sights on conquering America.
“I just did an album that I’m really proud of, that means a lot to me, and I really stretched myself doing it,” she said. “The fact that I get to come to other places other than where I live and I’m from, and do shows, that’s just icing on the cake. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a really lucky girl.”
However, that noted edginess also bubbled up: “I’m not interested in writing songs so people can find out who I really am. There’s stuff that I wouldn’t want people to know.”
As she continues to fight her demons off the stage, however, word comes that Winehouse is actively starting work with Black co-producer Mark Ronson. A rep confirmed, “She just went into the studio to record with Mark two or three weeks ago. She was writing in her home studio before that.”
While no date has been set for the album’s release, Winehouse is set to play several festival dates in Europe this summer.