When Amy Winehouse first emerged in 2003, she had more curves than Jessica Rabbit.

More recently, she has been pictured in the papers looking painfully thin, hip bones protruding, starring alongside the likes of Nicole Richie and Victoria Beckham in features slamming the so-called "pro-ana" epidemic.

In some ways the timing could not be better, as her second album in three years, Back To Black, hits the shops next month. Perhaps it's not such a bad way to bring Amy Winehouse back in to the public eye before the record's release.

But PR spin presumptions aside, what is the truth behind the dramatic weight loss?

Shrugging off any suggestion she might have an eating disorder, she says quite convincingly it wasn't a conscious decision to lose weight - it is more or less her natural disposition. "I just run around a lot," she says.

"When I first came out I was really unhealthy, I used to smoke weed all day and never went to the gym. Now I haven't smoked weed in a couple of years, I go to the gym all the time and I'm running around after my dog a lot."

A self-confessed fitness junkie, Amy spends an hour or two in the gym five days a week. "I need to do it otherwise I go absolutely mad," she says.

"I'm horrible when I don't go to the gym, I'm really edgy and irritable, everything winds me up. When I've been for a few days on the trot everything is amazing. I walk down the street singing. I love it."

She insists it has nothing to do with the pressures of celebrity, nor is she conforming to any prerequisite, pop star standard of svelteness. "I don't think I've conformed," she says.

"For a start, I've got about ten more tattoos than the last time around. I've got a horseshoe, a daddy's girl, a naked girl on my left arm. I've got a tattoo of my nan on my right arm and an anchor on my stomach." The list goes on.

"I'm very aware I've got to stop," she continues, "but I want to get one more on my arm, I want to get a Betty Paige - just her head, in profile. I'm a really bad influence. My boyfriend is now covered in tattoos as well. When I met him he was so lovely and sweet. Now he's a sweary, angry, pool-playing tattooed b******."

The voluptuous figure may have vanished but the 22-year-old streetwise singer has lost none of her sass. Her gobby persona, and her precocious talent, are still very much intact.

"I'm a beehive and eye-liner girl," says Amy, summarising her individual style.

"I'm like a Sixties housewife with Camden style - not latex and piercings Camden, I mean old Camden. Madness Camden and The Specials Camden."

Moving away from the jazz and hiphop influences of her platinum-selling debut Frank, Back To Black carries the mark of her current musical obsessions - particularly doo wop.

"I've been listening to a lot of Sixties girl groups," she says.

"The Shangri-Las, a lot of Motown, ska, old garage groups and guitar bands. It has all rubbed off on me. Musically, it's not trying to be as clever. It's a lot simpler."

Produced once again by Salaam Remi (Fugees, Lauryn Hill and Nas) and Mark Ronson (Christina Aguilera, Lily Allen and Robbie Williams), who both worked on her first album, Back To Black is lyrically just as bittersweet as Frank, equally gutsy and, as fans would hope and expect, shot through with a healthy dose of humour. "It's not disimilar to Frank," she says.

"It's basically me trying to make sense of relationships, why people do the things they do, why I do the things I do. I only tend to write about things when they go tits up," she adds, explaining why her new boyfriend of six months doesn't really feature - things with him are going really well.

But Amy has had her moments over the past couple of years. "I was really lucky," she continues. "I wasn't rushed to do the second album.

They Island Records let me have a bunch of time off, have some highs and lows to write about I guess.

"Back To Black is quite emotional but without being soppy. It's about being in love and wanting to die for someone, and then it all going very wrong."

The album title, which is taken from what may well be the first single, in some ways sums up the mood of the record.

It refers to the "black tunnel" Amy fell into after breaking up with her old boyfriend. Familiar territory it may have been, but it's not a place Amy got stuck for long.

"I'm the kind of person that will be p***** off about something," she says, "stew on it and then I'll be fine in two minutes. When you write songs about the way you feel, you get over it straight away. My life is not one long opera - it's all right."

And as the whirlwind of publicity and promotion surrounding the new release begins to pick up speed, Amy claims she couldn't care less about being skinny or being in the papers. She is just looking forward to the gigs.

"I love it," she says. "I never want to come off stage, it's the best feeling in the world. I can't imagine anything that would compare to it.

"To have your own songs and your best mates playing them on the stage is just great, it's wicked! I'd be so lucky if I got half the amount of gigs this time around I got off the back of the last album. I'd be so happy."

  • Starts 7pm, tickets £11. Call 01273 673311