Interview: Jessie Ware
She made a name for herself on the underground dance scene, lending her vocals to the likes of Sampha and SBTRKT. Following the February release of her soulfully elegant breakthrough single ‘Running’, Jessie Ware has now stepped out of the background and into the limelight, generating a huge buzz along the way. With her debut LP ‘Devotion’ released on the August 20, The Wrap Up’s Vanessa Laker caught up with the talented singer and songwriter to discuss recording her first album, the pressures of creating a unique sound and more…
The Wrap Up: You started your musical career as a backing singer. After being in the background for so long, how does it feel to finally be at the forefront?
Jessie Ware: It feels really good. It definitely took a while for it to all sink in; the fact that I wasn’t a backing singer anymore - I am now a solo artist. But I’m so excited about it. I loved being a backing singer and a vocalist on dance tracks, but it’s very satisfying for me to do my own gigs now, with my own band and singing my own songs.
TWU: Was it easy making that transition from backing singer to main act?
Jessie Ware: Erm... It did take a little bit of adjusting to. I had to really think about how I wanted to sing, what I wanted to sing about and most importantly I had to learn how to write songs. I’d never written a song before, because I never thought that I could and I didn’t think anyone would care about what I had to say. So in the beginning that was probably the hardest thing, just trying to work out what I wanted to say.
TWU: Your debut album ‘Devotion’ is out this summer - what was it like creating your first record?
Jessie Ware: It was actually really wonderful! I went through all the scary stuff before, but once we had all the songs, we went to record it at the Red Bull Studios and my producer Dave [Okumu] just made it feel really special. It felt really romantic the whole two weeks we were there. We tried to create the same permanent feel as where we first wrote most of the album - in his living room in Lewisham. So we brought all the records down that we’d been listening to, we got flowers in and my mum cooked brownies! It just felt really special.
TWU: That sounds like a lovely process! Do you a have a favourite song on the album?
Jessie Ware: I quite like them all [laughs]. But I feel like ‘Running’ is a very special song to me, as it just solidified what I wanted to be and who I wanted to be. Another favourite is ‘Wildest Moments’.
TWU: You’ve featured on a number of dance records. When recording this album, did you feel under pressure to convey a particular sound?
Jessie Ware: I didn’t feel under pressure to create a certain sound, but you do put yourself under pressure, because you want your music to sound original and unique. My main issue was that I didn’t want the album to sound too current. I wanted to bring a classic feel to it that would separate me from being regarded to as a ‘dance vocalist’. As a result, the record is more lyrical-based and driven. I had gained attention from collaborating on dance tracks, so I definitely wanted to define my own sound and I felt that I could do that through my lyrics and my style of songs. Yeah, there was a pressure, but it was quite an interesting experience, finding what works for me.
TWU: In your own words, how would you describe your musical style?
Jessie Ware: I guess I’d like it to be described as British electronic soul...
TWU: It’s a very nostalgic sound!
Jessie Ware: Aww, thank you! I’ve been very influenced by the people who came before me and they’re the people I grew up wanting to sound like. You know? Whitney Houston, Sade, Chaka Khan… So there is definitely a nostalgic essence to my music.
TWU: Who are you listening to at the moment?
Jessie Ware: I really like Frank Ocean, he’s really cool.
TWU: Speaking of R&B, contemporary R&B music is so different to the Rhythm & Blues music of the past…
Jessie Ware: It’s definitely very different. I was recently listening to Mary J Blige’s ‘What’s The 411’ album and I don’t think there are many albums that sound like that anymore. I think it’s definitely moved away from the older sound. But thank God I can still go back to those classic old albums like Mary J’s and Aaliyah’s.
TWU: Tell us a bit about your latest single, ‘110%’
Jessie Ware: It’s a song I wrote with Julio Bashmore – who is a producer and DJ – and we wrote it at his mums house in Bristol. At that time I was still quite nervous about writing, so I made the song about someone else. We sampled Big Pun as the instrumental is quite cute and dreamy, so that element hardened it up a bit. It was nice to bring it out in time for summer.
TWU: You’ve got a summer filled with live shows. Are you looking forward to touring?
Jessie Ware: Very much so! We’ve just started the beginning of the tour and I absolutely love it. It just feels so good and I can’t wait to play at all these different places. I’m just so excited about it all...
Keep up to date with Jessie by following her on Twitter.
Words: Vanessa Laker (@VanessaLaker)