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London songwriter and vocalist Jessie Ware has worked with artists as diverse as SBTRKT, Nicki Minaj, Pete Tong, Bobby Womack, Katy B, Disclosure and Julio Bashmore. We catch up with her just before the release of her new record ‘Glasshouse’.
“It’s a bit wild and I’m pretty tired, but it’s kind of magical.”
It’s been three years this month since the release of Jessie Ware’s last album ‘Tough Love’.
It was on that record that she collaborated with Ed Sheeran for a dual writing credit on the second single ‘Say You Love Me’. Three years on and she’s had a daughter, sat on the 2017 Mercury Music Prize judging panel and collaborated again with Ed Sheeran on a track for his album ‘Divide’ and on ‘Sam’, the beautiful last track from her upcoming album ‘Glasshouse’.
Jessie made her triumphant return to music with the first single from her new album ‘Midnight’ in July and has followed that with ‘Selfish Love’ and the most recent taster, ‘Alone’. When I call Jessie she’s in her London home spending time with her daughter before a shoot later that day. She’s beaming with pride about the record and, although exhausted, can’t wait to be back in front of her fans, who she appreciates wholeheartedly.
“I’m really proud of the record and I’m really excited for people to hear it. The gigs are why you do it really and I’m really sorry I don’t have any Irish dates. I’m so upset about that. I’ll make sure I get over there but I’m pretty gutted I’m not doing it on this tour.”
The tour in question kicks off in New York with a couple more American dates this side of Christmas. Then nearly the entire month of March 2018 is spent on an extensive list of European dates including six UK gigs finishing in London; a daunting calendar.
“It’s a bit wild and I’m pretty tired, but it’s kind of magical. I’m in the eye of the storm with the promo but it’s pretty full on at the moment. She’s (Jessie’s daughter) going to be coming to America with me when I go at the end of the month and she’ll be with me for all the tours and that should be fun with a jet-lagged baby. Watch this space. The promotion of a record is mental always and with a child it’s extra mental but I have amazing people around me and my husband is incredible. He’s really helping me out”
Together for over fifteen years, the final track on the new album is dedicated to her partner Sam Burrows.
“We’ve been playing ‘Selfish Love’, ‘Midnight’, ‘Thinking About You’ and ‘Sam’ and the response, even before people had heard these songs, was mental. Probably the best response I’ve had for new songs. ‘Sam’ is quite special to play and it’s really dear to me. I’ve been finishing the sets with that and it’s been really, really special and kind of poignant.”
Jessie has an extraordinary talent for writing some of the most beautiful love songs in pop, take ‘Say You Love Me for example’. A quick YouTube search throws back hundreds of results of couple’s sharing their first dance to her velvety vocals.
Lyrics like, ‘Say that you’re the one that’s taking me home, ‘Cause I want you on my skin and my bones, Knocking me off my feet, Just say I’m the one that you need’ from her latest single ‘Alone’ could be confused with those of a writer who’s falling head over heels for the first time. However, Jessie has been writing about the same person for well over a decade. Surely there are times where she struggles for inspiration.
“It’s really hard because we’ve kind of said everything to each other, but I think having a baby changed our relationship and it’s made me understand and respect him (Sam) more in ways. I think having the baby helped me write about Sam more easily and more poetically. I think even my best song is for him and that’s really reassuring because we’re like fifteen years into a relationship, you know?”
The London native has a growing list of collaborations to her name, having previously provided vocals on a number of songs for SBTRKT and worked with Jack Penate, Nicki Minaj, Pete Tong, Bobby Womack, Katy B and producers Disclosure and Julio Bashmore.
It was through singer Jack Penate, who Jessie was doing backing vocals for at the time, that she was introduced to SBTRKT and in turn, Sampha. The pair appear on the tracks ‘Valentine’, ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ and SBTRKT’s ‘Sanctuary’ together.
This year Jessie sat on the Mercury Music Prize judging panel which awarded Sampha the highest honour for his long-awaited debut album ‘Process’, a title which Jessie was in the running for in 2012 with her breakthrough record ‘Devotion’.
“It was so brilliant, such a great panel. We had such fun together and I feel like we made absolutely the right choice. It was just such a great celebration of good music all around and I learned a lot about new bands and fell in love with new bands and it was just really fun. I’d love to do it again. I feel very lucky that I’ve been up for it and being a judge was a really, really brilliant experience for me.”
Sharing the music she’s listening to is something that Jessie is very open about on her social media. A quick glance down her Instagram feed will tell you that J Hus, Frank Ocean, Cashmere Cat, Stormzy and Solange are a few of the artists that have been in her headphones lately. What else can she recommend?
“I think Khalid is really good, he was on Jools (Holland) with me this week and he was absolutely brilliant. I love the Solange record still; I can listen to it easily even though I’ve listened to it so many times.”
A group that Jessie cites as one of “the best bands ever” is The Maccabees, who played their final gig this July in Alexandra Palace, London. She has been lifelong friends with band members and brothers, Hugo and Felix White who worked with Ware and The Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan on ‘Glasshouse’’s eleventh track ‘Last Of The True Believers’.
“Felix and Hugo I’ve known forever, and Felix is a really big fan of Paul Buchanan who I wrote this song with. The song’s been with me for a while and I just said could you have a look at it, could you see if you think it could work and he loved it. It was so nice to work with my friends and to revive and old song which I really cared about.”
Reflecting on the breakup of The Maccabees and speaking to my inner indie kid she said, “It’s really fucking shit, isn’t it? Basically they’re one of the best bands ever. I’m just really proud of them, that they’re doing other stuff but it’s heartbreaking. I’m a big fan of The Maccabees, we’re all so gutted.”
But where one musical door has sadly shut others open and tomorrow will see the release of Jessie’s third studio album ‘Glasshouse’. It’s an intensely intimate, warm and soulful album that pushes the boundaries of traditional pop songs taking you from heartbreakingly beautiful moments to singing from the top of your lungs without a care in the world.
What more can you ask for from a record about love?