Jessie Ware | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Jessie Ware

Toughening Up

Nov 06, 2014 Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J Bookmark and Share

Before she succumbs to the inevitable blitz of promotion and performances surrounding her highly-anticipated sophomore album Tough Love this fall, Jessie Ware still has one big commitment on her agenda to cross off: her wedding day. “I’m excited,” says Ware, sitting in the back seat of a London cab heading home, where she intends to do a brief wardrobe change and depart for an evening run. “It feels like three weeks is not very far away but it also feels like an age away. I’m really looking forward to it.”

As the driver closes in on the address of her flat, which she shares with her longtime boyfriend and soon-to-be-husband, the young, dark-haired chanteuse admits that working on a record and planning a wedding really wasn’t as traumatic and stressful as most might assume. “You know what, I feel like they balanced each other out very well,” says Ware. “I feel like I would strongly recommend people to do their second album and get married at the same time. It works. I’m surprised because I think everybody was worried I would just combust, but it’s been really good.”

The follow-up to her Mercury Prize-nominated debut, 2012’s Devotion, Tough Love captures a feeling of longing, waiting, and wanting beneath its smoky smooth cocktail of electronics, soul, and R&B. “My favorite kind of songs are those unrequited love songs,” says Ware. “Something’s always stuck in the way. I’m away from my husband-to-be a lot of the time and that can be really fucking hard. But it also makes you appreciate, it makes you reflect, and I feel like that meant I was in a good space to write this album.”

Helping along the way was a think tank of collaborative talent. In addition to re-teaming with her Devotion co-writers and producers Julio Bashmore, Kid Harpoon, and The Invisible’s Dave Okumu, Ware worked alongside Miguel, producer James Ford, Nineteen85, Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange), and songwriter Ed Sheeran. Pulling duty as executive producers was BenZel, otherwise known as Two Inch Punch’s Ben Ash, and mega-producer Benny Blanco, the latter of which has been responsible for some of the most recognizable, chart-topping hits of the past half-decade, including Katy Perry’s “California Girls” and Maroon 5’s “Payphone.” “You could find Benny Blanco very intimidating on paper, being a massive hitmaker, and I don’t necessarily make hits,” says Ware. “But there was something so easy about working with him.” It was alongside Blanco last year that yielded Tough Love‘s slow-burning title track, setting the tone for the rest of the album. “It was one of those tunes that kind of just came out of a very dreamy afternoon,” says Ware. “I felt like it was where [the album] began in my head, like, ‘Okay, this is the start of something. This is the sound I want on this album.’ It was a song I didn’t expect to make. It shows a different side and personality to my voice.”

Looking back, Ware says having the help of Blanco and the rest of such a large support system in place was quite the blessing. “I apologize a lot,” she says. “I’m not always sure of my choices and my ideas. I’m nervous about them, I don’t feel confident that they’re necessarily good ideas. I can be quite awkward in the studio. It’s not necessarily the place I feel the most comfortable.”

Having successfully changed outfits for her workout, ready to head out to a nearby park, Ware admits that while she’s still learning to be at ease in her own skin as an artist, such self-assurance is in fact coming more and more into focus. “I’ve got a bit of ways to go,” says Ware. “But I know I can see for the first time from the first album to this album I’ve definitely grown in confidence. Things have changed.”

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s September/October print issue (Issue 51), which is on newsstands now.]


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