“I think it was fun for Julio to es­cape the house world and go into my ro­man­tic, over-the-top world to write with me”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

IT’S TIME for an­other “fea­tured” artist to come out of the shad­ows. Over the past 18 months, you will have prob­a­bly come across Jessie Ware, but usu­ally with “fea­tur­ing” be­fore her name on the track in ques­tion. Col­lab­o­ra­tions with SBTRKT, Sam­pha and Joker made Ware the goto girl when a pro­ducer wanted some vo­cal oomph to ac­com­pany spine-tingling elec­tronic tex­tures.

As a re­sult of all this, Ware’s de­but al­bum, De­vo­tion, may sur­prise many who thought they had the one-time jour­nal­ist boxed off. Given the gist of her re­leases to date, many will be ex­pect­ing an al­bum that show­boats the sounds of the un­der­ground, but that’s just part of what Ware has to of­fer.

De­vo­tion is a big city pop al­bum with r’n’b, hip-hop, jazz and soul also in the mix.

Ware says De­vo­tion is per­fectly in tune with her own mu­si­cal parade. “I like older main­stream stuff like Prince, Sade, Whitney Hous­ton and An­nie Len­nox,” she says. “But I live in Lon­don and when I go out, I go club­bing and I lis­ten to un­der­ground mu­sic. Both have their place on the al­bum be­cause both have played a big part in my mu­si­cal makeup. There are def­i­nitely mo­ments of pure pop be­cause there’s in­tri­cate de­tails in the pro­duc­tion which we worked hard on as well.”

She’s aware that many will be ex­pect­ing De­vo­tion to sound a lit­tle like last year’s SBTRKT al­bum. “I hope the last few sin­gles have pre­pared peo­ple for the al­bum not be­ing a bassy, un­der­ground record. It was my chance to do an al­bum and do my own thing so I didn’t want to sound like I was try­ing to em­u­late the pro­duc­ers I had worked with be­fore. That would have been an im­pos­si­ble task be­cause I’m a singer, not a pro­ducer.”

Her dal­liance with dub­step pro­duc­ers such as Sam­pha and SBTRKT hap­pened com­pletely by chance. While she wanted a ca­reer in mu­sic, she didn’t think singing would be an op­tion. “It just seemed im­pos­si­ble as I wasn’t writ­ing my own­mu­sic and hadn’t pushed my­self that way,” she says.

Ware did jour­nal­ism in col­lege, worked briefly for the Jewish Chron­i­cle and a TV pro­duc­tion com­pany and kept her hand in the mu­sic game by do­ing back­ing vo­cals for Jack Peñate and a Lon­don group called Man Like Me.

Then, a friend of hers who worked at the Young Turks la­bel in­tro­duced her to SBTRKT. “He was just start­ing out, re­ally. He was DJ-ing a lot and he had some white la­bels which were due to come out. It was a very nat­u­ral thing be­cause SBTKRT needed a vo­cal­ist and I came in. Then Sam­pha came in and started work­ing with SBTRKT and we got on and we de­cided to do a track to­gether. There wasn’t much to work with at the start but I re­ally loved the tracks I heard and wanted to work with them.”

Ware’s work on those tracks promptly led to a record deal of her own. She found her­self ini­tially work­ing with pop writ­ers for hire to see if sparks would fly and pro­duce a hit. “It was pretty pet­ri­fy­ing,” she says.

“So­cially, I’m very con­fi­dent and I know I have the gift of the gab, but put me in a writ­ing stu­dio with a stranger and it’s a dif­fer­ent mat­ter.

“They weren’t the big­gest names, but they had writ­ten hits. At the start when you’re an un­known artist with no chart suc­cess that they don’t re­ally care about, it was all about friends-of-friends and get­ting peo­ple around me to ask for favours. Lots of those writ­ers won’t work with you un­less you’ve al­ready had a hit. It didn’t last that long and I didn’t do many.”

Ware re­mem­bers this process of hatch­ing hits as be­ing very stress­ful. “You’re re­ally un­der pres­sure. You’re work­ing in an of­fice or a stu­dio with some­one you’ve just met, you’ve got to get to know them, they’ve got to get to know you, you’ve got to talk about your­self which is al­ways bor­ing and you’ve got to write a song about how madly in love you are­with some­one or how your heart has been bro­ken by some­one. And you might not even click with the other per­son. It’s quite mad.

“I freaked out be­cause I didn’t know what I was do­ing or was sup­posed to do. I felt out of my depth. It took a while to get over the nerves be­cause it didn’t come easy at all. It was mostly me hav­ing a fight with my­self. I was so ner­vous about get­ting it wrong that I didn’t give my­self a chance to try.”

It took a chance en­counter with David Okumu from The In­vis­i­ble for Ware to find her ideal col­lab­o­ra­tive foil for the al­bum. “My man­ager met him at a bar­be­cue and thought he was a re­ally nice guy. I had heard of The In­vis­i­ble and liked them, and Dave had heard the songs I’d done with SBTRKT, and thought they sounded cool. We met up and he just calmed me down. He said it was OK to get things wrong, which im­me­di­ately had me warm­ing to him.

“It felt right be­cause he got it. I was so het up about what had hap­pened that I felt I had to apol­o­gise to him af­ter ev­ery ses­sion. But Dave kept say­ing that song­writ­ing was like pur­ple bananas, in that it didn’t make sense.”

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An­other name in­cluded on the al­bum’s cred­its is Bris­tol house pro­ducer Julio Bash­more.

“I knew about Julio through look­ing up stuff on the in­ter­net and thought I’d love to work with him. Af­ter I got signed to PMR, the guy who runs the la­bel also man­ages Julio and asked me if I’d like to work with him. It was fun be­cause I wasn’t do­ing the straight house tracks he’s known for and we were writ­ing songs in­stead. I think it was fun for Julio to es­cape the house world and go into my ro­man­tic, over-the-top world to write with me.” Ware is as pleased as punch with how Devo

tion has turned out. Suf­fice to say she won’t be go­ing back to do­ing football re­ports for the Jewish Chron­i­cle any­time soon.

“To be hon­est, I didn’t know what to ex­pect from it when we started work­ing on it. Af­ter a few weeks, though, I knew what sound I wanted to have and I knew it was go­ing to be very dif­fer­ent to the tunes I had done with other peo­ple.

“It all be­came clear when I wrote De­vo­tion with David. He came to me with this melody and idea and ev­ery­thing fell into place from that point on. It was re­ally about try­ing things out and get­ting things wrong and then know­ing what I pre­ferred to sound like and go­ing with that. It was trial and er­ror.”

De­vo­tion is re­leased to­day on PMR. Jessie Ware plays Dublin’s Su­gar Club on Novem­ber 5

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