Tough act to follow

Jessie Ware tells Jim Car­roll how she found that ‘up feel­ing’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TICKET -

There are two Jessie Wares. There’s the one who ap­pears on her records, a woman mak­ing beau­ti­ful, so­phis­ti­cated, vul­ner­a­ble, soul­ful sounds and pro­duc­ing al­bums such as de­but De­vo­tion and new­bie Tough Love.

Then there’s the one who usu­ally turns up for in­ter­views and pro­ceeds to charm all and sundry. She’s the cack­ling, talk­a­tive for­mer re­porter who doesn’t sound as if she takes her­self all that se­ri­ously.

To­day, though, we meet a third Ware. It’s the singer with a cold and a dodgy voice, a set of ail­ments which come at the worst pos­si­ble time for her. She’s in the mid­dle of the fi­nal blast of ini­tial pro­mo­tion for the new al­bum and is play­ing live shows at the same time. The last thing she should be do­ing, she says, is talk­ing.

“I’ve been pro­mot­ing this al­bum a lot over the last few months and my voice is re­ally on the edge,” she croaks down the line. “It’s be­cause I’m talk­ing too much and singing too much and peo­ple for­get – not want­ing to sound very pre­cious here – that it’s your tool and if you don’t have it work­ing well, you’re go­ing to dis­ap­point peo­ple and def­i­nitely dis­ap­point your­self.

“I’m re­ally strug­gling and I think I’ve been a right moan­ing cow with this cam­paign. I sup­pose I tell it how it is, though I def­i­nitely don’t want to come across as mis­er­able.”

But there is a pay-off for Ware and that comes when she gets to stop talk­ing about her­self, walk on­stage and play a show in front of an au­di­ence. “I’ve found that tour­ing can be this beau­ti­ful thing in that you’re so ex­hausted when you go on­stage that the crowd can lift you. We played Paris last week and be­fore­hand, I wasn’t so sure if they were go­ing to be up for it and if they were go­ing to be a London crowd.

“But they were amaz­ing and I needed that, I re­ally did be­cause a great show and a great re­ac­tion puts ev­ery­thing into per­spec­tive. It’s wicked be­cause you re­alise why you do it. It’s also very, very ad­dic­tive.”

The new al­bum, Tough Love, owes a lot to that ad­dic­tion. Ware re­leased De­vo­tion in 2012 and took to the road with great gusto but, after a while, she be­gan to no­tice some things about how the au­di­ence re­acted to the set. Some songs re­ally worked and some didn’t.

“The live show is re­ally in­trigu­ing for me. It’s hard work for that hour and you lose your­self some­times in what’s go­ing on, but you want to put on a good show and so you have to be on the ball. But you no­tice things like ‘oh, they re­ally like Tak­ing

In Wa­ter tonight’ or ‘I won­der would another bal­lad here be too much’.

“I knew from watch­ing the au­di­ence that there were cer­tain mo­ments they re­ally re­sponded to and I wanted more of them.”

El­bow­room

The prob­lem for Ware was that she didn’t have much el­bow room to change things around on that De­vo­tion tour. “When you have just one al­bum, you don’t have that much scope to change things around, bar one cover here or there. You don’t have much time to write and prep new stuff so the show can get a lit­tle staid. What I wanted was more of the kind of songs which gave the au­di­ence a lift be­cause that would then give me and the band a lift as well.”

I think I’ve been a right moan­ing cow with this cam­paign . . . though I def­i­nitely don’t want to come across as mis­er­able

In some ways, she wrote to or­der to en­sure that the new songs con­tained “the up feel­ing” she knew would work at the shows. “One of the first songs I wrote which ended up on the al­bum was Want Your Feel­ing. I was very weary and tired when I wrote it and what I wanted was the up feel­ing. I wanted a bit of a groove, I wanted the cho­rus to be quite camp and fab­u­lous and even a lit­tle macabre. I wanted to do more things like that, things which I thought were miss­ing from my show be­fore.”

She tried to write those songs on the road. “I’m a very im­pa­tient per­son so I just started to write rather than wait and set aside weeks or months to do it. I think I wrote about 15 or 20 songs, but only three of them ended up on the al­bum in the end. Look­ing back now, writ­ing was as much a way of help­ing me get through all th­ese long flights and drives and ev­ery­thing else that went with tour­ing as the next al­bum.”

There was also no short­age of helpers when it came to do­ing the al­bum: Ed Sheeran, Miguel, Dev Hynes and pro­duc­ers Ben- Zel (Two Inch Punch’s Ben Ash and Benny Blanco). “The record started for real with Ben­Zel in New York”, she ex­plains. “We wrote some songs and we hung out and we had a right laugh. It didn’t feel like we were un­der any kind of pres­sure, and Tough

Love came out of that. There was no agenda at all but Tough Love then de­cided the rest of the al­bum.”

Push­ing her­self

Pre­vi­ously, Ware was shy about push­ing her­self in the stu­dio. On this al­bum, she be­came more con­fi­dent about her voice and song­writ­ing abil­i­ties.

“I think it comes about from work­ing with peo­ple like Ed and Miguel and Dev. They re­ally push you in a way which is not de­lib­er­ate. I think I was scared and try­ing to hide my­self on the first al­bum. But this time, I def­i­nitely found a con­fi­dence when it came to singing and I think I en­joyed ev­ery­thing more as a re­sult.”

Jessie Ware plays Belfast’s Man­dela Hall on Jan­uary 20th and Dublin’s Academy on Jan­uary 21st.

Love ad­dict “A great show

and a great re­ac­tion puts ev­ery­thing into

per­spec­tive”

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