Music

Jessie Ware has come full circle

With forthcoming LP 'What's Your Pleasure?' the singer-songwriter gives fans the summer soundtrack they deserve whilst returning to the hypnotic beats that kick-started her career.

“Hello?” Jessie Ware shouts down a crackly line over the top of two cheering children. It’s instantly clear that she’s battling between promoting her upcoming album, What’s Your Pleasure?, and endless hours of playtime with her kids. “They literally finish one activity and then ask, ‘what’s next?’” she says with an infectious laugh before eventually escaping upstairs for some momentary peace.

Admittedly, I’ve been a long-time ‘stan’ of Jessie, having followed from her early career when she was collaborating with the likes of SBTRKT and Julio Bashmore through to her upcoming album, which is set to drop in June. Upon listening, it seems like she’s come full circle, returning to the hypnotic, uptempo beats that kick-started her career back in 2010. She’s shown that she can master the slow, heart-wrenching sound and lyrics that have populated her previous records, and she’s now intent on uplifting people – on giving fans the summer soundtrack they deserve.

Outside of her musical career, Jessie has forged a career in podcasts thanks to her popular show Table Manners, which she presents alongside her mum. A winning formula, the show sees them making a three-course meal alongside a celebrity guest, including the likes of Florence Pugh, Dua Lipa and Loyle Carner. Despite the lockdown limitations, Jessie and her mum have continued to host the show remotely, offering a welcome escape to many who are stuck indoors.

Firstly, what have you been up to while in isolation? 

A lot of DIY and entertaining children alongside trying to make music videos. I’ve been fucking busy to be honest. A lot of cooking, a lot of trying to think how I can entertain my kids for more than two minutes because they get bored, so they’ll do an activity and then they’ll be like ‘what’s next?’

 

I read that you feel you never seem to take a break, so I was going to suggest that being in lockdown has surely given you a chance to finally relax, but it sounds like perhaps that isn’t the case?

It’s given me a chance to be with my family, like fully, and also work is absolutely slower. That’s been really special but equally, I’m missing my jobs and other human interaction. It’s been really special being with the kids and at the beginning, it felt like being in this bubble of a holiday, obviously, it’s terrifying what is going on, but being with each other 24/7 has been really good.

 

You mentioned you’re trying to make music videos in lockdown, what has that been like?

There’s some simplicity behind it but you still want it to be visual. We’re dancing as well. I’m sure lots of people are doing dancing videos, but this record lends itself to dancing and inclusion, so it’s kind of trying to be savvy and clever with what you’ve got. I don’t want it to feel amateur. We did a Graham Norton performance the other day and that was just my husband trying to help me with the lighting while I had my creative director on Zoom with my management, while my kids were thinking that the smoke machine is a game where they blow it out. So it was him basically trying to keep the kids quiet while I am singing down a phone to Graham Norton. It was chaotic.

 

I saw that you’d been doing Table Manners remotely as well. Has that been a struggle?

We’ve been getting some amazing guests in lockdown, but I definitely miss that quality of my Mum cooking and us being around our house. It definitely feels more like an interview now, but people are really appreciating that we’re doing it so we’ll carry on. We’re going to go back to the original format when we can because that is what it is about; chatting around a table and not talking through a computer screen. I definitely feel like when we’ve been getting people, they treat it more like a piece of promo and an interview, and my interview skills are shocking after I’ve done a day of imaginary play with my daughter and I’m zonked and on my third glass of wine – professionalism goes out of the window.

 

At least it offers people a chance of escapism. 

I think that has been really important for my mom as well; to be able to have some element of normality. We moved out as soon as we knew it was getting really serious in London. We were all living with her because our house was getting done up, so she went from having a full house around everybody to having nobody. She’s such a social butterfly that it has been really hard. Not that Table Manners is a charity for my mum at all, but I think it’s just nice to keep that up.

 

It must also be refreshing to have something different to music that you can work on? 

Yes, I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me and my music. It’s just given me an equilibrium even though it’s added new responsibilities. It’s brought such satisfaction and happiness and a unique experience of working with my Mum and just having a laugh. There’s something so light and wonderful about that.

 

Speaking of the music, your new album has been a few years in the making and you had a baby in the midst of it, was it harder and more complex to make than before? 

No actually, it was probably one of the easiest [to make], weirdly. I was with a small group of friends. [The producer] James Ford lives walking distance from my house, he has a young family, I have a young family. There was just total understanding and togetherness with it and no pressure. We put a task that we wanted people to dance and we wanted to dance and we did that. With my label, I basically said ‘look you’ll hear the music when it is ready and just leave me alone for a bit’ and they gave me that space and it gave me the chance to make a record that I’m incredibly proud of.

This is a more new-disco sound that you’ve explored before. Why now to shift direction?

I just felt like, you know, it’s my fourth album. Live performing is so important to me and I felt that I needed more tempo. I didn’t just want it to have a lot of mid-tempo or slow songs, which I love singing, don’t get me wrong I’m so proud of all my work, but I just wanted a bit of a dance and a party. I also think it was a bit of a reaction to the last record being so autobiographical, I just didn’t need to do that this time.

 

And what would your ideal party look like?

I think cocktails and so many people! I want people sweating and touching each other. As soon as that is allowed that is going to be an amazing feeling. Like such close proximity! Choruses that you can just sing and dance to! I want one of those nights.

 

What are you hoping that people take away from this record? 

I want them to feel sexy, flirtatious and I want them to feel that they can’t stop dancing. It’s pretty straight forward this record, I just want people to feel good. Especially at the moment. And also maybe fantasise a bit!

 

Finally, what is next for you after this album? 

Well, now that touring has changed a bit, maybe I’ll go back into the studio and write my next one. I know what it is going to be about so I feel ready to write some more music and then who knows, maybe I’ll have more songs to present to people when I eventually tour. It’s kind of a follow-on to this record, so I’m excited to start writing that.

 

What’s Your Pleasure? is released on June 19.

26 May 2020