photographer / Jamie Nelson
story / Erica Russell
“It’s just shit everywhere,” Jessie Ware exclaims, referencing the messy spread of clothes across the floor of her London flat. “I’m currently packing frantically for the States. I thought I found a system but I obviously haven’t. There are loads of clothes everywhere and I don’t want my husband to see!”
The artist is just about to embark to the U.S. for a handful of shows in support of her sophomore album ‘Tough Love,’ the highly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s ‘Devotion.’ And despite a few suitcase-related dilemmas, Ware couldn’t be more excited.
“I love the States and I love performing out there. I have really good fans there. They give you a lot and that’s really wonderful,” Ware gushes warmly. “That’s what you want when you’re miles away from home. It’s just the best feeling ever.”
Referring to the album as a collection of moments, Ware stresses that the new record is the next stage of the artist’s evolution. She explains, “The first album was really about learning how to write songs. This one is me learning how to push the songs further and maybe, you know, enjoy the idea of pop and enjoy the playfulness that can have. I knew I wanted there to be a few livelier and happier moments. I knew I wanted it to feel bigger live.”
Ware’s music is, musically and lyrically, quite sophisticated, steeped in smooth, sensual, jazzy R&B and warm electronic soul. And while the artist stays the course, sonically, on her new record, she also allows her music the room to grow – as well as her confidence.
“I think I’ve just felt a bit more comfortable calling this my job now. In the beginning I was scared; I didn’t know what I was doing. But then I had the chance to go back into the studio, and I felt really good about that. I felt creative and experimental and more confident. The songs that ended up on the album are quite dynamic in the vocal range. You’re hearing a bit more of my voice.”
For sure, it is Ware’s heartbreaking, polished voice that takes center stage. But that’s not to say that pushing the vocals on ‘Tough Love’ came without its unique challenges. “It’s all very well to sing them in the studio once or twice. Now it’s just scary because I have to sing these fuckers!” Ware declares.
“I’ve realized this album is more challenging for me,” she adds, noting that she’s been making great efforts to take care of her vocal chords. “You have to be very aware of it. Sometimes it sounds like you’re being precious and that’s really annoying, but if I don’t have my voice, I’m fucked.”
Aside from pushing her vocal abilities, Ware, who worked with the “lovely, inspiring, and super talented” Ed Sheeran on one of the standout singles of the album (“Say You Love Me”), also made a point to explore the pop side of things this time around, despite having to break a few self-inflicted stigmas.
“I was one of those people who are like, ‘Ha ha, no! I don’t wanna make pop!’ Now I’m like, what was I talking about? A good pop song is one that lasts,” she says. “I thought, why am I denying myself from writing something that is catchy? Because I’m scared of what people think? I tormented myself by being like that. Then I was like, ‘Stop it!’ If it feels good, it feels good. Don’t fight it.
Another challenge Ware had to face was letting go of expectations – not her own, but her fans’. “While making this record I kept second-guessing, which wasn’t always helpful. I would be like, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that! My fans won’t like this!’ I fought a bit with my collaborators, who were like, ‘Fuck off! Come on, you don’t know what it’ll be like unless you try it.’ So this whole album became about trying everything… I was denying myself good, fun moments because I was too scared that my fans wouldn’t like it, but once I got rid of that the record really wrote itself.”
That said, it seems evident that ‘Tough Love’ may have a more poignant and overarching meaning for the artist, as Ware’s entire process for writing and recording the album involved having to push herself time and time again. Then again, isn’t that the point?
“You can’t just make the same album again. People have already got that. It can have the same emotions and feelings but I always have to push myself. Hopefully they both still feel like Jessie Ware records, whatever that may be. From ‘Devotion’ to ‘Tough Love,’ you can hopefully hear everything evolving,” she muses, finally adding, “including my confidence.”