Jessie Ware interview: After her Fifty Shades of Grey song and Brit nomination, the singer is finally stepping into the limelight

She's watched her friends Adele and Florence Welch make it big, now it's Jessie Ware's turn

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The Independent Culture

For someone whose voice has been described as somewhere between Sade and Adele, Jessie Ware does a great line in self-deprecation. “I don’t know if I’m that successful… I still think I’ve got a long way to go, to be honest,” Ware says when I congratulate her on a year which has included a nomination for Best British Female at next week’s Brit awards, sell-out UK and US tours, a spot on the Christmas Band Aid single and the inclusion of her track “Meet Me in the Middle” on the soundtrack for Fifty Shades of Grey.

Perhaps it’s hard to acknowledge your own success when you come from a friendship group that includes some of the best singers in the country (Adele and Florence Welch), as well as rock band The Maccabees and singer Jack Penate. Ware spent her late teens and early twenties watching her fellow south-west-Londoners conquer the world while she studied for her A-levels and then a degree in English literature at Sussex University. “I think it definitely normalised it, watching what they were doing, in a way,” Ware, 30, admits. “I remember when I was just so impressed and amazed by what Jack [Penate] was doing and then I was so proud of all of my friends who were finding success. I think just seeing it and experiencing it as a fan with them was helpful.”


Ware is currently promoting single “Champagne Kisses”, from her second album Tough Love (which reached No 9 in the UK album chart); it’s the kind of soulful, enchanting track that Ware does so well. She may not have the anthems of Adele, but her brand of R&B is cool and understated. After graduating in 2006 she had no idea which path to take. “I was working at The Jewish Chronicle and I was working at Love Productions, who do The Great British Bake Off, and I was a personal assistant. I had normal jobs. I also had a place at law school to do a conversion course. I had done some singing in musicals at school but I was very shy of my voice.”

While Adele was playing to a sold-out crowd at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011, Ware – watching in the audience – had no idea that she would be following in her footsteps to worldwide fame. “I didn’t think it was going to happen for me because I wasn’t trying to make it happen for me at that point,” she says.

But Ware started to sing more and more, and began working with producers like Julio Bashmore, Kid Harpoon and Disclosure. The young artists hit a note which was to dictate the sound of the charts for the next two years. Ware’s album Devotion went gold in the UK, selling more than 100,000 copies, and she was back in the studio once her tour was finished.

She had to pinch herself, she says, when she found herself in a Los Angeles recording booth last summer working with producer and singer Miguel (who has produced for Mariah Carey and Usher). “I was making this track with Miguel and then he suddenly says that J Cole is downstairs. So J Cole came and listened to my song and was vibing to it! I mean stuff like this just didn’t happen with the first album.”

Jessie Ware's track “Meet Me in the Middle” is on the soundtrack for Fifty Shades of Grey

The fact that Ware was able to reach the age of 25 before she even got into a recording studio may account for her self-awareness and self-deprecation: rare in her chosen field. Despite now being top of the guest list for a private Chanel dinner, a star turn at former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld’s birthday party (where she performed for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West) and having a Glastonbury gig under her belt, Ware says she doesn’t feel comfortable in the spotlight yet. “I do feel like a fish out of water at these big events; every time I do a red carpet I’m in two minds about whether I actually want to go out the door and get really nervous. I kind of go onto the red carpet apologetically. I don’t think any of the photographers know who I am!”

Yet Ware now has legions of fans all over the world; she has a huge following in the United States where she is set to perform tour dates later this year. And she has A-list fans in the form of Katy Perry and Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, who turned up to two of her recent Los Angeles shows. “It was really weird the first time I met him,” Ware admits. “I just found it so bizarre that he was in my dressing room and we were having a chat and that he was interested in me, do you know what I mean? It’s funny.”

Surely the likes of Adele and Welch can give her tips on that well-trodden path? “Adele hasn’t,” Ware says gravely – though doesn’t elaborate on whether she’s seen her rather reclusive old friend recently. “But Florence is really kind to me, actually.  You know, it’s incredibly stressful and quite exhausting, promoting the record. It’s quite intense. I remember just being so boring and not really speaking when I was going out because I was so scared that I was going to lose my voice when I was performing in two days and doing interviews. And I remember speaking to Florence, and she said, ‘babe, don’t worry about it – it’s just promo time, this is how it is’. She was always telling me to chill out. Just seeing someone who’s done it and is ahead of me, who was just telling me not to worry really helped.”

Jessie Ware has legions of fans all over the world (Getty Images)

Amongst the madness of last year, Ware decided to marry her childhood sweetheart, personal trainer Sam Burrows. The pair attended primary school together in Dulwich, and were both on the school swimming team aged 11, but they lost touch before reconnecting at drum’n’bass nights in Streatham. Despite how busy 2014 was, Ware said she put her foot down over her wedding date.

“That was going to be the date, and I was going to make everything work and fit around it. And I did,” she says of the ceremony that took place in Greece last August. “It was actually all pretty seamless. It was an amazing day. I had just worked so super-hard, then had the wedding. I was exhausted afterwards! But so happy.”

The couple postponed their honeymoon for three months until Christmas last year, when Ware took her first real break since before her first album Devotion was released. It’s all started up again now, with tour dates taking Ware up to the summer festivals. “But I like it like that. I twiddle my thumbs when I don’t know what’s next – I like being full steam ahead!”

‘Champagne Kisses’ is out on 23 March