Belfast Telegraph

Jessie Ware: If I wasn't doing songwriting and singing, I was probably going to be a teacher or a social worker

Jessie Ware returned with her first album in three years in 2017 - her first as a mother. She tells Joe Nerssessian about her need for collaboration, dealing with criticism and her latest Brit Award nomination

Jessie Ware is joking as we sit down in her south London childhood home: "Shall I tell my mum to shut up for the next half an hour?" Photographs of the singer-songwriter and her siblings cover the living room's dresser, shelves and tables. There's a snap of her and husband Sam Burrows on their wedding day and another of Ware graduating from the University of Sussex where she studied English literature.

In the background an ice-cream machine noisily whirrs. Ware adjusts her hair (the interview is being filmed) and explains the ice-cream is for food critic Jay Rayner who is joining her and her mother for their podcast, Table Manners, on which the pair invite different celebrity guests round for dinner and a chat.

But we're not here to talk food. Ware - who last year released her third record, Glasshouse - is headlining a show at London's Bush Hall as part of a series of fundraising gigs organised by non-profit organisation War Child.

She was particularly keen to team up with the charity because of their work with children - a career path she envisioned for herself if the whole music thing hadn't taken off.

"I wanted to work with children and I wanted to work with families," she says. "If I wasn't doing songwriting and singing, I was probably going to be a teacher or a social worker or a family lawyer."

A new mother herself, much of Glasshouse was inspired by pregnancy and maternal love. It also reflects on her daughter's impact on both life and Ware's relationship with Sam, allowing her to write more personally.

"It was a big readjustment. I felt inspired to write about things I maybe hadn't experienced before," she says. "It was a really special time for me to be able to write about her and how life was changing around me."

Ware is an intriguing artist. She started her musical career as a backing vocalist for school friend Jack Penate and worked with fellow south Londoner Sampha prior to 2012's debut Devotion. There's also been collaborations in some form with the likes of Miguel, Dev Hynes and Benny Blanco. Her body of work rejects genre-labelling, although she admits to "dipping my toe deeper into pop recently".

"Maybe it's time to go the other way for a bit?" she says. "I started in this underground, left world and I enjoyed that and it was really fun.

"I don't want to put restrictions on what I do so that's why I've always had loads of different references in every album, whether it'd be a country song or an R 'n' B slow jam or a new producer I found on Facebook and asked if we could work together. It's just making music, that's all I care about."

Ware feeds off collaboration and insists on needing other people to help her creatively.

"I just don't trust my idea is good enough and so I need someone else to go, 'Yeah, but what about that?'."

For a wannabe therapist, it could be easy to dissect those remarks as a lack of confidence or self-identity. Yet Ware is anything but. I know who I am - I know what I want to make, I know the sound. I think I lost myself for a while but overall I know who I am as an artist."

Balancing her time between her daughter and promoting the album has meant little time for writing, yet she is adamant her next record won't be autobiographical.

"I want to do a completely different thing," she says. "It's going to be escapism. It was a beautiful moment for me but... I'm going to take a little holiday away from that."

She has found performing the deeply personal Glasshouse cathartic though and the War Child gig will set her up for her UK and Europe tour in support of the album. In the few shows she has already played, one of the album's songs, Sam - dedicated to her husband and co-written by Ed Sheeran, has become a special moment on-stage for the 33-year-old, with fans embracing the track as a singalong moment.

"I thought it was too personal for them to like it or want it, it's really intense and amazing."

Yet in one review of a gig since the album's October release, a Guardian columnist commented it was "hard to think of a young British artist who has had as easy a ride as Jessie Ware".

Ware often reads reviews and saw the remark. Despite insisting "it's all good" she is still obviously slightly annoyed.

"I really care that this is a show I want to evolve and I care about what the audience thinks. There's been nothing easy about anyone's ride in music," she says.

"It's bloody hard, and to get to your third album there was nothing easy about that.

"Sticks and stones," she adds.

The Brit Award academy obviously agree with Ware. She received a nod in the best British female category - the third time she has been shortlisted for the prize.

"Third time's the charm," she says with a smile. "The Brits are always a huge event and rather intimidating and scary. I don't think I've quite got the hang of the red carpet and you get out of the car and it's always freezing cold and there's always a big gust of wind and you're always wearing a stupid dress that is not correct for a gust of wind," she adds, although she is really quite excited by the ceremony.

"It's always a really fun night and is much more fun when you realise you haven't won and can drink a little bit more so you know that you're not going on stage to accept an award."

But what if that doesn't happen and she were to beat off competition from the likes of Paloma Faith and Laura Marling?

Grinning, she replies: "I think I'd just ask the babysitter to stay a bit later."

Jessie Ware plays Bush Hall, London on February 12 as part of War Child's Brits Week. She is on tour in the UK in March including dates in London and Glasgow. See www.britsweek warchild.co.uk for more details

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