Jessie Ware On Learning To Trust Herself The pop singer and songwriter sounds more comfortable and assured on her second album, Tough Love. "This life is quite bizarre sometimes," she tells NPR's Audie Cornish.

Jessie Ware On Learning To Trust Herself

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Singer Jessie Ware broke out from an already crowded pack of British R&B divas back in 2012. She's got a powerhouse alto that she can wield like a dance floor weapon. But on her new album, "Tough Love," she's all romantic croon.


JESSIE WARE: (Singing) Whose fault is it that I'm crazy about you?

CORNISH: Her lyrics are sweet, which is surprising because by her own admission and that of her father, Jessie Ware's got a smart mouth.

WARE: He says I have a mouth like a sewer.

CORNISH: Or really? (Laughter).

WARE: And yes and I have to really check myself.

CORNISH: I'll tell the producers to be at the ready.

WARE: Yeah, don't worry. I'm going to try to be really well-behaved today because it's NPR and because I'm also in the BBC while I'm doing this. So it kind of feels like you have to be really well-behaved here.

CORNISH: Well, with our fingers poised over the bleep button, we get down to the business of talking about Ware's songwriting, which comes off as confident and assured.

The thing is, Ware once tried her hand at another style of writing as a journalist like her dad. And while it didn't take, songwriting, she says, feels just as hard.

WARE: I'm not a good writer. I do not find words very easy. I love melodies and I can sing with passion but words don't come that easy to me. And so that's why I kind of - I didn't want to be a journalist - because I just didn't think I was a very good writer. And ironically now, I am a songwriter.


WARE: (Singing) Say you love me to my face. I need you more than your embrace.

CORNISH: On the song "Say You Love Me," the writing is very lovely and very straightforward.

WARE: Yeah.

CORNISH: Can you talk a little bit about how it came together?

WARE: Yeah, it's a song I wrote with Ed Sheeran.

CORNISH: Who is like the biggest pop songwriter in the world right now.

WARE: (Laughter). Kind of a big deal.



WARE: (Singing) 'Cause I don't want to fall in love if you don't want to try.

WARE: I feel like Ed and I write in very different ways. However, I think what does connect us is this kind of directness and simplicity with how we put across emotions or feelings. And it was inspiring to be with somebody who is so confident about his craft and his art, whereas I kind of seek approval all the time. That's why - kind of why I love working with other people. I need to collaborate 'cause I never trust my opinions enough.


WARE: (Singing) Slowly slowly you run for me, but do you know me at all? Someone told me love controls everything, but only if you know.

CHOIR: (Singing) 'Cause I don't want to fall in love.

>>WARE (Singing) No, no, no, no, no, no.

CHOIR: If you don't want to try.

WARE: (Singing) Could you try sometime?

CORNISH: I know everyone's going to start clapping in their - in their house.


CORNISH: You know, I read you said that for your first album, you actually - you got a lot of writer's block and that you were scared. And was this process any smoother?

WARE: Yeah. Oh, yeah. It was a walk in the park compared to my first record. The first time, it was just - I think I got signed too quickly. And I'm very glad that I got signed. But I think I felt like I was kind of trying to prove to myself and everybody else that they hadn't made a bad decision, even though I didn't know whether they'd made a good decision or a bad decision yet myself, so...

CORNISH: (Laughter) And we should say, for people who don't know your work, you had done a lot of kind of feature singing on other people's albums. And then you came out with "Devotion," which became a pretty big album.


WARE: (Singing) Baby, in our wildest moments, we could be the greatest. We could be the greatest.

CORNISH: It's funny hearing you say that you felt unsure of yourself because all of the like images from that album like on the cover of it and things like that, you look very intimidating.

WARE: I know.

CORNISH: It's like this stark black-and-white photography.

WARE: I think I was trying to go for that Beyonce-fierce vibe. But maybe it didn't come across quite like that. It was just a - I looked like a cow.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

WARE: No, I was scared. And I was like - I felt like I needed to kind of put my armor on and that was makeup and hoops and slicked back hair. And it was like OK. You want to try and be a popstar. Go and then try. And like try mean business.

So for me it was a lot to do with kind of camouflaging. And I'm feeling like I fit in that way. But this time I've got like the messiest hair on the front cover - got a pulled out white shirt. I mean, it couldn't be more different. I think it's probably because I feel a bit more comfortable this time around.

CORNISH: And really, a very lovely chill vive - especially on a song like "Tough Love."


WARE: (Singing) It's already that time that you hope my mind is true. And I've been thinking of what to say or not to do

CORNISH: You know, on this and other songs, it seems like your voice is much more in the forefront that...

WARE: Yeah.

CORNISH: And you're doing more things with it. And before, I think people remarked on how much production was in your music. And was there a conscious effort to say like all right, I'm really going to sing. And you're really all going to hear it. It's not going to be buried in any...

WARE: It wasn't my decision, I'll tell you that.

CORNISH: Oh, really?

WARE: I was - I was like put more production - put more reverb on it.

CORNISH: Reverb? (Laughter).

WARE: I'll sing "Tough Love" in the octave lower, because that's how I quite like to sing it. And I think I could sing it like that. And then Benny was like no, why don't you try the octave higher and see how you go. And I was like...

CORNISH: This is your producer, Benny Blanco?

WARE: It was a lot to do being like come on, it's time for you to show yourself.


WARE: (Singing) When your heart becomes a million different pieces, that's when you won't believe how to recognize those feelings. That's called tough love.

CORNISH: On a song like this, I can actually hear the influence that people bring up time and time again, where they'll mention Sade or even Annie Lennox. And what's interesting about you being compared to those artists is they obviously are quite private. And do you feel the same way? And how do you do that in this day and age?

WARE: I mean, first of all, I haven't had a career like either of those two amazing women. But what I do find very appealing and inspiring about them is that, you know, they are both mothers. And they are women that've been able to have a huge career, you know. Whether it'd be they take 10 or five years out, they can come back and they can play to their audience and they have a fan base.

And yet you don't see them in the papers every day. You know, they're not getting papped (ph) at airports. Now, to be honest, I've never had this problem yet. I got papped (ph) properly the other day in Manchester and it really threw me. I was just like...

CORNISH: Like paparazzi outside a store waiting?

WARE: Yeah. I was coming outside a restaurant. We were all joking being like, oh my God, I was full - like making the most disgusting faces, sticking our tummies out.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

WARE: I was like why does that guy got a big camera? Oh, oh, OK.

CORNISH: It's for you. (Laughter).

WARE: Posture - come on, Jessie, posture. And it was very peculiar. And so that has never happened to me apart from, you know, when you're on a red carpet. There's loads of people.

So yeah, I am private. I'm very open and I'm very honest in interviews and I don't feel like I need to hide anything necessarily. But I do want to remain - have like a normal life as much as possible 'cause this life is quite bizarre sometimes.


WARE: (Singing) This has got to be the best thing that I ever felt - feels like heaven in hell. Is it real? I can't tell. I can't tell.

CORNISH: Well, Jessie Ware, thank you so much for talking with us.

WARE: Oh, is that it? That was a pleasure.

CORNISH: Jessie Ware - her new album is called Tough Love."


WARE: (Singing) Then I don't want to know - no, no, oh-oh.

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