What does it take to become the music scene’s most exciting rising star? A top five debut album and Mercury Prize nomination? Sure. Sitting FROW at London Fashion Week? Oh yes! Jessie Ware ticks every box. Even as she releases the fourth single Night Light from her album Devotion, she’s attracting buzz for her distinctive voice.
Not bad considering this time last year Jessie was a backing singer to best friend Jack Penate, finding the highly competitive music industry daunting. ‘I think I was a bit shy of it,’ Jessie tells Grazia. ‘I had inspiration from experiences in my life, growing up in South London, but didn’t necessarily know how to channel it until then.
Jack helped bring it out in me. He introduced me to his producer Dave Okumu who helped bring out my writing and when I knew that was what I wanted to do, Jack let me come on tour with him. When we were writing, Dave always said just trust yourself, this is all about you.”’
Jessie Ware's debut album, Devotion, entered the charts at No 5 in August
A year on, Jessie is more at ease with the songwriting process. ‘I’m still learning though. Some days I’ll have ideas, bring them to a session and they just won’t work. Then there are songs that just come quickly, like Sweet Talk and Wildest Moments which took just nine months to write. I’ve gone with my gut the whole time and I’ve made an album I’m really proud of.’
She should be. Jessie’s music, a dramatic hybrid of 80s synth, 90s R‘n’B and modern electro, is subtle yet powerful, and a refreshing antidote to the in-your-face Europop trend. Haunting Running has a definite nod to vintage Whitney Houston whilst 110% has a hint of euphoric drum n bass that’s reminiscent of Shola Ama.
It’s not just the music world that’s crushing on Jessie; her sleek, androgynous Lisa Stansfield-meets-Gloria Estefan image is catching the eyes of designers. ‘Armani sent me a tailored suit, which I’ll keep forever,’ she says. ‘I’m living in Rupert Sanderson shoes, Theory jodhpurs and love D&G. They’re good for curvaceous women - really sexy and feminine.
'I’m learning about fashion and what suits me,' she continued. 'I would never have shown my stomach before I met my stylist Avigail Collins, but she’s put me in crop tops!’
Unsurprisingly, London Fashion Week appearances have followed. ‘At Jonathan Sanders Daisy Lowe yanked my arm and said, “Come on you’re sitting next to me.” She is the sweetest person in the world!’
Jessie Ware and Daisy Lowe at LFW
But still Jessie can't quite get to grips with this sudden rise to fame. ‘It's mad,’ she says. ‘I went to Belgium and Poland recently and fans asked for my autograph. People are interested in me; it's bizarre! I definitely don’t consider myself famous. Although one guy came up to me recently and said, “Has anyone ever told you, you look like Jessie Ware?”’
Something tells us she’d better get used to that global recognition…
Night Light, official video
Jessie’s single Night Light is released on Monday and her album Devotion is out now.
By Katie Burnetts