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ARTICLE ZAC BAYLY

PHOTOGRAPHY DAVID HUGHES

STYLIST MICHELE RAFFERTY

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BACKSTAGE: MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA

BACKSTAGE: SONIA RYKIEL

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Makeup Sarah Reygate using Giorgio Armani Cosmetics (MY-Management)  Hair Lok Lau using Bumble and bumble (CLM Hair & Makeup)  Photo assistant Steve Neilson  Retouching Tablet Retouching  Location Concorde 2 Brighton

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PHOTOGRAPHY DAVID HUGHES
FASHION MICHELE RAFFERTY
TEXT ZAC BAYLY

DJ TURNED CHART-TOPPING SINGER (AND SELF-PROCLAIMED WORRIER) JESSIE WARE IS RISING THROUGH THE RANKS—AND SOON WILL EVEN LEARN TO ENJOY IT

For “Running,” her first solo video, singer Jessie Ware took a Method-like approach to preparations. “I wanted to be like, Bang! I’m not a backing singer anymore,” she explains.  “This is my song, and I’m going to own it! I watched loads of Whitney Houston clips the night before. I wanted it to be over-the-top. I wanted to behave like a pop star.” 

Of course what ended up happening was more adorably drunken than diva. “I had a whiskey before we shot, and on the second take I fell down the stairs,” she laughs, reaching under the table to reveal a sizable scar on her right foot. “There was blood everywhere!” 

Whether or not she behaves like a pop star, Ware is fast gaining the following of one. A few hours after this interview, her first U.K. tour—which was sold out—will conclude with a performance at Electric Brixton. She mentions the venue is just down the road from where we’re seated, in Ritzy Cinema’s bar, and then points down another street, exclaiming, “I live just down there!” The hometown performance will round out a stellar year for the artist, which saw the release of her first album, Devotion, and its nomination for the prestigious Mercury Prize. While Ware first gained attention for her sultry vocals on dubstep track “Nervous,” which she recorded with SBTRKT, she confesses that Devotion owes more to the influence of soulful artists such as Lauryn Hill and Sade than to London’s underground dance scene. 

“I loved my underground dance collaborations,” she says when asked why this album marked such a departure from the music genre that helped launch her into the limelight. “They loved me and accepted me and let me do music when I didn’t think I was going to. But I’m not a producer. I wasn’t making beats. I wanted to take those influences and create a more classic sound. I wanted to make something that could be played in clubs but could also be played to my mum.”

“My friend and I used to do a DJ thing, actually,” she adds, perhaps hoping to tactfully explain where her musical interests really lie. “We were called Yentl and the Gentile, and I used to wear a Barbra Streisand T-shirt. I was Yentl and she was the Gentile. It was so camp! We used to play Wedding Singer–style sets, with lots of party songs. We’d go from Chaka to Prince to Gwen McCrae.”

Luckily, The Invisible’s Dave Okumu was as impressed by Ware’s voice as he was appreciative of her taste in music: the front man turned producer approached her with the beginnings of the album’s title track, “Devotion,” shortly after meeting her manager at a barbecue. “We instantly just fell madly in love with one another, as friends,” Ware gushes. “He’s really helped me, nurtured me, and mentored me while I’m trying to become an artist. I think he’s actually supernatural. He’s a wonder.” 

Even with Okumu’s reassurance, nerves plague the songstress, she admits. “I think it’s a Jewish thing. I’m so neurotic—I’m like Larry David. I’ve gotten to a position where all these people are helping me, and I don’t want to let them down. And really, deep down, I know there’s nothing to worry about. Maybe now I’m in a position to start thinking about how I want to run my career, and how I want my music to affect people…” 

Gesturing emphatically toward her heart, she concludes, “I guess I just want to know that people feel something, you know?” 

Devotion is available on April 2 from Cherrytree/Interscope

EXTRA CREDITS

Makeup Sarah Reygate using Giorgio Armani Cosmetics (MY-Management)  Hair Lok Lau using Bumble and bumble (CLM Hair & Makeup)  Photo assistant Steve Neilson  Retouching Tablet Retouching  Location Concorde 2 Brighton

MORE TO LOVE

PREMIERE VIDEO: XYMOX - CALL IT WEIRD THE VIDEO: CHLEB PREMIERE EP: CRYSTAL FIGHTERS THE VIDEO: DAVID LYNCH & LYKKE LI
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