INTERVIEW: Jessie Ware

Taking a chance in sonical exploration, Jessie Ware released the critically acclaimed ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’ last year that heard her diving into an immersive disco soundscape. It was totally left-field to any of the soul influenced ballads she had released before, but it was something that was totally palatable and seemed like a mature growth in her artistry. 

In a world where touring was off the cards, Jessie Ware thought about how she could celebrate the confidence this record has given her. Feeling like the dancing wasn’t over, she decided to write some new songs that continued the story, and revisit some tracks from the cutting-room floor. ‘What’s Your Pleasure’ (The Platinum Pleasure Edition)’ is the final product that sees her giving fans 7 brand new songs and a remix of ‘Adore You’ which beautifully adds to the glittery vision. 

Lead single ‘Please’ was a playful track that could be found somewhere in between Madonna’s ‘Confessions On A Dancefloor’ era with a homage to Grace Jones and Whitney Houston’s back catalogs thrown into the mix. It set the foundations for the heavier dance sound that this edition would lean on with tracks like ‘Impossible’ and ‘Hot N Heavy’ elevating that idea. And she even takes a moment to re-envision what old Jessie Ware would sound like under this new sound with the disco ballad ‘Pale Blue Light’. 

I recently chatted to Jessie Ware about re-visiting the disco exploration behind her critically acclaimed record ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’, dived into the songs ‘Hot N Heavy’ and ‘Pale Blue Light’, and discussed the other creative outlets in her life with her debut book ‘Omelette’ and her podcast ‘Table Manners’. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: ‘What’s Your Pleasure? (The Platinum Edition)’ hears you continuing the disco exploration you dived into last year with seven new songs. So were these tracks demos you had worked on for the original album or were they written fresh and under a new perspective? 

JW: It was a bit of both. Some were written post the record coming out like ‘Eyes Closed’. And then I have one remix on there, and I feel like I’m allowed that one because it feels like a total reinvention of ‘Adore You’. It happened during lockdown with this Chinese artist called Bibi Zhou and I just adored the song. 

But yeah, a lot of them were demo’s that I didn’t pay enough attention to for the original album, and I just didn’t think they fitted on the original record. ‘Overtime’ was obviously a single, but I just feel like it felt too heavy among the other songs on the original record, but amongst tracks like ‘Eyes Closed’, ‘Please’ and ‘Impossible’ it made total sense and it was great to use these songs that were going to go to waste otherwise. 

TB: ’Hot N Heavy’ is a song that immediately stands out from the new tracks with its playful vibe. Can you explain how this track creatively came together?

JW: That was done with SG Lewis right at the very end of us making ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’. SG is a really good friend of mine and I’ve always wanted to work with him. He’s really talented and he’s very much on a disco/house flex. I had Shungudzo and Danny Parker in the country, and I was like let’s go do a session with him, and it was a lot of fun. I had Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine feels for that one. I’s summer in the UK, and the sun is out, so it feels like this song couldn’t have come out at a better time. 

TB: Another favourite of mine was ‘Pale Blue Light’, which was a bit of a slow disco moment.

JW: It’s funny, my husband is really not a fan of that one, and he always does reviews of my records and we still have to film this one, and I know he’s going to rinse that track *laughs*. I love this song as it has a lot of emotion and sentiment. It’s about tapping into the greatest, which to me is Prince, and really going for that electric guitar sad love song. I thought about it like being in an 80’s prom film. In that moment I can visually imagine the music video, and the scene in the film. 

For me it was a really nice way of doing a storytelling moment, and I haven’t done that in a while. I guess that is very similar to previous Jessie Ware stuff. So it felt like a really nice moment in the record to put it on, and people can either take it or leave it. But I’m so glad you love that one. 

TB: Lyrically it had me wanting to dance with tears in my eyes with this lyric; “don’t be a strange to your own heart. Don’t leave me dancing in the pale blue”. So where does that lyric transport you to emotively when you hear it?

JW: When I was writing the song, it just felt really easy. We wrote it on an acoustic guitar which is the way I used to write stuff. It was slightly more classic in the attempt of how we approached the song. I’m really happy and satisfied in my life right now, but maybe at the time it was me saying to myself “buck up, things are going to be alright”. We definitely wrote it very early on where I was in this really weird limbo where we were making this record and I was really excited with where it was going, but I still had this residual hangups of confidence.

TB: I described ‘Please’ in my review as somewhere in between Madonna’s ‘Confessions On A Dancefloor’ era with a homage to Grace Jones and Whitney Houston’s back catalogs. So what was actually inspiring you sonically for that song? 

JW: I will take all over those references because they are huge! For me, I think people can definitely hear a little bit of Madonna with those synths, but I actually thought more of 90’s Kylie Minogue where she verged going on ravey. But also Bjork ‘Big Time Sensuality’, as we wanted it to be a little wonky.

TB: On the original record, ‘Ooh La La’ was one of my favourites because of it’s really intricate production that reminded me a lot of Grace Jones ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’. How long did that song take to really finesse?

JW: Amazing! You know what, that was one of those joyful songs that came together really quickly. James had the bass down and we started to play around with this imaginary 50’s housewife. I had just seen the Harold Pinter play ‘The Lover’ and it was all about this domestic housewife having a really naughty affair with her husband, so it’s all this role-play thing. In my head we were kinda in that world, and it was really easy to write and it was so fun as were pushing the limits.

I think with the attitude and persona of the lyrics I knew I didn’t want it to be a singular vocal. I didn’t really want it to sound like me, I wanted it to be this other universe. The production was really easy, and it was all about adding to it and embellishing it. 

TB: What song from the platinum edition took the longest to hone?

JW: Probably ‘Please’! It was more about loading up the vocals and having this triumphant stabby vocals. ‘Pale Blue Light’ also took a moment to get right with the growth, development and crescendo of it. It really helped once I got my backing vocalists to sing on it to add that soul. I can’t stand just myself on a record, I like to get everyone involved. So I was just being really greedy with that one but I think it made it. 

TB: With it nearly being a year since the release of the album, what’s something you learnt about the record and maybe your connection with it through hearing how its connected with fans and from working on this platinum edition? 

JW: I learnt that I made a really good record that I thought was good and everyone else thought was good too *laughs*. It’s really just bolstered my confidence in my songwriting and my focus. And I think I’ve learnt that I’ve shied away from upbeat music for too long and I should’ve embraced it earlier. 

TB: This week is huge for you because your debut book ‘Omelette’ also comes out which you describe as your food memoir. What has been the most nerve-racking thing about putting this book out compared to music? 

JW: I don’t think I’ve thought about it yet Thomas. I’ve just been tiny got be ignorant to the fact that I’ve just let everyone know about my first date with my husband, boots that wouldn’t fit up my calf, and throwing lobster juice on somebody’s shoulder in a restaurant when I was trying to get my lobster meat out. I don’t think I’ve paid attention to the fact that people are about to know so much more about me. If I think about it, it petrifies me, so I try to not think about it too much *laughs*. 

TB: Before I let you go I wanna quickly talk about the Table Manners podcast because this series is genuinely incredible. You’ve had so many amazing guests on the show, but who has been the one who’s conversation surprised you the most?

JW: Ed Miliband, the MP! I voted for him when he was up against David Cameron. I didn’t feel like I knew him, I felt like he was a bit of a buffoon. I felt sorry for him and I didn’t necessarily think of him as a leader, but I was still going to vote for him because he was Labour. 

We had him over and he was so candid about his regrets and wishing that he showed his personality more. He was so funny, so charismatic, so brilliant, and he’s doing so much in trying to encourage change. He was so honest and open which was really surprising for an MP as you kinda always think they have this facade. I was so bloody gutted because now I think he could’ve been the leader of our country we needed, and I think people took that for granted and didn’t realise how much good he would’ve done.

TB: I personally loved the episode with Michelle Visage!

JW: I’ve met Michelle before so I knew she was a brilliant, warm and lovely person, but I loved how open she was too. It wasn’t all witty Drag Race humour, it was educational and so in-depth. Naomi Scott was also incredible when she came on and talked about her skin disorders she was struggling with. I thought that was really incredible and brave, and I love that people can come to our kitchen and be so open with us. 

‘What’s Your Pleasure? (The Platinum Pleasure Edition)’ is out now!