British Breakthrough Week - Artist Spotlight: Jessie Ware

Artist Spotlight: Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware is a true musical talent with the striking beauty and soulful voice of a pop star and the personality of your best friend. As one of the country’s brightest young new comers, she’s had quite the year and quite frankly, marks a new era of pop.

Her outstanding debut album Devotion has given her a nod as British Breakthrough Act and British Female Solo Artist and combines the ultra-modern feel of downtempo R&B and British electronic music with the melodrama of classic stars like Sade and Whitney Houston.

South London born Jessie started singing at school, inspired by the romance of her mother's Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter tapes, appearing in musicals and picking up some classical training along the way. But Jessie didn’t think a career in music was ever her destiny. “I didn't think it was ever going to be possible,” she admits, having put her dreams of being a singer on hold. “It always broke my heart a bit. I couldn't even do it as a past-time, because it made me feel too sick to only half do it.”

Instead, she pursued an alternative career as a journalist - “I wanted to be a football reporter for a red top,” she confesses – until a chance phone call from her old friend Jack Penate changed the direction of her life completely. He remembered she could sing from school, and asked if she'd do backing vocals for him on a Zane Lowe BBC session. She leapt at the chance. “I thought, this is brilliant, it's really fun, singing,” she recalls. “Maybe I could be a backing singer.” Jack took her on tour with him, at first around the UK festival circuit, then to America. 

In the States, Jack's guitarist introduced her to the music of a new producer he knew, now going by the name SBTRKT. He lived down the road from her in Tooting, and as soon as she got home, she went round to his house, and the two collaborated on the track “Nervous”. 

Thankfully, and obviously, things didn't stop there. With her name on everyone's lips, the time seemed right for an album. “I needed to take a step back from being a dance vocalist,” she explains. “As much as I love the underground scene and was lucky enough to be accepted by it, I wanted to set that apart and learn how to be a classic songwriter. It meant working hard, because I didn't want to put out crap. I wanted a bit of longevity. I didn't want to be a flash in the pan.”

An intimate gig at the Nave church in Islington in March 2012 marked the moment it all came together. Looking every inch the classy pop star, Jessie unveiled her new sound, with the help of her own live band. 

Her debut album Devotion contains that effortless poise within 11 laid-back, soulful pop songs that run the spectrum of sweet and dark. With one of the year's finest albums under her belt, the only way is up for Jessie Ware. “I want to be a pop star, in the classic sense, like Annie Lennox, or Sade, or Whitney,” she says. “There's something classy about them. I'm going for the big ones!”

Get to know Jessie even better in our exclusive video below: