Artist of the Week: Jessie Ware

This week we take a look at Jessie Ware, ahead of a summer stint at some of the biggest festivals in the country.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 19th Jun 2013.
Originally published: 17th Jun 2013

Although Jessie Ware comes from a family grounded slightly in fame (her father John was a reporter for the BBC’s Panorama whilst sister Hannah is an actress), in the age of Cowell driven ‘superstardom’ she represents a refreshing antidote to the lair of manufactured performers. Like Luther Vandross and Tupac Shakur she built her reputation the hard way, starting off as a backing singer for her singing mate Jack Penate before coming embroiled with a number of dance music producers on the rise.

The first was SBTRKT, the duo combining in late 2010 to knock out the track ‘Nervous’, an instant classic which used the producer’s now patented skittering percussion alongside Ware’s heavenly vocals. The tutelage as a background singer was instantly notable, with her delivery focused on subtlety rather than tearing it out, a factor which would come further to fruition in 2011.

The year would see her contribute more backing vocals, this time on Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials album, but her most interesting development would be hooking up with the stadium sheen of dubstep producer Joker and then the more visceral approach from SBTRKT cohort Sampha. The latter duetted with Ware on ‘Valentine’, starting a pairing which would work brilliantly over the next few years, proving Ware was someone who could do more than just add a bit of soul to a dance track.

It was at this point that fledgling label PMR records signed her up, and in 2012 they would pair her with another of their acts which would prove a pivotal moment in the breakthrough for both artists. The Disclosure remix of ‘Running’ was omnipresent in early 2012, and helped propel good quality commercial dance music back up the charts. Jessie’s part in ending the Guetta and Will.I.Am hegemony of dance music on daytime radio would be enough for us to love her, but it was merely the starting point for the lead-up to her beyond brilliant album Devotion, released later in the year.

Said album was arguably the finest of 2012, a heady mixture of British soul, R&B, that harked back to the shimmering soul of the eighties (you can read this writer’s doe eyed tribute here). It drew Jessie comparisons with the likes of Kate Bush and Sade, with her sophisticated and subtle vocals a more elegant counterpart to the other songstress benefitting from the urban pop renaissance, Katy B. Production came from Dave Okumu of the Invisible, Julio Bashmore and Kid Harpoon, with man of the moment rapper A$AP Rocky appearing on a remix of ‘Wildest Moments’.

The two are part of the huge bill on the Sunday leg of the Yahoo Wireless festival, joining the British debut of the Legends of the Summer tour between Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z, as well as appearances from further hip-hop royalty in the shape of Nas and A Tribe Called Quest. Jessie’s live prowess ensured many of the dates on her live tour at the tail end of 2012 were sold out, so you can be sure to expect her to bring the noise, softly softly of course.

We’ll leave you with our favourite track, her gorgeous cover of Bobby Caldwell’s ‘Do for Love’, another partnership with that man Sampha and the first song that made us fall well and truly in love with Jessie. It’s an affair that shows no signs of abating just yet. 

Head here to read previous artists of the weeks.

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