Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware

The Soulful Pop Crooner Connects With The Smoothest Man In The Business, BabyFace

The Soulful Pop Crooner Connects With The Smoothest Man In The Business, BabyFace

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Mel Ottenberg

JESSIE WARE Thank you very much for doing this.

BABYFACE Well I’m honored. I love your voice.

JW That’s a massive compliment coming from you. You’ve made some of my favorite tunes. “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” that’s one of my favorite Whitney songs. And [Madonna’s] “Take A Bow,” oh, and “You’re Makin’ Me High.” That’s the song my friends and I go to after we’ve had a night out. It can either start a party or it can be at the end of a party, it’s so versatile.

B Thank you. Toni [Braxton] came to me with that track. Bryce Wilson had done it for her. She played it for me and the melody just hit me. I wrote it right there on the spot.

JW Oh, shit! What’s so clever about it is it has that build within the verse that creeps up, and then by the chorus it does this cascading thing that kind of moves up there, and it never climaxes until “you’re making me high.” It’s got such a sweet spot where it builds in the verse and it feels like this temptation, and then this subtle crescendo. It’s fucking brilliant.

B Thank you. You don’t sound like I thought you would.

JW I know. It’s such a disappointment when you meet me and I have a potty mouth. Everyone thinks I look like an absolute bitch in my videos because I look quite cold and shy, and then you chat with me. Whenever anyone meets me they think I’m just somebody that works for the label, or I’m someone’s assistant, which is quite hysterical, quite fun actually.

B I’m not surprised by that at all. You can’t really judge somebody by the way they sing. The only part you can judge is, when someone has a voice like yours, usually somewhere in there, there’s been some pain. When I work with an artist, mostly female artists, I try to dig deep to find out what makes them tick, what causes their pain, because that’s what I like to use.

JW Really? How many artists have you made cry?

B Almost all of them.

JW I’m never working with you!

B We go to that space, but it’s nice to go to that space just to talk about our lives and talk about not just musically what inspires us but what inspires us in terms of what happened personally in our lives and those things that you don’t necessarily want to talk about.

JW It’s funny because on my first record, I did it with this amazing man, Dave Okumu. He knew how funny I am in recording studios, because we had written all the songs in his living room in South London. He tried to recreate his room in the booth, so he was like, Come on, bring some vinyl that you really love. We had Grace Jones, Sonic Youth, Prince, and everything in his living room, but the two vinyls I brought into the studio were Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand. When in doubt, I would be like, What would Whitney do? What would Barbra do? And you’ve worked with both of them.

B Yeah, those are two great ones.

JW I’ve only got two records, and I feel very, very, new, but with this record, I made the majority of it with these two guys called Benny Blanco and Two Inch Punch. Together they make this duo called BenZel. We fought so much. It wasn’t in a bad way. They just tested me. Essentially, we’re friends. It’s these incredibly intense situations which kind of happen in short pockets of time, but you either create beautiful relationships or disintegrate things.

B Exactly. It can go the opposite way sometimes. You never know. Sometimes you think that you found the perfect person and it makes all the sense in the world. But it doesn’t.

JW I get that. I mean there was one session, at the beginning of writing my second album, I managed to work with this person and I put myself under so much pressure to make it work because I worshiped this writer, and when I actually worked with him, I choked in the studio because I kind of worked myself up so much, I kind of sabotaged it.

B You’ve got to give yourself a chance to fail first. Get it wrong a couple times.

JW Three songs ended up on that second record that I wrote when I wasn’t even supposed to be writing. It was supposed to just be a trip to New York to escape touring for a bit. The essence of this record came from when we weren’t overthinking it. And there’s such an optimism in America. I was just in the States last week. I love the American audience, they seem to kind of get more of the R&B soul sensibilities of the music that I do. I used to do a Bobby Caldwell cover, “What You Won’t Do for Love.” You’d have someone shout out, “Nothin’ wrong with you, girl!” like that. You wouldn’t have that with a British audience.

B That’s amazing. I think normally we think the opposite. The European crowd is a little more passionate. But we’re not family. And you’re not family when you’re here. You know, there’s been a British invasion for years now, in America, where artists from the U.K. come here doing soul music and R&B. And the younger kids today don’t really mess with that over here. You’re appreciated by an audience here because they don’t get it new here.

JW It’s been really wonderful. People really enjoy my references. Aaliyah, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, TLC. I do feel a resurgence of it.

B Well I would definitely like to see one of your shows next time you’re here.

JW Yeah absolutely! You’d be so welcome!

Tough Love is available now from Interscope Records.

Credits: Makeup Lisa Butler  Hair Didier Malige Manicure Deborah Lippmann (Magnet) Creative movement director Stephen Galloway (theCollectiveShift) Lighting director Jodokus Driessen  Digital technician Brian Anderson Studio manager Marc Kroop  Photo assistant Joseph Hume  VLM producer Jeff Lepine Stylist assistants Alexa Lanza, David Casavant, Charlotte Fetridge Makeup assistant Rachel Singer Clark  Hair assistant Takashi Yusa Production Stephanie Bargas, Lauren Pistoia, Disco Meisch (theCollectiveShift) Production assistants Tucker Birbilis, Daniel Alexandre, Eva Frances Harte Retouching Stereohorse  Locations Pier 59 Studios and ROOT Studios

UP NEXT

With a Little Help from My Fwends