British singer Jessie Ware on summer plans, being herself on stage, and flowers in SF

Pub date April 10, 2013
WriterLaura Kerry

I first heard Jessie Ware’s “If You’re Never Gonna Move” on the road from the East Coast. After that, the song averaged about five plays per state. Ware’s understated and soulful dance pop has the rare ability to adapt to any situation. It eases the tension in a car full of two people with almost irreconcilable taste in music; it works equally well as the soundtrack to a lazy afternoon, and a night out. And it feels good.

The formula, which has earned her recognition in her native UK, is gaining a following in the US. Though the breakthrough album Devotion won’t be released stateside until April 16, many of her concerts, including Thursday’s at the Independent, have sold out to audiences that sing along with every word. (Not to worry, she also has an in-store at Amoeba that day.)

Ware has transformed into a full-fledged pop star. But on the phone, she didn’t fit the stereotype. Pop-stardom doesn’t come naturally to the down-to-earth 28-year-old who was going to go to law school if the whole singing career thing didn’t work out. So far it has, though, and she spoke a bit about how delighted she is about it all:

SFBG How has the North America tour been so far?

Jessie Ware Really good. We started in New York, and I was doing lots of promos, doing gigs. The crowds were just amazing. We did the last show in New York and it was quite full on because MTV was live-streaming it. It was only my third proper gig in New York and I’m getting it streamed to whoever wants to watch it online. That was scary but also lovely.

SFBG Your show at the Independent is sold out, so I take it that it went well the last time you were here a couple months ago.

JW I had the best show ever in San Francisco in that Rickshaw Stop. It was crazy — I got four bunches of flowers at that gig! I I loved it and I love San Francisco. We did a recording for Yours Truly, and we did it in this beautiful flower shop. I can’t wait to wander around again and see San Francisco. I’m told I’m to go to the Mission for good Mexican food.

SFBG Does performing come naturally to you?

JW No, it does not come naturally to me at all. I feel like I’m just starting to really give a performance now. At the beginning I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know whether I was entitled to be a bit over the top. I didn’t feel that comfortable on stage, and I just had to learn. I guess it gets easier when you’re playing to people who have bought tickets to see you. That’s already a bit reassuring, you know?  

I want to kind of tap into the kind of person I play in my videos ever so slightly, but also be myself and really get to know the audience, have a nice conversation whenever I can. Usually, I ask a question and loads of people shout things back at me and I can’t hear what the bloody hell they’re saying. I get myself into trouble because I’ve asked a question and then I have to say, “Whoa!”

SFBG Do you think of genre when you write?

JW I don’t think of genre, I think more of a feel, whether it be upbeat or moody or a bit dramatic. I want the album to feel complete as a whole; all of the songs have to make sense together…I don’t know if the album’s telling a complete story, but I guess it’s quite a lot of romance. Really, it was me experimenting with how to be a songwriter, but thematically they make sense together.

SFBG What is next for you?

I just hope I can keep on playing, really. I’m going to try to be as creative as possible and then play festivals this summer — have a really fun summer and just celebrate that I’m getting to go around the world and perform and play at wonderful festivals that I’ve always wanted to go to anyways.

Jessie Ware
With MS MR, DJ Harry Duncan
Thu/11, 8pm, $18
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421

Thu/11, 6:30pm, free
Amoeba Music
1855 Haight, SF
(415) 831-1200