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Jessie Ware

50 Questions With Jessie Ware

Ahead of the release of her new album That! Feels Good!, the south London songstress answers 50 quickfire questions from AnOther spanning her podcast, the patriarchy and Prince

Lead ImageJessie Ware

Jessie Ware makes some of the best disco music around. With 2020’s stunning What’s Your Pleasure? album, she managed to be sultry and sweaty at the same time – something few of us ever pull off, especially on a packed club floor. Now she’s instructing us to “shake it till your pearls fall off” on Pearls, a shimmering stomper from her upcoming fifth album That! Feels Good!.

Like Ware herself, that album title is giving high camp, but she is smart enough to know that ‘camp’ is a complicated matter – as we discuss in this wide-ranging interview. The south London musician, who also hosts the hit podcast Table Manners with her mum Lennie, is more than happy to chat about everything from Kylie Minogue to ending the patriarchy. By the end, you’ll have no doubt that Ware has attained ‘Mother’ status.

1. Where are you right now? Sitting outside in the freezing cold at Coal Drops Yard.

2. What will you be doing after this interview? Going for breakfast with an old friend – very nice.

3. What makes a Jessie Ware song? Musical theatre, disco, soul and a bit of flirtation.

4. What makes you want to shake it till the pearls fall off? Giving generously joyful music as opposed to being quite a misery guts, which I’ve realised I was at the beginning of my career. But that was only because I was nervous and scared.

5. What is the purpose of dance music? Freeing yourself. Oh God, that sounds like I’m referencing my own song.

6. Who is the queen of disco? Donna Summer. But if we’re talking about queens right now, Róisín Murphy.

7. When did you last experience tough love? Oh, from my children on a daily basis. But that could just be me feeling highly guilty the whole time.

8. Which female artists should have been nominated for British Artist of the Year at the Brit Awards? Rina Sawayama and Charli XCX. They’re both true artists and pop stars who’ve had a cracking year and should be celebrated.

9. What would your parents like you to have done for a living? I think my mum’s quite happy with how my career has turned out. But my dad wanted me to be a police officer, probably because he wanted to be a police officer.

10. Do you enjoy working with your mum? Well, me trying to explain TikTok to her yesterday on Zoom was something to behold – she really threw her toys out of the pram! But I acknowledge that what we have with the podcast is very special, and I’m proud that so many people have really embraced her.

11. What are you most proud of in your career? The resurrection of my career. When I became at peace with the artist I wanted to be and started to enjoy myself, it all kind of paid off.

12. Who would play you in a movie of your life? Gemma Arterton maybe – if you squinted? But I’d love Barbra Streisand or Bette Midler to play the older me.

13. What is your biggest regret? Treating early motherhood like the most serious job. I don’t think I allowed myself to enjoy it enough.

14. What is the most important lesson you have learned? Fuck it, I’m going to quote RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”

15. What did you learn growing up in south London? That people in north London are arseholes. We may have fewer coffee places, but that’s OK because we have soul and spirit.

“[I regret] treating early motherhood like the most serious job. I don’t think I allowed myself to enjoy it enough” – Jessie Ware

16. What did you learn growing up in a Jewish family? That all things can be solved with food, and our way of communicating is to raise our voices.

17. What did you learn opening for Harry Styles? He is a phenomenal performer and his fans are incredibly generous. I think because he gave me his seal of approval, they were like, “It’s OK, Jessie’s one of us.”

18. What’s on your rider? Honey and tea. My mum thought I was really boring when we did the podcast tour because she asked for Whispering Angel!

19. What is your go-to meal? Soups – big, big soups.

20. If any artist was going to cover your ballad Wildest Moments, who should it be? Someone with a big TikTok following. I’m still waiting for someone to cover that song and make it a hit.

21. Which use of a Jessie Ware song in a film or TV show do you like the best? They used Wildest Moments in a condom advert, which I thought was really fucking clever. But I was very proud when they used Say You Love Me in a prom scene in Looking. [The show’s stars] Jonathan Groff and Russell Tovey came to my gig in San Francisco and Jonathan was like, “We have to get that song in the show.”

22. What song does Madonna absolutely have to do on her Celebration Tour? Take a Bow. I absolutely love that song.

23. What do you do when you have an unexpected day off? Watch shit reality TV in bed – much to the annoyance of my husband.

24. Where is your happy place? Skopelos in Greece. It’s where I got engaged and where I got married. As soon as I get there, I instantly feel more relaxed.

25. What word do we as a society overuse? Literally. And I know I say it too much.

26. How do you rate your vocabulary? Mediocre.

27. Who is the underrated artist you know of? I find that question problematic, because if I name someone and they read this, they’ll be like, “Fuck you – I thought I was doing quite well!”

28. Where is your favourite nightclub? My most nostalgic nightclub is probably Mass in Brixton, because that’s where it all began for me. I used to sneak in underage. 

29. What is the filthiest word you know? I’ve inherited the word ‘cunt‘ from my crew. It’s really gross and uncouth. Or at least I thought it was until I was on a trip with Layton Williams and he was like: “I’m going to make myself look really cunty tonight.” So I guess it’s not as filthy as it once was.

30. What was the last film or TV show to make you cry? My Unorthodox Life. I also cry at every episode of This Is Us, which is the most manipulative television I’ve ever watched.

31. What’s the key to getting the most out of social media? If I knew that, I’d be laughing. As a musician, I have a love-hate relationship with social media because it’s almost like having a second job. I don’t think it suits me, and I feel kind of gross about it, but at the same time I enjoy being a voyeur on it.

32. Do you ever fully lose your temper? Very rarely. And it tends to be trying to park in an underground car park.

33. Do you believe in life after love? Abso-fucking-lutely!

34. What is the campest thing you’ve ever seen? Well, this interview is going quite camp. But am I allowed to say that? The reason I ask is because I described something as camp the other day, and my brother, who is gay, was like, “No, don’t do that.” And we had a whole debate about it, so now I’m checking myself.

35. Are you a tidy person or a messy person? Absolute slob.

“[The Traitors is] one of the greatest pieces of television I’ve seen in my life. Me and my husband had insomnia for about two weeks just thinking about it” – Jessie Ware

36. What keeps you awake at night? The Traitors. It’s one of the greatest pieces of television I’ve seen in my life. Me and my husband had insomnia for about two weeks just thinking about it.

37. Of everyone you’ve met, who had the most star quality? Dolly Parton, even though it was on Zoom. When she left, it was like someone had turned all the lights off.

38. What makes Kylie, Kylie? She’s a great leader who is so loved and respected. When we did the Kiss of Life video together, I had just given birth nine weeks earlier, so I was quite assertive and said I couldn’t be there the whole time. When I arrived, Kylie had already been there for four hours and was in the greatest mood. She really geed up my performance and stayed right until the end with no animosity. I remember thinking, “Wow, you’re amazing.”

39. How do you make a podcast a success? You need a 70-year-old called Lennie.

40. What’s your top interviewing tip? Don’t research too much. If I started trying to be a journalist, the podcast wouldn’t be the same. It’s meant to be us chatting, not an interview.

41. Who’s your dream guest? Barbra Streisand, or Amy Winehouse if she was still with us.

42. What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? “You’re going to feel quite gorgeous and special when you reach your thirties and stop apologising for yourself.”

43. How would you explain the concept of gender to an alien who just landed on Earth? I think it’s going to become less and less important. In a few years, gender isn't even going to be a discussion – it’s going to be our values that define us, and that’s great. But at the moment, it’s a divisive topic that is just so brutal and unfair on certain groups. 

44. How do we end the patriarchy? Patience, sadly. It’s moving in the right direction, but slowly. Maybe we’ll get there in another century.

45. Which Jessie Ware song deserves more attention? Say You Love Me. It’s well known among my fans, but more people should know it.

46. What about justice for Imagine It Was Us? Oh God, really? That song takes me back to a time when I thought I was going to be dropped [by my label] and had to write a new song, so it has this sense of desperation for me. But it is quite fun, I suppose, and people seem to like it.

47. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given? This isn’t very profound but: “Don’t shit on your doorstep.”

48. What is the best club song ever made? I Feel Love [by Donna Summer]. Or Controversy by Prince. Actually, my biggest regret is probably turning down an offer to support Prince because I was getting fucking married and had to do a fucking recce of the venues.

49. What’s your pleasure? Cream on ice cream. But everyone knows that.

50. Finally, did you enjoy this interview? I really did, though I’m a little scared I’ll read it and think I sound like a saccharine idiot. I won’t, will I?

Pearls by Jessie Ware is out now. She will perform on Radio 2's Piano Room on 20 February 2023.