For Our Pleasure
While dancing has been relegated to bedrooms, back gardens and balconies for the last 18 months, it hasn’t dulled Jessie Ware’s desire to get the party started. The artist speaks to Conor Behan about music, life and lockdown.
Last year, Jessie Ware’s fourth album, What’s Your Pleasure, was a critical and commercial success, combining sleek disco influences with assured song-writing. And thankfully, Ware hasn’t stopped there, this month sees the release of Platinum Pleasure -an deluxe edition of the album with new tracks
“I feel like it’s definitely satisfying my fans and that is the most important thing,” Ware tells me about the deluxe, joining me on a Zoom call from her London home. “I just wanted to keep the party going a bit.”
And this is not a quick cash grab, Ware was keen to put a solid amount of new material on this release. “I feel like I’ve been rather generous with this deluxe,” she tells me, joking “All my fans keep on saying I’m feeding them so that’s great!”
While Ware is excited to return to the world of What’s Your Pleasure, she’s also quick to point out her next album, which she’s already working on, “isn’t going to be What’s Your Pleasure again. It can’t be. This is this moment. So why not keep on going with this for a little bit longer before the next sound.”
The sound of this current era for Ware pulls on disco, synth pop, and nods to the past with a keen eye on the present. SG Lewis, a buzzed about pop producer who has made a splash in the last 18 months, produces a new track for this collection while Kindness, a critically acclaimed trans artist and producer, who worked on track ‘Step Into My Life’ on the original album, contributes another track for the deluxe. “‘0208’ is definitely like the interlude within the deluxe,” Ware tells me of her new collab with Kindness, adding, “it’s quite sentimental and I think it shows off Kindness’ production which is incredible.”
Women in pop having a loyal LGBTQ+ audience may not be a new thing but Ware is open and honest about how queer stories have informed her work. I ask her about a recent comment during an interview with Michelle Visage on Ware’s podcast Table Manners where Visage discussed her time in the ballroom culture of ‘80s New York. Referencing the ground-breaking LGBTQ+ drama Pose, Ware said on the podcast how that show helped inspire What’s Your Pleasure.
“I thought that the music Pose used was really brilliant,” Ware tells me, adding, “for me it was very much about trying to pretend that I was imagining a song being in a ballroom, in like a runway scene.”
Ware points out that the show pushed her to understand the history of the time it was set in. “I did some research not because I wanted this to feel like a history lesson but I was interested in the culture” she says noting, “I started reading Love Saves the Day and learning about these different, really important, songs like Fern Kinney’s ‘Love Me Tonight.’”
Noting how Kinney’s track was said to be played at the end of the night in clubs at the peak of the AIDS crisis and became a queer anthem, Ware admits “that was very much a reference for the record” adding “even Blondie, and it was quite a lot of ‘70s, ‘80s New York scene. That was kind of my interest.”
Of making the album Ware said, “I went with my gut and I trusted my instincts,” pointing out that she and her collaborators “just dug in and created this world that we wanted to be in.” It’s obviously paid off, as evidenced by Ware telling me, “I’m just so reassured and empowered by the fact that the reaction has been so wonderful”
It nearly didn’t happen that way after Ware’s third album, the more serious and autobiographical Glasshouse, saw her struggle to balance her role as a new mother (Ware had her first child in 2016 a year before that album was released and is currently pregnant with her third) with a rigorous touring schedule.
“I didn’t have the support that I needed,” Ware admits, noting that she changed management, changed labels and leaned into the runaway success of the Table Manners podcast confessing “then everything kind of simplified and I managed to relearn how to enjoy myself.”
Table Manners sees Ware and her mother Lennie invite a different celeb (everyone from Kylie Minogue to Tom Jones have appeared) round for dinner for entertaining conversations about food and life in general. A runaway success, the show has millions of listeners, and led to both a cookbook authored by the pair and Ware’s other new project the “food memoir” Omelette which was debuting the week I spoke to her.
“I think that the podcast gave me a confidence to feel like I could show people myself warts and all and I also didn’t need to do another autobiographical record,” Ware tells me, adding that it made her realise she could bring her sense of humour and fun to her popstar life. “I felt like I needed to make something that was uplifting and fun because I needed that as an artist and I felt like my fans needed it too. It was time for a change and it was time for a spring clean.”
It’s helped Ware’s profile enormously, including a guest judge spot on the much loved second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK which Ware said was a “huge deal for me”.
“This record has really propelled me” Ware says, noting that when it came to Drag Race, “If I had been on a few years ago I wouldn’t have allowed myself to have as much fun. I would have been scared, I would have been embarrassed, I would have been apologetic.”
A newly confident Ware said she saw the show as “a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity” even if filming the show amid Covid-19 restrictions made it a slightly different television experience.
“It was very odd because I wasn’t allowed to bring anybody, because of all the restrictions, so I had to get my hair and makeup done in my house. And then I had to go there and it was like my first day of school,” Ware recalls with a laugh, adding that being sat beside her friend Alan Carr helped her settle in.
“Michelle was the warmest person and Ru told me I was really good,” Ware excitedly recalls adding, “I didn’t stop beaming all day I was so happy and appreciative.”
Calling Drag Race a “special show” Ware praised the cast of queens and said, “I took it quite seriously, my judging role.”
Ware tells me of this imperial phase she finds herself in, noting: “I’m ten years down the line now of making music and I feel like I’m getting better. For so long I was this best kept secret, which kind of worked for me, and I didn’t want to be a huge star. It kind of worked for me that I was this cult act for lots of people with incredibly loyal fans, especially my LGBTQ+ audience. They have been there from the start really.”
And given that it’s Pride Month and she’s no stranger to a Pride friendly bop herself, what is Jessie Ware popping on the Pride playlist?
Ware furrows her brow on our Zoom chat, eager to make the right choices. She first goes for Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s ‘Rain On Me’ telling me “That is my son and I’s favourite song. I think it is a perfect pop song.”
“I feel like Donna Summer’s gotta be on there,” Ware notes, having appeared on a BBC Radio 4 documentary on Summer’s music last year, and goes for both Fern Kinney’s ‘Love Me Tonight’ and Kylie Minogue’s ‘Slow’ as other choices (Minogue and Ware are rumoured to have worked together on a track for the reissue of Minogue’s Disco album).
“I’d just have Honey Dijon DJing” Ware points out before excitedly recalling her love for Jodie Harsh’s dance banger ‘My House’ too.
Harsh of course is joining Ware on her tour of the UK at the end of this year but she’s not sure about a possible Dublin show yet, telling me, “I’m so gutted it’s not on this run” adding “I’m desperate to come but there’s no date at the moment.”
Still with a blistering set of new tracks for fans to enjoy, Ware is feeling optimistic. “It’s quite good that it’s coming out now and it’s summer and it’s hot,” she tells me and reckons this clutch of new material is “working a treat”.
With temperatures rising and real life slowly returning, Jessie Ware looks set to soundtrack another year with those impeccably crafted pop treats.
‘What’s Your Pleasure: Platinum Pleasure’ is out now.