There had to have been at least one moment in 2012 when someone who loved you suggested that you listen to Jessie Ware. The UK soul-pop starlet spent the greater half of the past year riding high off her buzz single “Wildest Moments” off her debut album Devotion. The U.S. won’t see Devotion until April, but Jessie’s done kick ass things already like worked with SBTRKT, performed with the Roots on Fallon, and was nominated for two 2013 BRIT Awards. A few weeks ago she dropped a short EP titledYou’re Never Gonna Move serving as a precursor to her follow-up album, which will arrive as soon as she can stop people from wanting to hear her sing live. The touring life is tough, but what’s tougher for Ware is ducking fast food in the fat capital known as America. As she cruises the Cali coast, Jessie Ware talks to us about her Barbra Streisand fascination, melatonin, old dudes at her hotel, and her top
five ten dead or alive.
VICE: Are you in LA at the moment?
Jessie Ware: No, we're kind of somewhere between LA and San Francisco. I'm trying to pull myself away from McDonald’s. Oh no, I've just seen In-N-Out Burger... fuck! I'm getting back in the van. But yeah, just trying not to eat In-N-Out burgers every day.
Did you get it Animal Style?
Oh yeah, I've had it Animal Style many a time. I just need to just avoid it at all costs. It's too good.
You've got to eat it with a fork…
Oh you know what? I once didn't eat it with a fork though. And I ate it in the back of a van...I had to eat with my fingers. Don't ever eat Animal Style with your fingers! The smell...
Oh my God, yes! We don't have In-N-Out in New York though.
You know what, I think that's probably the best thing because if I lived in LA, I'd just… [pauses] However... [pauses] Oh God, I'm being that boring person that talks about food. And Whole Foods.
Oh I love Whole Foods too! So please, continue.
I'd give my soul to Whole Foods.
No, I bleed for Whole Foods, Jessie. I feel you.
Oh man, I just dropped a fucking cash bomb in there. I just stocked up on melatonin for my flight to Australia tomorrow. Is it good, melatonin?
Some Echinacea, I'm about to pop some Echinacea. Fuckin' rock and roll in this van.
So how's all this traveling been?
Last week was pretty exhausting, just because we're not in a tour bus so we've been driving after shows. We did like five hours after a show driving from Boston to Philadelphia. My tour manager is being my sound person AND the driver so he kind of didn't sleep for two days. So, it was quite exhausting last week but it was also really amazing.
How are you noticing the switch in your shows from overseas to America?
It's just been a real pleasant surprise how wonderful the crowds have been. You hope people are going to like it or whatever, and I just had like men vogueing at the front and banging and being like, “Oh, Lord have mercy!” So it's just like, this is crazy! Or having girls and boys dancing and singing, “Go, Jessie! Go, Jessie!” Like, it just makes me laugh and then I ruin my song because I'm laughing.
Yeah, I've heard that in the U.S. we know the words to the songs more than overseas.
I don't know. I've definitely gone a few times and not necessarily a mistake but, all I want to do is put my mic out into the crowd and do that thing that you see everyone do and be like, “Sing it!” and then they sing it. Definitely have had a few where people haven't really sung it. [Laughs] I snatched the mic back quickly. That happened a few times in America. They just didn't sing it.
You've got to put up a karaoke screen!
Yeah, with a bouncing ball!
So, why is a young Barbra Streisand your wallpaper on Twitter?
It's just Barbra Streisand; she's fucking brilliant! Like, not only has she got one of the most exquisite voices, I aspire to be as successful a Jewish person as her. She's wonderful, she's funny, she's beautiful and I could watch videos of her singing live for like, ever. I watched her before I did Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. My friend Sarah... Sarah and I were DJs for a little bit... and we were called Yentl and the Gentile, after that film Yentl. We used to wear t-shirts with a picture of Barbra Streisand on the front. Before I was on Fallon, I was like, “I'm shitting it, I'm so nervous!” Sarah sent me a video just being like, “Don't fuck up because Babs doesn't!” She was like, “This is how you sing on a TV show!” It was Barbra Streisand singing on The Ed Sullivan show one night, like in black and white. Barbra Streisand's just amazing. She's wonderful, and she's got the best pronunciation of the T. Her T's are so on point! It's always “Tuh!” Very dramatic, I love her.
So when you interview a rapper and stuff, you’d ask, “Who are your top five, dead or alive?” and the rappers will be like, “Number one: Biggie. Number two: Tupac, etc.” So singing-wise, who are your top five, dead or alive?
Barbra, Whitney Houston, Aaliyah, D'Angelo and... ah, fuck. OK six, can I have six?
Well you're only at four now anyway, right? OK yeah, six. So you can have two more.
Thanks. Billie Holiday and Sade.
Nice. They kind of all make sense though, for how you sing. Like, you can kind of understand why that happened.
So, out of your top six, who did you listen to the most coming up?
Um, I listened to loads of Billie Holiday when I was younger. Oh fuck, I didn't put Lauryn Hill in there! Shit!
You want to do seven? You can do seven.
Yeah I want to do seven.
Alright, your top seven, dead or alive.
Yeah, lots of Lauryn Hill and, fuck! I didn't put Beyonce in there either! Oh shit.
You want to do a top ten?
Yeah, I want ten!
You want ten? I'll give you ten.
Yes I do. How many am I on now, seven? So I've got Beyonce. OK, so Beyonce. But I think it could be Beyonce/Destiny's Child.
And then I think you've got to put Michael Jackson in there. And Prince.
At what point did you decide to pursue music as a career?
I guess I kind of got a lifeline through my mate, who's Jack Peñate. He asked to do some backing for him and I kept getting asked back. I was so happy to be doing that with my best mate. Then he asked me if I wanted to go on tour with him in America, so I quit my job and did it. I just had the best time ever and then kind of was like, “Wow, OK! I guess I could kind of pretend that I'm a professional singer!” Then I got introduced to SBTRKT, and we did a track together and we put it out and then it kind of just kept on happening after that.
What do you feel caused your buzz to travel across waters?
I think it was with “Wildest Moments.” Katy Perry definitely helped me get a few million more hits. She was saying that she liked the song. It felt like it was spreading out. Not only from the UK, to like Belgium and Poland and then the states and stuff like that. So I feel like maybe that was the song that kind of helped a bit. It hasn't even released in the states yet so it's kind of nice.
Have you had any fans that strangely look like you now?
My mum has spotted a few double buns in the old audience sometimes in the UK ones. I don't think it's because of me, but loads of people when I've been doing the signings here are saying, “Twinsies!” because I've got a nose ring in. So, I think that's about it. But, you know I'm not the first person to wear a nose ring. But yeah, I think it's been the double bun thing has been rocked a few times, I think.
Any creepy fans yet?
Creepy fans... Um, I feel bad saying creepy.
Well OK, any creeps? They don't necessarily have to be fans.
Hmm, let me think. There's been a few older men who kind of mope outside the hotels, but I don't get to see that because I'd be like, “Yeah! Where are they? Fucking brilliant! I want to see who!” My manager kind of ushers them away before I see.
When we interviewed Elle Goulding, she had a fan that wanted to eat her hair.
I kind of understand that, though. It does look quite delicious, her hair.
Oh they've all fucking come into the fucking van and they've all got bloody In-N-Out burgers! And we know what's going to happen, this is the rule! You can't eat chips in front of me because I will ask for one! So annoying. It's just going to smell like Animal Style in the fucking van now and I can't eat it.
Why can't you eat it?
Because I can't! Because I can't! I have to eat my Kale Krunch I got from fucking Whole Foods, don't I? That's the worry that I have from coming to America. I'm just going to get fat from wanting to eat everything in sight.
Yeah, aren't our portions like four times what you're used to?
I love it! I love how big the portions are! I definitely don't take them home in a doggie bag like every other person with a smaller stomach would do. I eat the whole bloody portion.
I mean, look. Go hard or go home, right?
[Laughs] Go hard or go home! Yeah, but going hard means that I'll probably have to buy an extra seat on the plane. My manager says I'll have to be put in business class because that's the only seat that will fit me.
So your BRIT Awards… they're pending right now right? Are you nervous?
They're pending. I like that! My BRIT Awards are pending. It's funny though. I mean, I get to go to that now and it's kind of like the biggest deal in the UK, which is nice. I get to wear a nice dress and stuff, and that's wicked. I'm gonna have such a fun night.
Oh that'll be cool. There's a long line of people who have that award that –
[interjects] I'm not gonna win it.
How do you know? Why do you say that?
I can safely say I'm not going to win either. However, I'm trying to look very nice.
Why do you think you're not going to win it?
Because have you seen who's up for it?! I have no hope in hell.
Who's up for it?
Emeli Sande. I think, is Emeli Sande? Yeah, she's going to win it for Best Female. And Best Newcomer, I think Rita Ora's going to win it.
Being a nominee must be pretty good though, right?
Yeah! It's fucking great being a nominee. You can't take that away from me, I've been a nominee.
So do all the UK female artists congregate? The ones that have made it to America. Do you guys all like, meet for tea and talk about it?
[Laughs] like who?
At a table it's you, and then it's like, Jessie J, and then Ellie Goulding, Emeli Sande, and then Adele shows up sometimes and she's showing you all her kid. Then Katy B comes…
Yeah me, Adele, Katy B, Jessie J and Ellie all sit around drinking tea and talk about how we made it. [Laughs] no definitely not. They’re all too bloody busy. I'm sure they don't have time for tea.
So what was the situation with Big Pun's track you used on “110%”? You had to change your song?
Yeah, we had to change the sample because there was a disagreement, which we thought we had absolutely confirmed was OK. Otherwise I wouldn't have put it on the album. So yeah, we just changed the sample but the song still was dope.
Were you a Big Pun fan?
Oh, I love Big Pun! That's why I wrote the song. It's a love song for Big Pun. So yeah, I absolutely love him.
That sucks that you couldn't use the sample!
Yeah, it wasn't anybody to do with him actually so, you know. It's just the way it goes, but it's still a love song for him.
Are you a big hip-hop fan?
Yeah I am quite a big hip-hop fan! I definitely love A$AP Rocky at the moment and Kendrick Lamar. I really like their albums.
Are there any rappers that you want to collaborate with?
Well A$AP said that maybe he wanted to collaborate with me last week, so I'm definitely absolutely going to bug him until he says yes now.
Are you starting work on the next album?
No! I haven't got any bloody time! At the moment, my life consists of doing interviews and playing gigs. So, when people stop wanting to check for me, then I'll write some new music.
What do you put on your tour rider?
Well you know what? I have edamame beans on there, and I get them in America. Never got them anywhere else.
I had the most delicious popcorn of my life yesterday, which definitely shouldn't have been on the rider. I've got popcorn in my rider, but they gave me some like, next level popcorn. It had peanuts... it was called Munch & Crunch.
Oh, Crunch 'n Munch!
Crunch 'n' Munch. Oh my God! It's like crack! Oh my God I had to get somebody to take it away from me because it was like, the most delicious thing I've ever had in my life!
Yeah I think there's another brand called Poppycock, which is just kind of a really weird name.
Poppycock?! [Laughs] Popcorn from Poppycock. I'm putting that on my rider!
You better specify that you mean popcorn because you don't know what the hell they're going to give you…