Arts » Pop Music & Jazz

Jessie Ware goes from journalist to songwriter

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Jessie Ware’s debut recording “Devotion” was nominated for a Mercury Prize in Britain. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Jessie Ware’s debut recording “Devotion” was nominated for a Mercury Prize in Britain.

“Devotion” — the Mercury Prize-nominated debut CD by Sade-inspired, British pop-R&B diva Jessie Ware — drifts by lazily on spacious arrangements.

But within breezy autobiographical tracks such as “Running,” “Swan Song,” “Taking in Water” and “Night Light” (an ode to the singer’s boyfriend of more than a decade) lurks a sharp lyrical eye.

The daughter of renowned BBC TV journalist John Ware just can’t help it, she says. A nose for news simply runs in the family.

“In fact, I was a little worried about that at the beginning,” says Ware, 28, who plays The City on Thursday to promote the album, slated for a U.S. release soon.

“I was like, ‘What if I want to write a song that reveals too much?’ But then again, you can always hide it, and you never have to tell anyone who it’s about. Plus, I don’t write mean songs.”

She received some serious tabloid training, first as a scribe for the Jewish Chronicle, fresh out of high school, and then as a cub reporter for Britain’s now-tarnished Daily Mirror.

“But I didn’t even speak to Piers Morgan, didn’t even meet him,” she says.

Watching her dad’s investigative shows “Panorama” and “Rough Justice” whetted Ware’s appetite as a kid. “He was kind of a specialist on the IRA, and he also used to do stakeouts and stuff like that — he was always trying to get the bad guys,” she says. “So I think I’ve always been quite inquisitive, and I’m interested in people — I want to know everything within 15 minutes of knowing them. So I was certain I wanted to be a journalist when I was 16.”

Ware covered the ho-hum synagogue beat for the Chronicle. “But at The Mirror,” she says, “I got to report on a famous footballer moving from one team to the absolute enemy team, and that was so exciting.”

After moving to television as a directorial assistant, an old schoolmate, folk-rocker Jack Penate, recalled Ware having vocal skills, and invited her to sing backup at a radio session.

Soon she joined him on a U.S. tour, then crooned on singles from Joker, Sampha and SBTRKT.

“Before I knew it, I was earning — well, not a lot — but enough to just about make a living as a backing singer,” says Ware, who was quickly signed as a solo artist. Producer Dave Okumu helped her find her sultry sound.  

How does Ware feel about the celebrity phone-hacking scandals that have rocked London? “It’s pretty disgusting, isn’t it? The lengths people will go to, just to get news?” she says. Her cellphone escaped tampering for good reason, she adds. “I’m just not famous enough!”