English songstress Jessie Ware may be the Teddy Roosevelt of divas – she sings softly but carries a big voice – but some would some be surprised to learn why she chooses to restrain her pipes.
“The funny thing is I’m not the most subtle person at all,” the 29-year-old said shortly before taking the stage at last summer’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco. “With the album (2013’s Devotion), I wanted it to be a subtle, restrained way of singing. I know I can sing really belty, but I don’t think everyone always wants to hear that. If you’re listening to an album, whether you would be on the tube or you’re driving; I don’t want people to turn (the volume on) me down.”
Ware, who returns to The City Monday for a show at The Fillmore, grew up idolizing Whitney Houston and others known for their pipes. Rather than channeling her vocal efforts that way in the studio, she chooses to showcase her voice more often when she is performing.
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“I don’t ‘belt’ belt, but it’s definitely a bit more chutzpah, it’s a bit more oomphy,” she said. “I think I need to give it a bit more life, because people want to see you working, and I want to push at it more. I feel like I need to take it up a level live.”
Ware said she makes a point at each show work hard and entertain fans who paid to see her. In the past year she learned the joys of performing in flat shoes – she’s no longer afraid of falling over on stage because she’s wearing heels – and she wants those people to remember the fun they have at her shows.
She has also begun work on a follow-up album, which she expects to be released in 2014.
Just a few years ago, Ware was on track for a career in newspaper journalism. While she had a few singing parts in college musicals, she didn’t view the performing arts as an option until singer-songwriter Jack Penate, a friend, asked her to record a backing vocal on a recording session.
She quit her job to tour with Penate, which led to a partnership with SBTRKT, who just so happened to live within walking distance to her in London. The two recorded a tune, “Nervous,” which became a hit for her in 2010. That’s when her new career took off.
Since then, Ware’s time has become more valuable. A constant touring schedule has made it difficult to stay in touch with family and friends.
“I don’t have much of a personal life at the moment. I’m glued to my phone constantly doing group messages with my friends. That’s why I’ve got this bloody rock,” she said, pointing to the attachable battery pack connected to a cell phone.
Ware’s boyfriend spent part of the summer on the road with her, and every once in a while she is joined by friends, who turn their vacations into trips to see her perform.
“I don’t get to see my mates as much, but when I really am successful, I’ll be able to hang out with them all the time,” she said.
She has also gotten encouragement from those in the industry who are a few years ahead of her, such as Florence Welch. On a particularly stressful day at the end of a performance in in England, Welch paid Ware a visit as she came off stage. Ware had an early morning video shoot engagement, and only five hours to sleep before it was time to be ready for it, with a European tour starting the following day.
“I felt a bit like a rabbit in the headlights,” Ware said. “She could see I was a bit overwhelmed by it, and (said), ‘It will get easier, I promise. Don’t worry.’ It’s really reassuring to hear that from people who have experienced it because this has been a really overwhelming year. Sometimes lack of sleep and lots of traveling and lots of shows – sometimes you stop appreciating (success) – but you should never.”