Music Hall of Williamsburg
Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware


Wed, April 3, 2013

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Music Hall of Williamsburg

Brooklyn, NY


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Jessie Ware
Jessie Ware
It's a sizzling day in suburban south London and Jessie Ware is still in holiday mode. She strolls in her back garden, grass between her toes, occasionally ferrying loose tea, fresh fruit and a range of Brixton-bought baked goods from the kitchen. She offers a slice of something full of cheese and courgettes. "This is what a slow-burning debut album can get you," she giggles, "proper quiche."

Right now, Jessie's life is in a rare moment of calm -- but that's all about to change. In a few hours, "Tough Love," her first new single in two years will debut on Radio 1 as Zane Lowe's hottest record in the world. It will turn the ignition on a hectic schedule leading up to the release of her second album this autumn. On top of all the promo, shows and finishing touches the next few weeks entails, Jessie is also getting married.

Most of us want to curl up on the day before we go back to work. Does she get those pangs of back-to-reality angst?

"Nahh," she cackles, with the same gleeful enthusiasm she had when discussing her first single. "I'm very aware that I haven't had an album out for a couple of years. I wanted to get this record done and get it out. Actually, this whole time I've been waiting for people to hear these songs. I can't wait."

This hunger to be heard is a relatively new trait for Jessie. When she first started singing she side-stepped the glare of the spotlight, initially performing as a featured artist on club tracks by SBTRKT and Joker, preferring alliance over eminence.

But that all changed in 2012 with the release of her debut album "Devotion." Recorded with little fanfare in low-key sessions with Dave Okumu of The Invisible, it became one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year, lauded by everyone from Pitchfork to Heat Magazine and nominated for the Mercury Prize. Plaudits were followed by an ever-expanding fanbase, meaning Ware was constantly on tour as she gained millions of new devotees from across the world. Those new fans included the biggest stars in the world, with everyone from Katy Perry to Taylor Swift piling on the praise.

In fact it was the mania of Jessie's schedule that led to "Tough Love"'s creation. It was written last May, "after a really gruelling period of shows, to the point where I had just completely run out of energy." Ware took a breather for a few weeks in New York and began working on this understated, sore love song, where attraction and heartbreak are ambiguous.

"It's been an interesting year," she says. "I got engaged, I've had all these new experiences. And there's some of that on the record, but I still wanted to return to that theme from the first record of unrequited love. I was drawing on a lot of past experiences, cleansing myself of those demons. Even songs I thought I'd imagined on the day, I now totally realise that they're about a certain boy or a certain time. I'm trying to get this all out before I'm going to be a happily married woman."

The record's executive producers are BenZell (a new production duo made up of PMR labelmate Two Inch Punch and Katy Perry and Ke$ha super-producer Benny Blanco). As is always the way with Jessie, those that were let inside the process quickly became family -- "Benny's just become an annoying older brother. I spent Passover with them in Long Island; it was comforting to see how similar his family were to mine."

You can hear the leaps in production and songwriting that come with experience and an expanded team. While the record still draws on the suave, svelte palette of synths and bass heard on "Devotion," they're combined with more confident choruses and lush arrangements. Jessie's stunning vocal is brought to the fore -- it often feels she's whispering right in your ear

"Devotion" collaborators Dave Okumu and James Ford worked with Jessie again, but there are also a few household names on the record this time round. Miguel, who had previously worked with Jessie on her remix of his track "Adorn," wrote with her on a string of sessions in the US. A long cry from her makeshift studio in Okumu's Lewisham front room, he would bring R&B royalty in to hear their work -- J.Cole could be seen poking his head round the door.

"Oh god and there was one night with Miguel, where we were celebrating a song with a whiskey reference in by drinking loads of whiskey. The next morning we recorded 'You and I Forever' and I was so hungover I could only manage the softest vocal -- with a splitting headache and a bottle of Gatorade in my hand."

It's one of the most honest songs on the record, "about the frustration of my boyfriend not asking me to marry him. We waited such a long time, we've been going out forever. I wanted it to be this motorbike riding song, lots of yearning on an open highway."

But the sessions with Miguel also brought out elements of fantasy and fun, of finding joy in the songwriting process and playing up to it. "Champagne Kisses" is a track that indulges in the playful side of love, with kissing sounds scattered across the chorus.

Blanco was keen to get Ed Sheeran, who he's worked with in the past, to write with Jessie on the record, but their busy schedules made it tough. Then one night, "he happened to be in New York recording SNL at the same time as me, so we made it happen. He came round, we went down to Whole Foods, bought a couple of salads, went up to Benny's apartment, he started playing something on the guitar and I swear we wrote the song in 30 minutes. It's called 'Say You Love Me' and I had to have it on the album."

Jessie's got a lot to be proud of on this record -- but more than a musical evolution, this also marks the beginning of Jessie Ware -- not the backing singer or the club-track vocalist or the girl done good -- but the star. "I can't keep going round going 'oh my god, this is happening.' I feel more confident and I think that shows on the record, even the way I deliver the vocals is more upfront. Being a singer is a fucking wicked job, but it's definitely my job now."
The mysterious New York City-based musical duo MS MR (Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow) emerged to make their imprint on 2012 with "Hurricane," an introspective alt-pop masterpiece heralding the arrival of a new band, a new sound and a new approach to pop. An unofficial video for the track popped up on YouTube in May 2012 and has since garnered more than 1.5 million views. Awarded ‘Best New Track’ on Pitchfork, the duo's single quickly rose to number one on Hype Machine.

“We’re interested in exploring the nature of mixed media and collage,” says Lizzy, “and how music transcends all these various platforms.” Chief among them is MS MR’s lively—if thoroughly mystifying—Tumblr page, which they used unprecedentedly to debut their EP, the critically lauded Candy Bar Creep Show. “Hurricane" joined "Bones," "Dark Doo Wop," and "Ash Tree Lane" on the self-released EP, which they released in the fall of 2012.

Mainstream and underground press on both sides of the Atlantic soon took notice and before long MS MR’s songs were popping up everywhere, including “Bones” on the trailer for Game of Thrones Season 3 and "Hurricane" on catwalks everywhere during Fashion Week. "Prepare to be blown away," predicted the Guardian. KCRW praised the pair's "brilliantly produced cinematic pop" while the NME marveled, "There's a spark of innovation to New York newcomers MS MR that doesn't come so soon with new bands." Soon after the release of their EP, the duo signed a deal with Columbia Records for the worldwide release of their debut album.

In the beginning of 2013 MS MR released “Fantasy,” the first track off of their upcoming album Secondhand Rapture. For the full-length Lizzy and Max initially wrote and recorded all the tracks in Max’s home studio in Brooklyn. Composed over the course of a year and produced by Max, the duo then brought in Tom Elmhirst (Adele, Amy Winehouse), to mix the full-length and add some additional production at the legendary Electric Lady Studios. “It was a big leap from the glorified closet where we recorded our demos to our first real studio," says Max, "but it was an amazing opportunity for us to augment the tracks with some live instrumentation and to work with Tom, one of our musical heroes.”

Secondhand Rapture is an intriguing aural Jenga that combines humbled ballads (“Dark Doo Wop”), experimental epics (“Head is not My Home”), and pure pop belters ("Think of You") alike. It expands on what Candy Bar Creep Show sketched out, seamlessly referencing everything from ’80s new wave to ’90s pop, doo-wop to country. “We both listen to a lot of different music from all different genres and time periods,” says Lizzy. “We wanted to create an environment that was cinematic and grandiose but also self-aware and playful. It wasn't until we finished writing that we found the sonic threads that tied certain tracks together. These ultimately became the album.”

"We both realized we found an emotional narrative more through the music and melodies than the lyrics," says Max, "so the album title was inspired more by the environment we wrote in than lyrical themes." Secondhand Rapture touches on the pair's relationship to media and the weather: "'Secondhand' refers to the mediated way in which we relate to each other and the world around us," says Lizzy, "We're fascinated by how technology gives us access to a vast new universe that feels incredibly intimate despite being once removed." For both, "rapture" felt like an accurate description of this feeling, euphoric with a dark underbelly, and was a nod to the climactic unrest of 2012, which they found inspiring.

It’s a stroke of serendipity that Lizzy and Max are even making music together. They may giggle uncontrollably and complete each other’s thoughts, but these Vassar alums hardly knew each other during college. Lizzy was a media-studies major, releasing records under her burgeoning imprint Neon Gold. (She’s gone on to release records by artists such as Passion Pit and Ellie Goulding.) Max was an urban-studies major with a concentration in modern dance, and started composing music for his choreographies. It wasn't until after graduation that they connected - Max was studying at the Martha Graham School for Dance and was looking for a singer to collaborate with while Lizzy needed an unbiased sounding board for the songs she was starting to write in private. “There was an element of throwing caution to the wind. Send someone an email, hope for the best," explains Max.

They connected in person three months later in December 2010. To find their footing as collaborators, they recorded a sweeping cover of Patrick Wolf’s “Time of My Life." Curious to see where else the music could take them, they decided to try their hands at composing some original material. This led to the swelling, mercurial tune we know now as “Bones.” “It definitely set a tone for the band,” says Lizzy. “In person, we’re quite upbeat and bubbly, but the music allowed us to tap into the most extreme elements of our personality.” Max adds, "From the beginning we knew we had a really unique musical chemistry. We continued to write as much as possible and didn't really think of ourselves as a band until we'd collected a body of material."

"We wrote in secret around both of our day jobs so our intensely personal friendship developed alongside our musical relationship, as we wrote the album,” says Max. Their collaborations evolved into a inter-reliant process: “We share the earliest kernel of an idea and extensively cross edit each other so that our process becomes completely intertwined.”

Translating the recorded tracks to a live stage was a challenge the duo hadn't considered while writing, but support tours with Marina and the Diamonds, GROUPLOVE, and Jessie Ware gave them time to develop into an act the Village Voice called "intoxicating" and voted one of the best shows of the summer.
Venue Information:
Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North 6th St
Brooklyn, NY, 11211