How Jessie Ware Avoided 'Dolphin Territory' With 'Tough Love'

The British R&B tells the story behind her impossibly catchy single and discusses her forthcoming LP

Jessie Ware
C Brandon/Redferns via Getty Images
Jessie Ware
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Last spring, Jessie Ware was feeling exhausted. "It had been really relentless for a year – like, full-on," says the British singer, who capped off a lengthy tour in April 2013 by playing Coachella the same week her debut album, Devotion, was released in the U.S.

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But instead of taking a well-earned break, she dove into her next music project, meeting up with her friends Benny Blanco and Two Inch Punch for two weeks of informal songwriting at Blanco's Manhattan apartment last May. "I went to New York just to work with them, have fun, and not really think about it," Ware says. As tired as she was, she got into the spirit right away. "I don't really like studios – they intimidate me," she says. "But this was very relaxed. We felt really free to do what we wanted. There was no pressure."

The first song they wrote was "Tough Love," the slow-burn R&B ballad that went on to become the title track for Ware's second album, due out October 21st in the U.S. "It was a Wednesday afternoon," she recalls. "I was sitting on a big double bed in Benny's spare bedroom, and he's got his French bulldog, Disco, running around. There was a synth line, and Benny put some Prince-y drums on it. It was quite hypnotizing. And I'm just writing away on a laptop, mumbo jumbo – very unromantic," she adds with a smile.

"I had the rhythm, and I had the words for the verse, and I had this thing I wanted to bring in: tough love," Ware continues. "Benny wanted me to try it an octave higher. I was like, 'That's fucking dolphin territory! I'm not sure about that.' He was like, 'Just try it.' And I'm glad I listened to him."

She went on to write songs for Tough Love with high-profile collaborators including Miguel and Ed Sheeran, as well as several more with Blanco and Two Inch Punch (known collectively as BenZel). But she stuck with "Tough Love" as the first track released from the album. "It felt right that that should be the thing that we present to everyone else," she says. "We got excited about it, and it still felt exciting a year later – so we were like, 'Fuck it,' you know? And I’ll never forget those moments in Benny’s apartment, making this music."

Ware can't wait for her fans to hear the rest of Tough Love. "I was very scared on the first record –  I just didn’t know what I was doing, and I felt like people were going to find me out," she says. "I've got a bit more confidence this time, just from having a bit of experience. And fuck knows what the next one is going to sound like!" She laughs. "But I feel like we were allowed to be really creative on this one. It's not safe. Which is nice."