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Jessie Ware Brings Downtempo R&B to U.S.

'I'm starting to see that maybe people don't mind when I sing,' says Mercury Prize-nominated singer

Jessie Ware in London, England
Marc Broussely/Redferns via Getty Images
January 15, 2013 12:00 PM ET

When Jessie Ware was writing songs for her upcoming EP, she couldn't stop asking herself, "Who would give a shit about what I have to say?" It's now clear, as the British R&B singer takes to the U.S. for a limited tour in support of its release this week, that many people would happily give far more than that.

When Ware talked to Rolling Stone about the U.S. release of the EP, If You're Never Gonna Move, she peppered her speech with self-doubt that was in many ways unwarranted. On her Mercury Prize-nominated full-length, Devotion: "I didn't know if anybody was even going to like it." On writing her own songs for the first time: "I was very scared and nervous about it all." On how she sings in the shower: "Probably not very well." In an age when everyone and his dog feels compelled to upload lip-synchs to YouTube, Ware's humility is refreshing. "I'm starting to see that people maybe don't mind when I sing," she says.

Mumford & Sons, Emeli Sande, Alt-J Lead BRIT Awards Nominations

Ware caught her first break while singing backing vocals on tour for singer-songwriter Jack Peñate, when Peñate's guitarist introduced her to the producer SBTRKT. She ended up a featured vocalist on 2011's SBTRKT and has kept in contact with him even after she scored a record deal of her own. "Me and SBTRKT email each other. I'd love to work with him again," she says.

The U.S. release of If You're Never Gonna Move and her upcoming LP Devotion – both of which are made up almost entirely of content already released in the U.K. – find the London-based Ware pitching her music to a whole new crowd, this time across the Atlantic. "It's giving me a chance to do it a second time around," she says.

With a schedule packed with touring and promotion, she has had little time to write much follow-up work. Besides, she still needs to find something to write about. "I need to do a bit more living, have a few more experiences," she reasons. "But you know what I'm really struggling with? I have a really lovely relationship with my boyfriend, and so I wouldn't want to write a new album full of how great he is," she says with a laugh. "That'd be boring."

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