Jessie Ware Thinks Being Called “Mother” Is The “Highest Compliment”
The pop star discusses her “camp” new album That! Feels Good!, Kylie Minogue’s surprise cameo, and the song she never wants to perform again.
Jessie Ware is a mom to three kids, but to some LGBTQ+ fans, she is Mother. “Initially, I giggled and was like, ‘Am I imagining this or is Mother coming up quite a lot? Oh, shut up, ego,’” the 38-year-old British singer-songwriter tells Bustle. “It was ‘wig-snatching’ a few years ago, and I appreciated getting wigs thrown at me on stage. But ‘Mother’ is the highest compliment — and it comes with responsibility. So I will always try and be a good mother to my fans. And my children. Jesus, I should not forget them.”
Ware’s joyous fifth studio album That! Feels Good!, released on April 28, is certainly camp enough to please her queer devotees. “My brother has always said that I should be careful with how I use the word camp, as a straight cis heterosexual woman... but it’s camp,” she says, laughing.
That! Feels Good! acts as an answer to its predecessor, What’s Your Pleasure? — a deeper journey onto the dance floor, which Ware was inspired to take after What’s Your Pleasure? earned her an Album of the Year nomination at the 2021 BRIT Awards. “It gave me the confidence to be able to say, ‘You know what? Things are nice at the moment. Let’s have a dance,’” she says. “I don’t want to sound smug because I’m still learning and make loads of mistakes, but I think it’s really important to acknowledge when things feel good.”
The new album mixes ’70s funk and ’80s disco, along with slow jam throwbacks to her first two albums Devotion and Tough Love for good measure. There are elements of The B-52s, Kylie Minogue, and Spice Girls; the single “Pearls,” all glamour and cheekiness, slotted perfectly into the ...And Just Like That Season 2 trailer.
Ware will keep the party going on tour in the fall, but these days, she has other priorities. “The fact that I’m going to have an early night, watch the rest of Shrinking in bed, and going to have a bath, that’s feeling good,” she says. “I’m feeling very pleased with myself that I went for a workout today. That was brutal. And then I ate loads of chocolate to congratulate myself.”
Below, Ware discusses the surprise cameos on That! Feels Good, the song she won’t sing on her next tour, and why she hates karaoke.
On Surprise Cameos & The “Freaking Star” That Is Kylie Minogue
There are many people on the intro of “That! Feels Good!” Who are they and how did that come together?
I just went through my phone book. I’m very lucky that I’ve met many different brilliant people with very good voices through the podcast and made friends with a lot of them. Nobody that’s on it has heard the song so they’re like, “Did I make the cut?” I’m like, “Everyone made the cut, don’t worry.” I’ve got Barry Mulholland, the CEO of Christopher Kane, because he’s my mate and he’s got a great Scot accent. And then I’ve got Roisín Murphy doing one in a loo in an airport. I got Kylie Minogue. I’ve got Jamie Demetriou, who actually really enjoyed it — maybe a bit too much. My mom, my best mates... I actually didn’t get Sam, my husband, to do one, but never mind.
You mentioned Kylie Minogue, my jaw dropped.
Bless Kylie, I think she went and did it properly in a studio because she’s that pro. She’s so sweet. I asked her and didn’t hear back — she was moving to Australia. Then I get this file that was like, “Here’s this option or this option.” I was like, “I f*cking love you.” She’s absolutely better than you can ever imagine in real life. She’s kind, she’s charismatic, she’s a freaking star.
Who are the boys named in “Shake the Bottle”?
I’m slightly worried that Benny Blanco’s going to think that Benny is him. It's not, it just sounded good. I promise you, none of the boys are any boys that I know... But everyone knows an Eddie, everyone knows a Jackson. The people that I’m naming and shaming are imaginary, but very stereotypical people that I think everyone’s had an encounter with one way or another.
On Hating Karaoke & The Hit She’ll Never Play Live Again
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
I don’t like karaoke. Karaoke is for people that don’t sing. Nobody wants to hear me do karaoke. But if my mother was going to make me go up, I’d probably give “I Have Nothing” [by Whitney Houston] a go, even though I would definitely break my voice at the top. Or if I was drunk and feeling myself, it would be like Jennifer Hudson, *singing* “I’m not going... You’re going to love me. I’m not leaving,” from Dreamgirls. But this is me taking the piss.
What song played at your wedding?
I walked down the aisle to “Your Love Is King” [by Sade] and our first dance was Wayne Wonder’s “No Letting Go.” And we finished with drum and bass, me behind the decks with my husband DJing.
Your husband’s reactions to your last album were hilarious. What’s his favorite song on this album?
“Hello Love,” I think. No, he likes “Lightning.”
What song do you want played at your funeral?
My mom always says that she wants Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By,” because she thinks it’s funny, *singing* “If you see me walking down the street and I start to cry.” So I feel like maybe I should have that, too. I want people to weep at it, but I also wouldn’t mind them laughing, too.
Is there a song that you never want to play live again?
Yeah, “If You’re Never Gonna Move.” I’m so bored of it. It’s time for it to go.
Is there a genre that you want to make music in but you haven’t yet?
I still feel like I’ve got a few more R&B moments in me. But first, musical theater. I’m in the works with something at the moment, so fingers crossed.
What was the first CD, tape, vinyl, whatever, that you ever bought?
I think Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet,” but that was a single. I was mad about Take That, so probably Take That was my first album that I bought. Was it Everything Changes? They didn’t make it in the States, but I was completely in love with them.
Complete this sentence. The Grammys are...
Hopefully going to invite me one year.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.