Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.
British singer Jessie Ware introduced herself to America earlier this week by apologizing for the dildo her sister stole from Lower East Side burlesque club the Box. “You call them dicks, we call them willies,” she said onstage at the venue. “But in my sister’s bathroom she has this big flaccid willie and she nicked it from the Box. Sorry, the Box.” Then she launched into her hit formerly known as “110%,” now to be called “If You’re Never Gonna Move,” off her upcoming US debut EP.
Already a star in England, this was Ware’s first ever solo show on U.S. soil, and she’s following it up with series of sold out dates early next year. When the boys in my hair salon (who already have tickets to January’s Bowery Ballroom gig) heard through the neighborhood grapevine that I’d interviewed her, they tracked me down and made me play them the tape. And as everyone knows, “first come the gays, then the girls, then the industry.”
Over tea at her fancy uptown hotel a few hours before the performance, Ware interspersed endearing stories about studying English literature in school and wondering if she had the stuff to be a real pop star with streams of enthusiastic swearing. After complementing my dewy skin (thanks, rain) and perfume (thanks, Marc Jacobs) she made me try some of this special sparkly foundation her makeup artist gave her, then explained the origin of her own look. “I want to look like my mom could take me out to lunch with her friends,” she explained. “Sophisticated. Fucking classy, you know?”
Ware’s trajectory from girl with insanely beautiful voice to girl with insanely beautiful voice who’s willing to chase pop stardom has been long and complex. She’s had detours as an aspiring sports writer, a TV producer, and backup vocalist. But now that she’s decided to go full on for it, she’s not content to have only conquered her homeland, the scope and literal size of America appeals to her. “I love all the different landscapes. I love the food. I love that the portions are huge. I love that!” she enthused, clasping her venti mint tea. “I’m a greedy cow and it makes me happy. This giant tea makes me fucking happy.”