Brixton-based singer and fellow food obsessive Jessie Ware was recently in LA to perform at at Silver Lake’s Bootleg Theater, so I took the chance to ask her lots of nosy questions about her life on tour.
I’m always fascinated by bands’ riders. What’s on yours?
My desired rider and my actual rider are two different things. I ask for edamame beans but I’ve never had them, ever. I had to get rid of all the crap that was on there before. So now it’s hummus, pitta, a toaster, a kettle, honey, and Prosecco. And good vodka. And maybe good whiskey. I don’t drink before the show, but if I’m going to drink after I’ll have a good single malt with my tour manager. Oh, and we always have a bit of ham and cheese. If I see another piece of sliced ham, I’ll go mad.
What are your pre-show rituals?
For my voice I’ve got a Dr. Nelson’s Improved Inhaler, which looks like a bong. It’s this old way of loosening up your vocal chords, but it makes you look like you’re about to get really high. It’s a ceramic pot with a glass mouthpiece and you just fill it up with water and then breathe in and out. It helps a lot.
Tour life must be ruinous for your general wellbeing. How do you stay fit and healthy while you’re on the road?
I’m really struggling, because I’m always really excited when I go somewhere new and I always want to go and eat at the ‘best’ place. I have to be careful when I eat though. I’ve worked out through practice – basically by burping on stage – that I can’t eat after soundcheck. Otherwise I’ll be doing a big ballad and I’ll feel a burp coming.
I try to eat really healthily, but it’s so hard when you’re with guys. They can eat anything and they just have McDonald’s all the time. When I last toured in America (as a backing vocalist for Jack Peñate) we really struggled on the tourbus. The service stations are not the same as in England so it was Wendy’s or McDonald’s, everyday. I got obsessed by the Angus Third Pounder. We were all addicted to them – I put on about a stone and a half.
Fitness wise, I have a personal trainer at home. He’s really hard on me, but he has to be because I love food so much. I don’t get to see him enough – usually once or twice a week. But I usually cancel even those appointments because exercise becomes secondary to everything else, even though I think it’s really important.
Right now I feel like I’ve been about to get ill, so I’ve been taking Echinacea and a really high dosage of Vitamin C and Zinc. I just did my first solo tour in November, so this is all very new to me. I can’t afford to get ill. I got ill at Bestival in September and I lost my voice and that’s the scariest thing.
What’s the best meal you’ve eaten on tour so far?
It was in Poland, but I can’t remember the name of the place. I got taken there by my cab driver – I’d been doing promo all day and I felt really faint so he was like ‘I’m taking you to the best Polish place in Warsaw’. It was an open kitchen restaurant and I let them order for me. We had this incredible sour soup that had eggs in it, and ham, and lots of dill. Sounds disgusting but it was delicious. And the most beautiful pierogies with soft cheese and dill. Then we had mincemeat wrapped in cabbage. So I was sitting there having this three course meal when I was knew my band was soundchecking!
Poland was actually great for food - the best breakfast I’ve had was in Poland again. Well it was brunch, actually. You could have sushi, so obviously I had a bit of that. I was having little mousses and shot glasses of green smoothies. I’m dangerous near a breakfast buffet.
What’s the best hotel you’ve stayed in tour?
Probably the Michelberger in Berlin. It has a really great vibe, there’s a really lovely bar, everyone is cool… They have these ‘band rooms’, which have four or five single beds on a platform and then a double bed on ground level. It’s very ‘Berlin’ – industrial, bare wires, lightbulbs hanging down. So that’s got a really nice quality to it.
I stayed at the Berns Hotel and did a gig there - that was lovely, too. They had really good Asian food – I had seared salmon. The hotel itself just had a warmth to it; it was tasteful.
Are you the type of artist you travels with fur throws and scented candles?
I tried that - I bought a mini Miller Harris one, and a mini Diptyque one and I never bloody lit them. But I did think about it!
I think it’s important to have things around you that make you feel better. I felt really low before the gig last night but then I went on stage and felt much better. Performing is terribly, worryingly addictive.
How do you pack for a tour?
Avigail Claire, my stylist, is amazing. We plan my tour outfits and go through everything. She knows what I like, and what I feel comfortable in. I wear a lot of black – it’s flattering and I know it works for me. I wear these velvet Topshop trousers, and lots of crop tops. I have all my ‘work’ clothes with me her in LA, so I’m making an effort everyday here. I don’t have any of my usual schmatta.
Sometimes people lend me stuff – Dolce & Gabbana have been very good to me. But I like really simple stuff. So I have some staple blazers; this Escada blazer that actually belongs to Avi. Last night I was wearing Jaeger. But mostly it’s ASOS and Topshop – you can’t expect designers to lend you stuff that you’re going to sweat it out in every night. For me, it’s more important that we have a strong visual aesthetic of strong, clean lines. And you can achieve that with quite simple pieces.
I was never a fashion person, but I’ve been given the chance to wear really beautiful clothes and learn more about great new designers. I never really took it seriously, and I don’t take it too seriously now. But I do give a shit that I look nice for the audience that has paid to come and see me. I want to make an effort like I would if I went out to dinner with somebody. That’s just the person I’ve been brought up to be.
Buy tickets for Jessie’s 2013 tour dates here and her debut album Devotion here.