By, Sergio Burns
Jake is a major, global performer whose music could be described as a fusion of acoustic and electric, compelling and melodic. A high-powered enigmatic mix of folksy guitar and indie rock riffs, with mean lyrics set around a soulful voice. The total package, producing memorable, catchy songs including ‘Trouble Town’, ‘Lightning Bolt’, ‘Two Fingers’ and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’.
The singer’s initial break came with his selection to the ‘BBC Introducing’ stage at Glastonbury 2011 as a 17 year-old. It was the year U2 headlined the Pyramid, while Morrisey, Coldplay and, of course, Ayrshire’s Biffy Clyro also appeared at the music festival that year. The young lad from Nottingham was in good company.
A record deal with Mercury soon followed, and Bugg came to prominence in 2012 as an awkward 18 year-old with his self-titled number one album : ‘Jake Bugg’. He has now cut four albums, following up the bestseller with the critically acclaimed ‘Shangri-la’ (named after the recording studio in Malibu where the album was put together) in 2013, ‘On My One’ three years later and last year’s ‘Hearts That Strain’.
With the look of 80’s Britpop and a late sixties haircut, Jake Bugg grew up on a Nottingham council estate called Clifton. He still carries that surly, suspicious, disappointed, wary look of a youngster from the tough side of town.
The career got underway, however, when the young, impressionable Bugg heard the Don McLean hit ‘Vincent’ played on an episode of The Simpsons and resolved to learn the guitar. He was 12 and within five years he was on stage at Glastonbury.
His roots back to the Clifton housing estate in Nottingham, where he was raised, are strong and he has never forgotten his humble origins. After touring the world recording and playing sold out shows it was said he would return home to his mum in Nottingham and the same house he grew up in. His parents broke up when he was a child and he does reference the council estate in his music. I go back to Clifton to see my old friends / The best people I could ever have met, he sings on his song ‘Two Fingers’ I drink to remember / I smoke to forget / Run down some dark alleys in my own head.
Jake Bugg is not a fan of X Factor and has controversially slated the show. But his own star is on the rise, and in February this year his acoustic show at the London Palladium was given a prestigious five star review in The Independent by Vishal Rana (Singer-songwriter Comes Of Age. Vishal Rana, The Independent, February 18, 2018).
What is endearing about Bugg, I suppose, is his grounded attitude and his surprising ordinariness, not always witnessed in major pop stars.
In June 2017 Jake helped out his local football club Notts County when he agreed to sponsor them. A lifelong supporter of the League Two side he sponsored the club for the month of November. It was described as a ‘major coup’ for the club at the time.
This year the singer-songwriter has been busy. He has just returned from a March through April tour of North America, and is on the road again in November with a six date UK acoustic tour, including one night in Ayrshire. The Grand Hall, Kilmarnock on Friday, November 23, is a must see event and an important date for your diary.
When was the moment you decide you were going to pursue your dreams in the music industry?
When I was around 14 I guess. My uncle showed be a few chords and from then on I was a bit obsessed by playing guitar and song writing, I didn’t imagine doing anything else to be honest.
How old were you when you wrote your first song? What was it about?
I wrote a few around 14/15. Probably the most stand out were things like love me the way you do and I wrote country song early too, which appeared on the first album.
Who (or what) inspires and influences you?
Great music, great artists in general. I’m a big fan of Don Mclean, he inspired me first I think, from the song Vincent which I heard on The Simpsons
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Travelling the world and meeting all of the fans. It amazes me that I can travel to South East Asia or South America for example and they sing all the words to the songs. It’s an incredible feeling.
How do you find the transition between touring the world as a famous musician, and then going back to your home in Nottingham?
All my family live in Nottingham, I visit often and my mates live there too. They’ve kept me grounded to be honest so it’s no big deal.
In what ways would you say fame has affected you?
It’s allowed me to write songs and travel the world for a living. It’s a dream come true to be honest.
You have performed at a huge number of different festivals around the world. What is it about festivals you like so much?
They’re great fun, it’s always good to travel to another country and play a festival to a big crowd, it’s a great way to win new fans over too, who perhaps wouldn’t have had seen
Four albums in six years is a massive undertaking. What’s your process like when starting out on a new album?
I always like to keep working, keep writing, keep playing live. I’m very rarely sat around doing nothing. Also I’m very aware how fortunate I am to be doing so I don’t take anything for granted so I’m always keen to keep getting music out there.
Are you working on any new music at the moment?
I’m currently writing album 5. I’m working with some great producers in the US at the moment, the songs are sounding really good so far. I’m excited to start getting my music out again.
What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to pursue a career in the music industry?
Work hard. Don’t take no for an answer, stick to your guns.
You’re about to set out on the next leg of your solo acoustic tour. Do you prefer this to playing alongside a band?
I like playing acoustic as it allows me to try things live. It’s been an eye opener playing up close and personal to the crowd, having a chat and a few drinks with them, I’ve loved it to be honest. Back to the band next year though!
How do you like to switch off and relax?
Watch football, read, eat out, do a bit of cooking. The usual.
What is your karaoke go to?
I’ve never done it. I vaguely remember the band doing a Beatles song with a Japanese Beatles band in Tokyo when we were on tour, can’t remember the song I’m afraid.