Jake Bugg Interview and New Video

Image by Sean Michaels
Fame, it’s said, can go to your head. And going a bit mad is perfectly understandable when you find out firsthand that people knowing your name doesn't bring you the kind of emotional gratification that TV promised you your whole life. If you want to see this monster at work on a fragile young mind then look no further than the daily Justin Bieber section of your local newspaper.

But it’s another 19-year-old that this article is about. When I first talked to Jake Bugg his album had just hit number one not long after he’d reached the age that he could legally play most venues. The record apparently resonated more with teenagers than all the ones released by millionaire Disney princesses who just want to ‘party all night.’ Perhaps it’s the first time that school-age youngsters in this country have had pop music written about them since the Arctic Monkeys’ debut; although people can be cynical about the ‘gritty realism’ approach to song-writing, those people don’t tend to be working class 16-year-olds living in Northern satellite towns watching their prospects disappear before their eyes.

“I think a lot of it’s to do with what kind of crowd they put themselves in,” he says on those coping with stardom. “I believe that I’m surrounded by good people. I have my friends around me and I bring them on tour sometimes. You know, you are going to change as a person as you learn new things and pick up different attributes, but at the same time, you just can’t forget where you’re from.”

Apart from that, Jake has had a lot to lose his head about in the last twelve months. The slot that got him noticed at Glastonbury came out of nowhere. The number one album, although deserved, was unlikely. What followed were tours of the world, nominations for prestigious song-writing awards (On his nomination for an Ivor Novella: “Awards? They don’t have a lot of sentimental value to me”) and time spent with world famous producers. Rather than get in the way of the music, all of this has only served to stoke the Nottingham singer’s creative ability. The second album is already being prepared for release. Is there no danger that things are being rushed?

“Well it just feels like the right thing. I mean, music’s about making records, you know, I think if you’ve got songs and you’ve got ideas it’s important to get them out there and give people something to listen to. I don’t feel rushed; everything’s gone so fast that it feels like the right thing to do.”

Perhaps one surprising aspect of this new record is the inclusion of hip-hop/nu-metal/all-round super producer Rick Rubin. It’s a huge jump from the debut which included some rough and ready first demos. Fans would be forgiven for being a bit cautious about having Rick handle Jake’s stripped back folk songs fresh from recording Kanye West and Black Sabbath.

“If you want the best out of an artist you don’t do that by changing their sound. Rick just helped me on my way.

“I hadn’t heard of everything he’d done but I knew he’d worked with Johnny Cash. What surprised me more than anything was how diverse he is in everything he’s done. He’s done Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s albums and now he’s doing mine as well. It’s amazing how well he can adapt to different genres.”

Working with Rubin isn’t the only way that Jake is following in the footsteps of his idol Johnny Cash. In the early writing stages of the album he got to record some demos at the legendary sun studio, the site where Elvis Presley laid down That’s Alright Mama along with the foundations of all rock and roll:

“I wrote a couple of songs in there and it was an amazing experience. It’s an inspiring place to be.”

He may not be trashing hotel rooms and throwing sucker punches at photographers at the same rate as our man Bieber, but it’s hard to imagine Jake Bugg can keep writing songs like Two Fingers when he’s travelling the world and fraternizing with the rich and famous. Sure, a lot of the songs on that debut are about escaping from dead-end towns, not glorifying them (a la The Enemy), but is there no danger of becoming complacent? Devoid of life’s hardships, are we not all liable to turn into Miley Cyrus?

Thankfully, Jake doesn’t seem to have lost his muse when he left Nottingham. The young man has a matter of fact way of speaking which interviewers can often mistake for an Oasis-style affected arrogance, but in truth it’s a simple trait of honesty, and perhaps naivety, that also pervades his music. Bugg is an anomaly; a hard-working song-writer getting away with murder in an industry full of PR-trained actors. Regardless of success, for him it’s just business as usual.

“Well of course, I haven’t been back smoking and drinking on the streets and standing in car parks. I have travelled a lot in the last year, seen a lot of things and met a lot of new people. There are a lot of new stories, I should imagine that I’ve got even more to write about now but, it’s not going to be so much about where I’m from because I’ve already talked about that. People don’t need to hear me keep banging on about it.”