Music fans in South Yorkshire and around the world have got the Bugg - they can’t get enough of teen singer songwriting sensation Jake Bugg, writes Graham Walker.
Tickets sold out almost instantly for his upcoming performance at Doncastere Dome on Saturday, November 2.
Arena tours are almost certainly on the horizon.
But it’s been a meteoric rise for the Nottingham teenager. Just a year ago he released his debut self-titled album. A week later, his life changed forever, the record going straight to the top of the charts and leading to sell-out tours, a Mercury Prize nomination and now, a rocking new single, What Doesn’t Kill You, and forthcoming album, Shangri La.
In advance of his biggest tour to date, in our special Q and A, Jake has been talking about recording with Rick Rubin in his Malibu studio and how his music has progressed.
Q: What Doesn’t Kill You sounds pretty different to the songs on the first album, more plugged in and rowdy. What inspired that change?
Jake: It actually came about by accident, if I’m being honest. I was just jamming with Iain [Archer, co-writer] and writing a song that wasn’t going anywhere really. I was being a typical 19 year-old, getting distracted and so on, and messed about with a riff instead. And there it was, What Doesn’t Kill You! It came together really easily after that.
Q:It reminds us of The Stooges. Is What Doesn’t Kill You reflective of what the new album, Shangri La, might sound like?
Jake:I wouldn’t say so. That’s probably the heaviest song on it. I guess the more upbeat songs are a bit heavier but I’ve still maintained a balance on the record with the quieter ballads I’ve written. I think the difference this time is that I’ve felt confident enough to accentuate the difference between the two styles.
Q: It’s only a year since your debut. You must have been feeling really inspired to make a new record so quickly.
Jake: Yeah - I’m here to write songs and that’s what I do. It’s not a task, it’s something that I enjoy and there were just loads of tracks that I’d worked on as I toured in the last 12 months. And then when I got into the studio it all came together really quickly - which, like What Doesn’t Kill You, was also a bit of an accident!
Q: In what way?
Jake: Well, I was in Rick Rubin’s studio in Malibu with the intention of recording two songs - one of them being the new version of Broken from the last album. And, er, we ended up doing 12! He was brilliant at dragging all these ideas out of me, and they quickly turned into finished songs - in just two weeks.
Q: Rick Rubin is an iconic figure in the music world, the founder of Def Jam, a key figure in the development of hip hop and latterly teasing brilliant albums out of everyone from Johnny Cash to Adele. What was he like to work with?
Jake: To be honest, he was just this guy with a big beard to me! But seriously, you can see why he’s so well thought of because although he’s really chilled, he just gets the very best out of the artists he works with. Like I say, a lot of the songs we did were just ideas really, and he somehow pulled out the best bits and we worked on them. He just knows what works for a song; the musicians to use, how it should sound and so on. It was great.
Q: Recording an album in Malibu with Rick Rubin is quite a step up from teenage years kicking around Nottingham. Is it quite difficult to keep your feet on the ground?
Jake: Well, it certainly it makes you look at the things you experienced before in a completely different perspective. But I’ve always wanted that, I’ve always wanted to see new things. When I wrote the first album I’d never really been out of the UK. And so when it came to writing the lyrics for Shangri La I found it quite easy because of all these new experiences I was having around the world. What I found really interesting is that all the things I was writing about before aren’t unique to Nottingham, they happen all over the place, just in slightly different ways. And then, of course, there were a few dark tales of relationships I wanted to get out too!
Q: You mention Nottingham. What’s it like when you go back there?
Jake: Very strange. It’s the place I know better than anywhere but when you haven’t been back for a while - and then when you do, you stay in a hotel or something - it messes with your head a bit. It’s still my hometown though.
Q: Naturally we’re looking forward to the new album, but we also have to look back because the first album has been nominated for the forthcoming Mercury Prize. What does that mean to you?
Jake: It’s great to be nominated and recognised for something you love doing. But the Mercurys don’t mean a whole lot to me - that’s not why I make music, to get awards.
Q: However, when we spoke a year ago, you mentioned that you were really keen to be seen as an albums artist - and the Mercury Prize celebrates an album, rather than a song or a star. So that must be satisfying.
Jake: It’s still an award, which as I say is not what I make music for! Look, I make albums for people to listen to. I started writing songs in the hope they could mean something, could help someone, could inspire someone, could make someone’s day. That’s the best thing in the world for me.
Q: And that must be the amazing thing - playing your songs to a huge audience who have taken them to their hearts.
Jake: Definitely. There is no better feeling than looking at people really enjoying what I do. It’s absolutely fantastic, and to me it’s almost unbelievable that I’ll be playing some really big venues this autumn. But at the same time it’s all I ever dreamed about.
Q: Those people will be singing along to some pretty big hits from the first album - it had seven singles on it! What do you think about your debut now?
Jake: I don’t listen to it. I can listen to the second one at the moment because it’s not out yet, but once they’re released I find them difficult to listen to. They’re not mine any more, in a way, they become other people’s.
Q: The reason we ask is because of those two different versions of Broken - the single having been re-recorded with Rick Rubin this year. So is the reason you don’t listen back to your music because you’re constantly thinking about how you could have improved it?
Jake: Well, the truth about the version of Broken on the album is that the strings were all programmed in. So it wasn’t about getting Rick to make it really polished, I just really wanted to make it feel more real. So we got a real choir and real strings together and I think it gives the song more emotion now. People noticed my vocals were different too, and touring for a year did make my voice much stronger. Although having said all that, I’ve only listened to that version once or twice since as well!
Q: The video for Broken is set in an American pool hall, and while you were over there you also went to the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, where everyone from Johnny Cash to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis has recorded. That must have been a great thrill.
Jake: It was, and I actually wrote a few new songs in there. The whole point of going there was to be inspired and it certainly worked. To see all the pictures on the walls of all these legendary artists, to record a song and think, “Johnny Cash stood here doing this exact thing” was totally incredible.
Q: So how will all that be reflected on the new album?
Jake: I really enjoyed the whole process of writing Shangri La, it was a great time and it felt amazing to be recording songs again after travelling around so much. The first one felt like a list of songs which I accumulated over the course of a few years, whereas this, to me, feels like a real progression, more of a coherent album.
* Shangri La will be released on November 18 on Jake Bugg Records/Virgin EMI. Visit http://po.st/JakeBuggStore.