Interview: Jake Bugg

Interview with Jake Bugg

Jake Bugg


Since being picked to play Glastonbury 2011, Nottingham-born Jake Bugg’s opened for The Stone Roses and been endorsed by acts as diverse as Coldplay and Elton John. We caught up with the 18 year-old singer-songwriter about life on the road with Noel Gallagher, and the making of his Dylan-esque debut.

Questions and answers

Hi Jake, we understand you’re in Germany today?

Yeah, I’m in Offenbach, on tour with Noel Gallagher.

How’s the tour going?

It’s been brilliant, yeah. The crowds have been great and Noel and his crew are all really nice. I was a bit starstruck at first, but you soon realise that, at the end of the day, they’re just normal people .

So you were signed after you performed at Glastonbury 2011. How long had you been making music before that?

Well I started playing the guitar when I was about 12, playing other people’s songs, like Don McLean, Donovan, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Oasis. And then I realised that all the people whose songs I enjoyed listening to and playing had only become successful by writing their own music, so I decided to give it a go myself. I started writing when I was about 14, and got a [record] deal when I was 17.

You can tell by your sound that you have a lot of older musical reference points. Do you listen to much contemporary music?

Yeah, I really like Michael Kiwanuka. And there’s a new band called Southern, and a band called Boston Tea Party, from up in Dundee. I’m always checking in, going through magazines, to see what’s new on the scene.

How are you feeling ahead of the album release?

A bit apprehensive, as any artist would be for their first album. But I’m looking forward to seeing what the response is going to be. I couldn’t care less what the critics think about it, but it matters how the fans take it and whether they enjoy listening to it, and get something from it. And I just hope that the album inspires more young people to pick up guitars and start writing their own material.

People are saying that British guitar music’s dead now, but when they say that, that’s when it starts coming back around. So I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

So how long did your debut take to write and record?

It’s a funny one: we didn’t just go into the studio and bash every track out. Some of them are demos, a couple of songs were written when I was 15-16, and then there’s the new singles on there. Some were recorded with my band and some I recorded on my own, so it’s a mixture, and I like to think there are a few different things in there for everyone.

You must have worked with a few different producers, then?

Yeah, there are a couple of demos, and the other tracks were done with a guy called Mike Crossley, up in Liverpool. And then the last track on the album was recorded on my iPhone, so I get the producer rights on that one. I was just sat at home and I had an idea so recorded it, and the label really liked it so we included it on the album.

What was your aim for this record?

I just wanted it to be a record that I could look back at in 10 years time and have no regrets. So obviously I had to be happy with it, and I just wanted it to inspire people to start making proper music again.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

No, I don’t. I don’t listen to my own music in the same way I listen to other artists’. It’s like, whenever someone puts it on, I’m always looking at what could be improved... I’m very critical of it.

Thematically, the album’s intrinsically linked to your upbringing in Nottingham. Are you still living there?

Yeah, I still live there. But obviously I’m living my life on the road at the moment, so I try to go back there to see my friends whenever I have a few days off.

And travelling around and being on the road a lot has given me lots of things to write about: all the new people you come across and things like that.

How is the music scene in Nottingham nowadays?

I believe it’s gotten a lot better. Somebody was quoted as saying that it was the UK’s music capital. (Laughs) I definitely think it’s improved but I don’t think it’s the capital quite yet. We shouldn’t be complacent until things have improved a lot more. And I think we definitely need some more venues.

But we’ve got a few people coming through at the moment, like Natalie Duncan and Dog Is Dead, so it’s definitely gotten a lot better.

A lot of the media coverage surrounding you focuses on how young you are. Does that ever frustrate you at all?

No, it doesn’t bother me. It only bothers me that I’m going to America next month and I can’t drink. You have to be 21... (Laughs) Some people try to be patronising but I don’t really care for those people. And I get older every day, so I’ve just got to get on with it.

What has been the highlight so far?

There have been quite a few so it’s hard to choose. Obviously there’s this tour with Noel, which has been amazing. Going to America was a big thing for me, and supporting The Stone Roses was ridiculous. Also, in terms of a stepping stone in my career, playing T in the Park was a big thing for me.

Are you planning to play Glastonbury next year?

Yeah, that would be great. I enjoyed playing the BBC Introducing Stage and I’d love to play Glastonbury again, but maybe on a bigger stage.

What’s the ultimate aim for you?

I just want to be still making records when I’m old and grey.

Finally, aside from your record, what one album should everyone own?

I’d say Jimi Hendrix, Axis: Bold as Love. Because it’s an incredible, iconic album and I think he’s the best guitarist ever. So, if you are a guitarist you should definitely go out and purchase that album.