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In-Conversation: Jake Bugg

Exclusive shoot and interview with chart-topping musician Jake Bugg to talk London, loneliness and ‘On My One’.

Jake Bugg is the kind of artist who’s reputation precedes him. The internet is awash with stories that 22 year old Bugg can be quite a handful, but when we ventured to West London to spend a couple of hours in his company, we were quick to find that reputations can be deceiving.

With two albums already under his belt, the young Nottingham native returns to reign supreme with third record ‘On My One’ a title which he says “sums up this new record because it mainly has been me on my own”. Jake wrote all 11 songs, played the instruments on the record and produced most of the album, alongside producer Jacknife Lee.

The album, recorded in London, Los Angeles and Nottingham, is a diverse and intoxicating mix of country, pop, hip-hop soul and folk, with a definitive blues undercurrent, which remains the true heartbeat of the whole collection. Anthemic ballads such as ‘Never Wanna Dance’ and ‘Love, Hope & Misery’, teamed against fast-paced new single ‘Gimme The Love’ remain true to Jake’s signature twang whilst displaying a mature and experimental progression.

With his prodigious, effortless talent as a wordsmith, it won’t be long before Jake Bugg is hailed a national treasure. Let’s see what he has to say about singing the same old songs, returning to where it all began and jamming with Jimi Hendrix.

It seems like you’ve been away for a lifetime. Was it a conscious decision to take a longer hiatus between the last album and ‘On My One’?

We toured the last two records so much. It’s good to take a bit of time and have so much freedom in the studio and I was by myself for a lot of it, so it was really great to have some time to myself whilst I made this record.

Are you ever fully satisfied with the final album you deliver, or would you consider yourself a true perfectionist?

I’m not really a perfectionist to be honest, I mean I’d like the record to be perfect but I’m a little bit too lazy to put the effort into making it perfect. Sometimes it’s good to have an element of rawness and quirkiness in there so things aren’t too polished.

Is there anything that you’d go back and change about the first two records?

I probably wouldn’t change anything. There are people who would say that the first record is better than the second, but the second one really helped me elevate to a bigger place during festival season. I think Shangri La is a bit more relevant to me now even though the first two albums were recorded quite closely together. My first album was about where I grew up and being from a certain place and things are different now, so it can be hard to relate to those songs in the same manner.

You must get tired of still playing tracks from your debut album? Are there any tracks that you’re bored of playing yet?

I’m not a huge fan of ‘Two Fingers’ but that’s one that people will want to hear so I’ll always have to play it. I’m not 17 anymore and the things that I sing about in that song might not be so true as of now.

Do you worry that because your life and circumstances have changed quite dramatically since your debut, you’re going to run out of things to write about that your fans can relate too?

I want my music to be left open for interpretation, so what it means to me might mean something different to someone else. That’s what I like doing and I’ve been trying to incorporate those ideas into both the music and the visuals.

How do you tackle the feeling of vulnerability when you’re singing such personal lyrics onstage to thousands of people?

Sometimes I can feel vulnerable, yeah and more-so when I’m writing those lyrics because once you sing it on a stage and people are singing back, you don’t feel so alone, but when you’re in the studio writing, you think “do I really wanna be this person in this song”. I think some of the best songs come from when you’re at your most vulnerable.

Has there been a point in your career when you’ve taken a moment to step back and felt completely overwhelmed by what you’ve achieved so far?

I remember playing Glastonbury and my set clashed with Metallica. I was a big fan of Metallica as a kid and always wanted to see them, so to be clashing with them at Glastonbury when I headlined The Other Stage was pretty surreal.

Were there any previous projects before ‘Jake Bugg’?

I was in a couple of bands that were pretty good. I played bass in my cousin’s band when I was about 15 and we’d play 500cap rock n roll indie shows.

Is it quite surreal going back to your hometown now and playing huge venues that you may have only dreamed of playing when you were growing up?

It’s quite overwhelming playing home shows because everybody wants to see you, then you’ve got family going “ this is your aunties second cousins brothers dog, do you remember them”. It’s quite stressful playing those shows. I enjoy going home to see my mates. Last time I went back I played Nottingham Arena and there was an upstairs bar and I couldn’t even get to the bar for a pint.

This whole album has been a one-man show with you tackling everything from production to writing. Do you ever feel isolated during the whole process? Is having complete creative control appealing to you?

I like having complete creative control, absolutely. On this record I didn’t write with anybody so it was quite a solitary vibe and I enjoyed it. I had a lot on my mind so it was a good way for me to project it into my music. I worked with Jacknife Lee, who’s a producer and a couple of other people, but we didn’t get anything out of it musically but inspiration-wise I feel like I gained something. I worked with Mike D from The Beastie Boys on this album so that’s one to strike off the bucket list.

If you had to duet with any other artist, dead or alive, who would be your ideal collaborator?

I’d definitely like to have a jam with Jimi Hendrix – that would be sweet. I’d just play with him and turn my guitar down so I could just hear him play.

It’s been said that this album as a reinvention. Would you consider that to be an accurate description?

Not really. On the next record I’m gonna be making something completely different from this current one so will they say that that’s a reinvention as well? I’m just continuing what I’m doing and for all anybody knows, I could have been doing this kind of stuff before the first album.

Tell us more about the artwork for the album – do you think it sums up the mood of the record?

The first two albums felt like one chapter for me and on this record I wanted a new logo, new images and new artwork. When we looked through a few things I found an artist called Nathan Pendlebury and travelled up to Liverpool to meet him and talk about his work. It’s a theme that will be running throughout the campaign. It’s cool to have something different and I’m already thinking about the next campaign already!

So you’ve already started writing for the next album?

Not really – I’ve been messing around with synth music and it’s exciting and fun, which is what it always should be.

Who are you championing and listening too at the moment? Any emerging talent that we might be missing out on?

I like Run The Jewels and Joey Bada$$. When I look at the iTunes charts I can’t help but get depressed. Clearly a lot of people like the music that’s in there. I’m really not digging Lukas Graham’s ‘7 Years’ track but a lot of people clearly are.

Do you think that the rise of social media in music is a blessing or a burden?

I think if you’re a popstar then it’s a blessing, but for musicians it’s a burden. It’s this obsession to be liked and everybody thinks that their opinion matters and that they can push it in your face via social media, whether you want to see it or not. For me, I find it annoying. I usually go on Twitter to see what the fans are saying and I use Facebook to watch football videos or look at stupid memes.

If you could get one person banished from social media forever, who would it be?

No one in particular but I do get annoyed by the shouty political vibes, like people still think it’s fucking 1986 or whatever, that’s what gets me annoyed.

‘Gimme The Love‘ is out now. ‘On My One’ will be released on June 17th.

Words
Shane Hawkins
Photography
Jack Bridgland
In-Conversation: Jake Bugg

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