By Laura Studarus; Photo by Marc Lemoine on June 27, 2013
Jake Bugg knows the question is coming. The singer-songwriter leans in, almost mouthing the words as they’re formed. Is he—as so many journalists have rushed to crown him—Generation Y’s answer to Bob Dylan?
Bugg shakes off the comparison with perfunctory good charm.
“People really want to put that on me,” he says. “I find it a really lazy and generic comparison. But at the end of the day, it’s not a bad comparison. But I do wonder if these people actually own other records.” He ends with a light laugh, taking the sting out of his words.
With a slender face framed by a shaggy haircut, at first glance Bugg looks more Noel Gallager than Robert Zimmerman—and certainly younger than 19. Awash with post-adolescent energy, he fidgets as he speaks, pausing to ask if we can take the interview outside. The move transforms him; suddenly he’s more troubadour than teen. Cigarette in hand, he speaks in a slow rasp, which he insists is a result of a grueling run of promotional appearances rather than the remnants of a particularly wild party. Coupled with his music—scrappy guitar-driven tales of whiskey, women, smoking and redemption—it’s easy to see where the classic folk comparisons came from.
“People have said that I’ve got this vintage recording sound,” Bugg muses. “To be honest, it’s something that I didn’t think about. I recorded a few songs in a studio with my manager; three tracks. And then I went up to a studio in Liverpool to record a few songs. Then I recorded in a studio with my mate. The last song was done on my iPhone. We just did a load of songs. It’s not something where I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to use this mic, I’m going to use that.’ Someone put one or two mics in front of me and pressed ‘record.’”
It’s a freewheeling, impulsive style of living that the Nottingham, England–based musician has been perfecting for the last seven years. Drawn to the guitar after hearing Don McLean’s “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)” on an episode of The Simpsons, and nourished by a cool uncle’s record collection, Bugg developed his devil-may-care music and voice. Dropping out of school at 16 to focus on his craft, he didn’t have to wait long for his big break. A year later, he was handpicked by the BBC to perform at its “Introducing” stage at Glastonbury.
The response was exponential. Last year, his percussively strummed single “Lightning Bolt” was part of the official London Olympics soundtrack. He also received Brit and NME award nominations for his self-titled debut. Bugg describes the professional whirlwind as fun—albeit a bit bemusing.
“I find it unfair that I should be able to live my dream and play music for a living while other people don’t get that chance,” he says. “The only thing I can do with that is try and make everyone happy, which I’ve come to discover in my short 19 years is an impossible task. But you can at least try.”
So why him? Was it fate or luck? Bugg measures out his words, unwilling to commit to either side of the question.
“Why are the leaves green?” he ponders. “It is a mysterious thing. Something mad happens every day. It’s a crazy world.”
Despite the accolades piling up, Bugg claims to not have experienced a specific major musician milestone—hearing his music played in a restaurant or shop. He laughs, uncomfortable at the thought, and admits he’d probably just walk out.
“I listen to my music when I’m writing it, and when I’m in the studio,” he says. “Once it’s out there to the world, I don’t listen to it because it’s not mine anymore. I’ve given it away... All I really know, as someone who really enjoys listening to music, is that a song can make my day. If my music can make one person’s day, then that can make my day.” F
3 ALBUMS THAT INSPIRED JAKE BUGG TO MAKE MUSIC
It’s quite haunting.
I find it hard to explain it, and I think that’s what the appeal is. When I listen to a piece of music and I don’t quite understand why my ears like it, that’s why I’m interested in it.
Please Please Me
As someone who was working on their first record at the time, it was nice to hear some [other] people’s first records. It gives you a good idea of what to not do and what to do.
This article is from FILTER Issue 52