Even if Jake Bugg were the FIFA champion of the world, he’d still be playing his guitar and writing those sad songs that we all love. That is a fact.
The twenty two year old needs little to no introduction, but when he walks in to a backstage room (apparently the only one with a loo in it, as several disruptions tell) he offers a modest handshake.
“Hi, I’m Jake.”
The title track of his third and latest full length, ‘On My One’, summarises his journey best. ‘Three years on the road, 400 shows’ he asks, ‘where do I call home?’, written as a vision of a possible future, even Jake’s one year ‘break’ wasn’t that at all.
“I think it seemed like time off to everybody else but I was spending every day at the studio, playing every day making this album.” He says. Where the self-titled debut, and sophomore record ‘Shangri La’ followed one another in quick succession, the latest was given time to breathe.
Referencing Californian funk band, War, as one of his favourites, and blending that with a recording stint in Malibu; the Nottingham lad was touched by the sunrays. “I think music, and just any creative art in general, is about pushing boundaries and trying to do something different.” He explains, “Whether or not it comes out good or bad, it’s just good to try things out and then find out what works and what doesn’t and apply that to the ongoing future.”
A gentle line of groove runs through the swooning ‘Never Wanna Dance’ whilst swagger kicks in ‘Gimme The Love’; a dose of ‘Bitter Salt’ added the punch in electric guitar.
Jake’s fingers move on his leg, as though a riff is running through his mind. After all I did have to wait for him to finish something before he came to talk. “I don’t really like to nail myself down to anything genre-wise or in a style or direction, I just like to write songs and however they end up or whatever genre they end up in is part of the fun and what I enjoy.” He smiles, as though he’s teasing what’s going on in his mind.
One element of the new record has dominated reviews, that ‘hip hop track’. The one where Bugg tried his hand at rapping. He laughs when it’s mentioned, “It’s funny, again it’s part of the experimental process, like I produced that track (‘Ain’t No Rhyme’) and I know I ain’t no rapper and I probably don’t know the first thing about hip hop!” The idea that it was swallowed so seriously seems almost like an inside joke. “I was just messing around in the studio and my friends were like ‘yeah you should put that on the album’ and I did and a lot of people hated it.”
Yet, a lot of people loved it too.
“Apart from the lyrics, the rest of the song is not to be taken too seriously.”
Lyrics, I discover are something that are considered at upmost importance to the singer-songwriter. Acting as “a way of expressing myself in a way that I feel most comfortable with”, Jake describes himself as “somebody who can easily keep my feelings buried deep down and not talk about them”, explaining, “music is a way of me getting them out there, and it’s a relief in that sense.”
The relief particularly came from writing ‘The Love We’re Hoping For’. Running through the same vein of the sensitive side of his double edged debut, the track explores the consequential heartbreak of falling in love. Urgent in its fast pace and short, sharp lines, ‘As time went on, She felt she belonged, In a trapped domain, Drove her insane’ there’s a menacing calamity in the vocal.
It’s a “song that’s pretty close to me in a dark sense” he says, “so I was happy to write that song.”
Keeping his beloved country roots and cigarette burned vocals, Jake is able to splash soulful blues atop and add fiery, rough edges. He’s able to add a cocky, youthful pop twist in his choruses and revert back to crooning 80s love songs, too.
There’s a romanticism in his declarations, and lyrics are never something that are compromised.
“I think that songs are for people and how they receive them and so I think what one word means to me, means another to somebody else and that’s the beauty of music.” Selfless in his tracks, “It’s a room that’s open for interpretation and that’s beautiful.
“You take something that is so personal and then you put it out there on a live stage and people sing along and it’s funny when it’s so personal and people sing it back.” He shakes his head, almost in disbelief, “Maybe they have some relation to it, so it’s a funny one but it’s just as enjoyable non-the-less.”
The debris of grit stripped from his nifty riffs rubs off onto all of the tones that create a Jake Bugg track. Pushed into the limelight at just seventeen, he’s grown up with his fans and they’ve grown up with him. “I didn’t at first think ‘I want to create something that relates to people’, I was just doing what I knew and it turns out quite a few people feel the same way. Especially people my age, I guess with the times and everything, they’re going through the same things that I was. I do feel like that in a way.”
His earlier tracks provided a look into teenage life in a ‘Trouble Town’. Flung into the estates of Clifton, we were beside him as he held ‘Two Fingers’ up with quick wit and wistful insight, having believed he’d ‘Seen It All’. Now, in different ways, we’re familiar with the lost love and isolation he addresses today.
“With the new album, even though it was different and from what others knew, it still came from me. When I’ve been doing these shows the crowds are still singing along, and there’s people in there who I’ve seen at shows in the past.” notes Jake.
The modesty is present throughout our entire conversation, as he confesses, “I’m probably harsh on myself, I think it’s a self defence mechanism that if I am my harshest critic than nobody else can be.” This is his drive to keep on working.
Achievements don’t pay a role in Jake’s defining himself as a musician.
“It’s not about that really for me, it’s just about music. I got into it for music, not to feel like I achieved anything. It’s just about the songs for me, that’s all that matters.”
Leaving the same way that he came in, with another tight, but brief handshake and a final nod in my direction, he scurries off to finish whatever I’d distracted him from. Hoping that the inspiration will still be where he left it.
Words by Tanyel Gumushan