Jake Bugg has taken the UK by storm. At 19 years old, he is the youngest male solo artist ever to reach the top of the album charts! He’s now released his second album and is ready to take over the rest of the world. We met up with him and spoke about the new album, his influences, and what matters most in his life.
Charismatic, retro-inspired talent Jake Bugg has not only been nominated for the Mercury Prize for Album of the Year and Q Award for Best Solo Artist, he’s now won the Q Award for Best New Act and is quickly becoming a favorite of elite musicians and legends including Noel Gallagher, Lily Allen, Damon Albarn, Chris Martin, and Elton John. Jake just finished a European tour and released his second album, Shangri La, on which he collaborated with the legendary super producer Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, AC/DC, Johnny Cash).
JB: It’s been going ok. I’ve played many shows much bigger than I’ve ever played before; that was fun. We’ll see how this album goes. I’m quite, a little bit, apprehensive about how it’s going to be received, but excited at the same time.
Shangri La is named after Rick Rubin’s studio in Malibu, Los Angeles, where the 19-year-old singer-songwriter recorded the album. Rubin produced the album, and it features Jason Lader on bass, Matt Sweeney on guitar, and Pete Thomas on drums.
JB: It was great to work with Rick! He’s a very nice man. I didn’t really know of his work before, so I wasn’t like in awe. I just went and met him for the person that he is. He’s a very nice guy, very relaxed. The place that we recorded the album was very relaxed too, Zuma beach. I didn’t want to leave to be honest. I was there for two weeks and I heard that’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place for the last two years. So it was like a holiday for me, recording this album. It was pretty nice; the purple sky when the sun’s going down and then some lemon trees growing around –very beautiful. It was like a dream.
Jake’s main influences as a songwriter are Layne Staley, The Beatles, Oasis, Donovan, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, and Nick Drake. This influence from older artists really shines through in his music. At home, Jake has a lot of old guitars – including a particularly special 60-year-old guitar that he bought in Nashville, Tennessee.
JB: It was something that I wanted for ages, but I never thought I’d earn such a thing. It’s quite a rare guitar, but I’m very happy that I own it. I own quite a lot of guitars… I probably have about 20.
Yes I Do
This year, Jake played the Glastonbury Festival, not once but twice. First on a main stage and then a smaller, more intimate gig on an acoustic-only stage. One of the songs he played that day was “Saffron,” an old song that he wrote when he was about 15 years old. About halfway through, he noticed that something was going on in the crowd…
JB: I saw a lot of people start looking at this woman. Then this guy stood up and she hugged him and he proposed to her. He asked her to marry him in the middle of my song. So, halfway through the song I said congratulations. That’s very nice, but if I were going to propose, I wouldn’t do it at a Jake Bugg gig.
Behind the Spotlight
Jake grew up in Nottingham, about two hours away from London. Currently, the young artist is without an official home base. London would be the obvious choice, but he’s also considering somewhere like Paris or Stockholm. Jake left home when he was 17, so wherever he settles will be the first place he’d live since then. Despite his rapid success and seemingly constant touring, Jake seems to be a surprisingly pleasant and down to earth person. He describes himself as quite cynical, about music and a lot of things.
JB: I think I spend too much time trying to work out everybody else’s personalities. Because I’m very grateful of what I have, I think I can also be quite generous at times as well. I just had my best friend with me on the tour bus for the UK tour, that was quite nice. I think it’s all about the people that you surround yourself with. If you start getting a big head or, you know, they’ll tell you… it’s good.
The thing Jake values most in life is his family, his friends, all the people that he loves, and, of course, the music.
JB: If I wasn’t doing this, I don’t know what else I’d be doing. It’s kind of all that I have.