Cambridge to welcome back Jake Bugg
The singer-songwriter, who headlined the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2017, will be at the Corn Exchange next month.
Some musical artists seem physically unable to stop writing songs, stockpiling material that should see them able to carry on releasing music until the next millennium (okay, I’m exaggerating slightly).
Prince is one such artist, of course, Nottingham’s Jake Bugg, who describes writing songs as his “favourite thing to do” could well be another.
The young troubadour has put out four studio albums and an impressive number of EPs and singles since 2012, exploring a range of styles along the way from indie to folk, blues to country and rock to Americana.
He has been compared to some of the greats from the past and has collaborated with the likes of CamelPhat, Dan Auerbach, and the house band of the American Sound Studio – who worked with Elvis Presley on Suspicious Minds.
Speaking to the Cambridge Independent from his home in London, Jake says he’s been in the studio, working on an upcoming new album with a few different people, and has “just been having fun, really.”
He continues: “I’ve written a lot of songs for this record and I feel like I’ve got a few singles, so just enjoying myself and writing as much as I can.”
So does Jake write all the time? “Yeah, I try and get two or three songs a week,” he explains. “I write in my spare time when I’m at home, and I’ve been popping over to Sweden and LA and also various studios here in London as well.
“I’ve just been enjoying meeting loads of different people and just having a good time.”
Jake started writing songs at the age of around 14 and has no problems at all when it comes to finding ideas and inspiration.
“It’s a great thing to be inspired by a lot,” he says, “but it can also be a bit of a curse when you’re trying to compose and you’ve just got a million different ideas going on in your head and you just want to find one.”
Jake’s latest single, the catchy Kiss Like the Sun, boasts a very entertaining video that looks as if it was shot in an American bar. The reality, however, is somewhat different.
“It was actually filmed in Kiev in Ukraine,” he says. “It was in an old, abandoned TV studio that was run-down, and they actually built that bar from scratch. Because the director was so renowned, and he’s created so many good videos, I just let him do his thing.”
A fan of country music, Jake filmed the video for his single Broken in a real American bar in Nashville, the home of country music, and some of his songs definitely have a country edge.
It’s also refreshing to hear a 25-year-old reel off a list of country influences that includes bona-fide country legends like Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Paycheck, and George Jones. “There’s so many good songs from that era,” says Jake. “Anything past 1979, though, and I’m out.”
Jake tends to get compared to a lot of great artists from the past, from ’60s acts like The Beatles right up to the Britpop bands of the mid-1990s.
“I’m aware of all the comparisons, but it doesn’t bother me because I’m getting compared to different types of artists, which is great – it’s not one in particular,” he says. “I just try and keep doing my thing and see what happens, really.
“And to be fair, a lot of times people I get referenced to are people I did grow up listening to, so it’s nice to know that I’ve got those influences in there and they come through.”
Although Jake’s music tips its hat to the past, he is very much focused on keeping things fresh and up-todate. “That’s something that I’m trying to achieve with my new material,” he reveals.
“I’ve been working with more pop-orientated producers because I’m just intrigued to mix what I do with maybe more modern production and something that’s a little more current, in terms of the sounds used in the recordings. It’s been working out so far with some interesting results.”
The likeable musician, a fan of The Stone Roses who he has supported on tour (“I’ve had a few nights out with Mani before and he’s a laugh”) has also previously been on the road with Noel Gallagher.
The elder of the two Gallagher brothers – and the main songwriter in Oasis – publicly criticised Jake in 2015 for using a professionalsongwriter as a co-writer on some of his songs.
“It’s water off a duck’s back for me,” says Jake now. “I’m not too bothered... I think I said in an interview afterwards that he could do with a couple of co-writers! I don’t think that will go down too well with him, but that’s just Noel – he likes to say things and that’s okay.
“I’ll always say ‘hello’ whenever we meet, but I was maybe a little disappointed, growing up as a fan, but that’s the way it goes. I don’t take it personally; he had a new record coming out and it wasn’t just me getting criticism, it was also everybody else.”
Does Jake, a lifelong Notts County fan, prefer to write alone or with a co-writer? “I wrote quite a lot on my last two records on my own,” he recalls, “and this time that’s why I thought it would be good to go and meet some new people and learn some new tricks, some new things about music that I didn’t know before.
“That’s why I wrote on my own after the first two records, I kind of wanted to take everything I’d learned and try to develop it. Then I felt like I’d done that so it’s now time to move onto the next step.”
There is no release date as of yet for the new album, but Jake has plenty of songs in the bag. “I’m just going to keep releasing songs and see where we’re at,” he says. “I’m going to release quite a few songs this year.
“I’ve never done that before, it’s always been that, I guess, old-fashioned way of make your album, release a few songs off it... whereas times have changed so much now.
“I quite like what the current pop artists do, that they just keep dropping tracks and then eventually the album comes. The songs are just stacking now, I’ve probably written about 40 tracks for this record.”
Jake has risen to the top of his field in a very short space of time, a fact demonstrated by his association with the Cambridge Folk Festival.
In 2012, a then largely-unknown Jake Bugg performed in The Den, the festival’s smallest stage. Five years later, in 2017, the conquering hero returned to headline Stage One on the Sunday night, performing a well-received acoustic set to bring the proceedings to a close.
“For me that was an amazing thing,” he says. “Growing up and watching all the old videos of artists playing it and stuff... so to be headlining that one was amazing, I was really chuffed about that.”
On how fast everything has happened for him since releasing his first music in 2012, Jake says: “I didn’t really tend to dwell on it so much at the time.
“When somebody asks me what was it like, I’m a bit like, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty mad, I guess’ but otherwise I just live day by day. I don’t think too much about it.”
Jake Bugg will be at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Thursday, March 5, at 7.30pm. Tickets: £28.
Box office: cornex.co.uk.
More by this authorAdrian Peel