The year 2012 has, so far, been pretty good to Jake Bugg. Festivals, and fame, and now on Monday, the singer is releasing his self-titled debut album.
Jake Bugg's pretty good year can only get better
The year 2012 has, so far, been pretty good to Jake Bugg. There was the night he supported his musical hero, Oasis’s Noel Gallagher, at a War Child concert in London.
There was his song Lightning Bolt, an electric jolt of skiffle-rock 'n' roll, played on the BBC coverage just prior to Usain Bolt smashing the 100 metres record at this year’s Olympics. “Haven’t met him, no – next time, hopefully.”
Oh, and there were the sets at this year’s Reading and Leeds festivals in late August, where the buzz around this 18-year-old singer-songwriter from Nottingham tipped from abstract hype into genuine adulation.
“Obviously they’re the festivals you always dream of playing when you’re younger,” says Bugg. “I think there were two or three thousand in each tent, they were absolutely rammed. That was an incredible feeling.”
Heady stuff, but it would be fair to say that Bugg’s rise is only just beginning. On Monday, he releases his self-titled debut album on Mercury Records – a 14-song collection that places him as the latest in a tradition of working-class British rock musicians stretching back through Oasis and Miles Kane to The Stone Roses, The La’s, and The Beatles.
Jake Bugg is a slightly more nuanced collection than that implies, though. Alongside chippy lad-rock numbers such as Taste It and Trouble Town, Bugg has a talent for acoustic and finger-picked folk and country numbers such as Simple as This and Country Song that owe a debt of influence to the likes of Donovan and Bob Dylan.
“I wanted to have stuff on there with more of a band feel and stuff that’s softer, more melancholic,” says Bugg, “For me, that’s a nice mix.”
Jake Bugg was born in 1994 – the week Oasis’s debut album Definitely Maybe was at number one in the UK album charts – in Clifton, Nottingham. With about 20,000 residents, Clifton used to be the biggest council estate in Europe and while it is immortalised in Bugg’s Trouble Town as a place to escape (“Stuck in speedbump city/Where the only thing that’s pretty/Is the thought of getting out”), today he’s more forgiving of his home city. “It wasn’t exactly a bad place to grow up … it has its good bits and bad bits. I might leave Clifton, but I’d like to stay based in Nottingham.”
Bugg got his first guitar at the age of 12 and while his peers were listening to N-Dubz and Tinie Tempah, he found himself on a different path, eagerly ploughing through the back catalogues of Oasis, Led Zeppelin, folky musicians such as John Martyn and Nick Drake, and the Delta bluesmen.
He played his first gig at school at 14 and started gigging on the Nottingham circuit a year later, where he was spotted by BBC Introducing and plucked to play that stage at Glastonbury last year.
Things since have taken a surreal turn. Bugg has supported the Stone Roses, met Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Sir Elton John is, reportedly, a fan. How does he keep his feet on the ground? “I’m just chuffing along, to be honest, taking every day as it comes,” he says. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to make my music and get it out there. You know, you just get with it, don’t you?”