Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Soundtrack to my life: Five songs that influenced Jake Bugg

From US singer-songwriter Don McLean to John Lennon, the prodigious British folk singer tells us the songs that influenced him

British singer songwriter Jake Bugg tells us the songs that inspire him. Getty 
British singer songwriter Jake Bugg tells us the songs that inspire him. Getty 

A lot of things have been said about Jake Bugg.

Ever since the British singer-songwriter emerged on the scene as a 17-year-old with his unique brand of traditional folk music, the press and seasoned music lovers went as far as to label him “the new Bob Dylan”.

It is something the now 24-year-old brushes off with a shrug.

His solo acoustic set on February 7 at Dubai Opera showed that the singer is working from a wider palette that also includes the delta blues, soul music and modern indie-rock. Speaking to The National before the gig, he explains his song-writing approach as mixture of inspiration and graft.

“There is no one way. Sometimes, I would work on a song for months in order to craft it the right way. While a song like Lightning Bolt, which is one of my popular ones, was done in 15 minutes,” he says.

“For me, the melodies come naturally. Then I begin working on the song like a puzzle as I try to figure what part should go where. I have been working with Swedish pop producers lately and that has helped because they write songs in a natural way like most of us. The only difference is that they showed me different tools I can use when I get stuck.”

Bugg then moves on to talk about the five songs that have helped to shape his life and career.

A song that reminds me of my childhood Vincent by Don McLean (1971)

I remember being 12 years old and I was living on a council estate back in England. This was before being a musician was an idea. That song came on in an episode of The Simpsons actually and I just remember not having heard this kind of music before. At that age and with what was on the radio at the time, this music was totally different and it opened a whole new world for me.

A song that made me want to be a musician Voodoo Child by Jimi Hendrix (1968)

I was about 13 and I was playing the guitar by then. My uncle played this song for me and I remembered being both excited and disappointed at the same. I was excited because the music was absolutely brilliant, but at the same time I was kind of upset because I knew I would never be that good in my life. It was uplifting and disheartening all at once.

A song that changed my career The early 1960s songs of Donovan

That is a tough one. For that, I will say that it was the songs by Donovan. He was a great folk singer songwriter and he was in the same era as early Dylan and part of that whole 1960s folk revival scene with the protest songs and all that. What he did was add these Celtic elements and strange melodies to his songs which I hadn’t heard before. I was 14 when I first heard his music and at that point, as someone who was starting to write my own songs, his approach definitely opened my mind and showed me that I can do different things with my music. It definitely opened a lot of doors for me on a creative level.

A song I wish I’d written Jealous Guy by John Lennon (1971)

The melodies here are just ridiculously good and the lyricism is fantastic. As a songwriter, it taught me that it’s OK to show more vulnerability in my lyrics.

A song that makes me cry Baltimore by Nina Simone (1978)

It is strange that this song is not typically downbeat. But the track comes from a concept album that talks about how it feels to leave home and be far away from loved ones. As someone who is traveling a lot, there are many things in that song that I can relate to.

Updated: February 8, 2019 01:00 PM