Music Features

Dot to Dot Festival - Jake Bugg (interview)

In the past twelve months, Nottingham's Jake Bugg has achieved what most professional musicians would be happy to achieve in a whole career.  As well as being signed to a major record label, he's supported such prestigious artists as Michael Kiwanuka, Lana Del Rey and Example, appeared on BBC2 show Later... with Jools Holland and has had two songs selected as BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe's Record of the Week.  All before the release of his début album and all whilst still just 18 years old.  Clearly, this is an artist whose sound is connecting with a lot of people.

In spite of the whirlwind surrounding him, Jake comes across as remarkably grounded and mature, appearing to take it all in his stride.  At the Bristol leg of 2012's Dot To Dot Festival, he took the time to talk to Craig Stevens about his career to date and plans for the future.

Jake, welcome to Bristol. Have you played here before?

No, I haven't. I've gone past it a few times though, seems like a nice place.

You seem to have been playing all over the country recently, all over Europe in fact, working really hard and in support of Michael Kiwanuka. How have the past few months been?

It's all been happening a bit fast. There's a lot to do but it's been very exciting and it's boosted my confidence loads. Especially in Europe, supporting Michael in those high-capacity venues on my own. It feels like I've learned a lot in the last few weeks.

When it's you on stage, is it literally just you on stage? Do you have anyone else in the band?

I do now. When we did the tour in the UK, I brought the band with me, and it's bass and drums.

But the technical side of it is you on the guitar. I mean, that's where the songs are written.

Yeah, the songs are mine and the band just follow me, which is great. They're a really good little band.

How do you go about writing songs? Where do you get your inspiration from?

I don't force it. If I sit down and think, “I'm going to write a song”, I can't do it. I just try and let it flow. If I'm twiddling on a guitar, I'll maybe come up with a melody and then put some words to it. Or if I'm sat on a train, I'll put some words down and then add the melody to it later.

Are you a prolific songwriter or do you go through spurts?

Definitely spurts. Sometimes, it can seem like the easiest thing in the world to write a song. And at other times, it can seem like the hardest thing.

What is it that usually kickstarts a song? Is it a riff, or do you get an idea of the sort of lyrics you want to write about?

It's different with every song. I might come up with a nice chord structure, or just sing a melody round the house and try and put something to it. But I can't really say. When I like a song, I can't explain why I like it, I just do. Whether it's the riff, the chords, whatever – if I like it, I just go with it.

Tomorrow, you're playing in your home town of Nottingham. Was Dot to Dot Festival something you were aware of growing up in Nottingham and have you been to it before?

I actually played it last year, at The Bodega. And tomorrow (at Nottingham), they've put me on the main stage, at Rock City. Nottingham's got a really good vibe, there's always a lot of stuff going on.

And will there be a lot of local fans coming along tomorrow? Have you got a lot of friends from school going?

I don't know. I hope they come by – it would be nice to see some faces, especially at a hometown gig.

You've released a few EPs now, when is the album coming?

It's October now, they've actually brought it forward. We were going to put another EP out. But because the album's been brought forward, we're going to put out another couple of singles out and then drop the album.

The singles that have been released so far, are they going to be featured on the album or is it all new material?

Yeah, they'll be featured on the album. I have got a bit of new material but I think that the singles I've put out are probably stronger than the new material I've got at the minute.

Does the release of an album mean that we can expect a headline tour from you in the autumn?

Yeah, there'll be one in November. There's already a London show at Scala in November, which I think sold about 300 tickets in the first week. It's quite shocking to hear that. I just hope it goes well.

Not wishing to adhere to stereotypes, but a lot of people your age aren't really into the sort of music that you make. They're more interested in chart music, dubstep, or indie maybe. Your music is a lot more traditional. When you first started performing in school, did you get a lot of support and attention?

To be honest, I played my first gig at school, and it's the scariest gig you can do. You're playing to the whole school and you're going to see those people every day for another five years. But no-one said a bad word, they were really nice. And it inspires you to carry on doing it. I'm really thankful to the people that I went to school with.

What are your long-term goals? Do you want to try and break the US or are you comfortable with doing what you're doing?

Yeah, of course I'd like to break the US. It would be incredible to go over there and tour. But at the minute, I think I need to keep my head focussed on getting the album out over here first.

And is there anything you can tell us about the album? Do you have any album titles in mind?

I think it might just be called Jake Bugg. I wouldn't probably go for an album title unless it stuck out. But I'm not going to sit there and think about it for ages, because that's when it ends up being crap!

We're currently on our way to the Louisiana to see Rae Morris. Are there any other acts you want to try and catch over the course of this weekend?

I'd like to try and catch Dog Is Dead and there are a couple of others. I haven't quite decided yet. But there seem to be quite a few good acts on.

You can find out more about Jake, including details of upcoming shows, at his website: