There aren’t many eighteen-year olds that get whisked away from Clifton, hailed as the new Bob Dylan, and sent around the various corners of the globe on tour. For a lad who’s just turned 24, Nottingham’s very own Jake Bugg has packed a fair bit in since we last spoke to him…
How has your life changed since we first interviewed you back in 2012?
It’s changed a lot. That interview would have been around the time I first started touring properly and I’d hardly ever left Nottingham. If we went on holiday as a family, it’d always be to Skeggy or Mablethorpe, and meeting people from Leicester seemed exotic. By the time people read this, the UK leg of my tour will be over and we’ll be playing in the USA, Canada, Australia or Japan. That gives you some idea of how different life is these days.
Tell us about the new album Hearts That Strain…
I wrote three of the songs on the piano this time around. I definitely feel like I’ve learnt a lot as a musician over the last few years. Three of the songs are co-written with my friend Matt Sweeney, and also with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys.
I was going to ask about Dan Auerbach. How did that connection come about?
I toured as The Black Keys support act when they were doing an arena tour of the US three or four years ago, so there was already a relationship established. Dan is really chilled out and has a really good work ethic. A lot better than mine to be honest, I can be a bit lazy at times. It was great to work with him, try something different and learn something new. That’s what I want to keep doing, really.
What’s it like being on tour all the time? Do you enjoy the lifestyle?
It’s a dream come true really; I couldn’t ask for more. I’m still young, so I’ve got the energy. It can be tiring sometimes, but I get to travel around the world and play my music to people. There’re a lot worse things I could be doing.
What are the best places you’ve visited on tour?
I love South America: Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina. You can see some of the videos of my tours out there online, including a gig we did in one of the favelas in São Paulo. I love Japan; it’s crazy but beautiful. I really like France, too.
Your next destination is the USA. Do they get your music out there like they do in the UK?
I think they get it a bit, but it’s not like it is here in terms of audiences. Back here, we’re playing 2,000+ capacity venues. Over there it’s more like 500+. It might have seemed a bit slow at times, but to be honest, I think they have a lot more music like mine already out there; it’s certainly where a lot of my influences are from. However, I’m building up a solid fan base, and every time we go back, there seems to be more and more people coming out. It’s a tough nut to crack as it’s a really big country and every state has its own radio stations; it’s hard for anyone to build a fan base without radio play.
You’re a big Notts County fan. How did it feel to see your name on the front of the shirts this season?
It was amazing. I’ve spent years playing FIFA getting them from the bottom league to the Champions League. This time around, they’ve got my name on the shirts when I play it! It’s been great to see them doing so well on the pitch this season too. I’ll always be a Notts County fan, and I’ll always try and help them in any way I can.
What are your best memories of watching Notts?
Well, obviously I don’t get to watch them as much as I’d like to these days as I’m usually on tour. But that promotion season in 2009-10 was incredible. Lee Hughes scored a lot of goals for us, we had Sven Goran Eriksson coming in, and we also had our high-profile signing, Sol Campbell, for one game. How mental was all that?
Have you met the players much, now you’re a sponsor?
Yeah, it’s funny. I’ve met a lot of famous people and I don’t really get starstruck except for when I meet Notts County players. You can’t help but freak out a bit as they’re playing for the club you support. They always want to talk to me about music, but that’s the last thing I want to talk about really. I want to talk to them about football, but it’s the same for them. We’re stuck in this continuous cycle of both wanting and not wanting to talk about each other's work.
The Brit Awards was on telly last month. You must have been to loads of ceremonies like that. What are they like?
They’re really boring. It’s just load of music industry politics that I don’t really understand or want to understand. People might think I’m saying that because I haven’t been nominated recently, but I just feel like it’s all really detached from what music is about. I’m sure a lot of people out there would love to go for the experience, and I’m glad that I’ve been there once, but the whole idea of giving awards out for something as personal and subjective as music seems daft to me.
Your Royal Concert Hall gig in Nottingham in March was live streamed to children in hospitals around the world by the Melodic Caring Project. Tell us about that…
I heard about the project and I thought it was an amazing thing. It’s sad that there are loads of kids in hospital that are ill, and can’t get out and do much. So when they got in touch we said yes straight away. There might be a few out there that are like “Oh no, not Jake Bugg, that’s not for me” but I think it’s a lovely thing to do and I’m really happy to be part of it.
What’s your idea of a fun night out in Nottingham?
I don’t know really. I got signed when I was seventeen, and before that I was too young to get into any bars and clubs. I definitely looked young too, so I would never have got past the doormen. I had a few wild nights out playing with my cousin’s band, The Swiines, when I was fifteen, and they were good fun. Whenever I come back now, it’s people showing me where their favourite places are, not the other way around.
Your third album, On My One, had a title that was pure Nottingham slang. How did that go down?
The album went down okay, but no one outside of the city could understand the title at all. Everyone kept calling it “On My Own”. It’s got to the point where I’ve stopped bothering to correct them.
What do you miss most about Nottingham when you’re on tour?
I really miss playing football with my mates. I try to get a game in here and there, but it’s difficult to do when you’re touring. Kicking a football around on your own is never quite the same.
Anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers in our hundredth issue?
I remember reading LeftLion when I first started touring in Nottingham. It’s always been great and it’s great to see that it’s still going strong. If you’re an artist in Nottingham then you want to be in it because you know people read it. Congratulations on fifteen years, and thank you very much for all the support you’ve given me.
Jake Bugg’s album Hearts That Strain is available to buy now.
Jake Bugg website