- My guitar keeps me sane
It’s only been a year since Jake Bugg released his debut album, but the follow up is already on the shelves, and the reviews have been extremely positive. The night before the album was reviewed, Bugg played an nearly sold out gig at Rockefeller in Oslo, and a couple of hours before the concert, we had the honour of having a chat with the young artist. It was a very excited and slightly nervous Jake Bugg who greeted us in his dressing room ahead of both concert and album release:
"I’m very excited, but pretty stressed. Some apprehensive feelings, you just don’t know how it’s gonna go. I think I’ve just got used to the idea now, it’s coming out no matter what, so.. just gonna see what happens."
This past year, Jake has not only recorded a brand new album, but also toured the world and played several festivals in the summer months. He tells us that the only way of making time for everything is using downtime constructively – and there’s a lot of downtime and waiting in this business:
"I’ve always got my guitar so that’s what keeps me sane! I’m someone that.. I either have to keep going or I have to take quite a bit of time off. Like, one day off, I don’t know what to do with myself, he chuckles; – I start pacing around the hotel room at 9 o’clock in the evening because my body thinks it’s time to go on stage."
Long periods of time off are a no show these days according to Jake, who felt like recording the new album was a mini-break: "It was kinda like a holiday cos I was there for two weeks and that’s the longest I’ve stayed in one place for the last two years. So I was just in one place and I was making music so that was my holiday, recording my second album."
Bugg’s new album was recorded in Malibu with Rick Rubin, and is named Shangri La after the studio they worked in. When this info was released, a lot of people were worried that both the location and the producer would have too much of an influence on Jake’s music, something he denies:
"But it certainly had an influence on me, to get all those ideas and songs and stuff that I’d kept locked inside, to feel relaxed and get them out of me and to put them on a record, that place certainly helped for that I think. He [Rick] put the musicians around me, they inspired me a lot and were amazing players and so that was probably the main thing [he contributed with], and he was just very hands on. After every take he’d give you a little bit of advice, and it always made sense, it always brought something better to the song and.. my job is just to be the artist – and I know what I want, let that be known, but I think to also be open minded and to get a bit creative and hear some new ideas and just play the songs. Do what you do but do it good."
One of the songs Rick helped Jake get out, is the dark and pretty spooky song Kitchen Table, written in a dark time in Jake’s life: "Yeah it’s very spooky yeah! Well it’s spooky to me.. I tried to say that to someone and they went 'it’s not spooky?'.. so thank you for saying that!" He laughs, "it’s very dark lyrically… before I got signed I was in this relationship and it was a quite dark time. I always had the lyric “I wrote a song by your kitchen table” but I never finished it and it was something that was really bothering me. When we got into the studio Rick finally got all those dark thoughts out and into a song."
After a long pause to think, Jakes tells us about one song which ended up completely different to what he had initially imagined when writing it: "A Song About Love. That came out quite different. It was a quite hard one to record because it was a weird timing thing that the musicians had to figure out, but I didn’t know what it was, I just wrote the song," he smiles, "it came out completely different, but I’m happy with it!"
The country style song Storm Passes Away, which ends the album, also sticks out from the rest. Jake tells us that the way it was made was a little different to the rest of the album:
"I wrote it in Nashville with Ian and Brendon Bentson. I said: 'Seeing as we’re in Nashville, should we write a little country song?', and I started playing. Ian laughed at me and said: 'umm.. what song’s that?', and I just said: 'I don’t know, I’m making it up', and his face panicked!" Jake laughs. "He grabbed the recorder and just let me keep playing, and I just kept singing “storm passes away” for some reason – it was just subconscious. That song is one of those songs that didn’t have any relevance at the time, but you can relate to it in a couple of days’ time or the next day or.. it can mean something for each day."
Many of the lyrics on Jake’s first album were about Nottingham and Clifton, where where grew up. Sons such as Trouble Town drew a quite claustrophobic and grim picture of his hometown, and on the new album, Jake was surprised to come home and discover he was still writing songs about the past:
"Yeah it was interesting to see, because now I’m not someone who knows what’s going on there. After everything that’s happened and the crazy life I had, that old life seems quite strange to me now. Seeing it from a different perspective was quite interesting. I was now somebody on the outside looking in and it was crazy to see."
"I’ve changed. I have more to give, I’ve become more generous, but also more cynical because of all the bullshit that goes on in this industry sometimes. People don’t really like it if you don’t play their games sometimes and having to… because you meet new people all the time, you have such little time to work out if someone is genuine or not, That’s something that you’re always questioning."
The last time Musikknyheter talked to Jake, he told us he’s a vinyl fan, and when he arranges the tracklist on his albums, he does it as if the album was a vinyl: "You know six songs kind of had a different setting and feel to them as the other six songs. So I just put them in that order. Just having a vinyl in mind. I’d say maybe the second side is a little bit more philosophical, rather than observational. The second side is a little more within myself and speaking out."
When the first single from Shangri La, What Doesn’t Kill You was released, a lot of media reacted to Jake playing electric guitar both on the song and in the video, something Jake finds slightly humorous:
"I’ve always played electric guitars! They try to compare it to Bob Dylan, don’t they. But I’ve always played electric guitar because I love Jimi Hendrix! So from the moment I got an acoustic [guitar], I wanted an electric," he laughs, "I’d always play that in my bedroom, and I played [it] a lot on it on my first record, but it’s just now people see it. I suppose putting that single, What Doesn’t Kill You out first was quite deceptive, because it’s a really heavy song and the rest of the album’s not really like that. It’s similar to Slumville Sunrise rather than the rest of the album."
The video for "Slumville Sunrise" is a thing worth mentioning. Directed by Shane Meadows, it has a colourful comedy vibe which we haven’t earlier seen Jake touch on to:
"It was crazy when they sent the script, I was like: 'How’s that gonna work??', and then I went and did it and I had a load of fun. I’ve never done any acting before, I’ve never done anything like that, and I had a really cool time, I enjoyed myself! It was ridiculous but it was a lot of fun!"
This interview was first published at Musikknyheter.no.