Jake Bugg: “I Just Want To Give People Something Different To Listen To”

Jake Bugg certainly isn’t one to do things in half measures. Only 19-years-old and already the Clifton lad has two highly successful and critically acclaimed albums to his name, several tours, a reputation as one of today’s best young singer-songwriters, and a devoted global following.

None are more devoted than his Aussie fans, who Jake has delighted with performances at venues including Splendour In The Grass and Music Feeds LIVE, and who he’ll once again be delighting when he returns for performances at Bluesfest 2014 and the West Coast Blues ‘n’ Roots Festival.

To get up to speed with Jake has been up to since his last visit here, Music Feeds had a chat with the young songwriting mind behind tracks like Lightning Bolt, Seen It All, and What Doesn’t Kill You, who told us about his creative process and what his new life spent travelling the world has been like.

Music Feeds: Firstly we wanted to congratulate you on yet another successful album. Shangri La is hugely popular here in Australia, as it is overseas. How has your songwriting, particularly of the songs on Shangri La, been impacted by your recent shift onto the global stage?

Jake Bugg: After everything that’s happened, how crazy life has been… there were elements of my life that used to make up the lyrics of my songs. Now I’ve had the opportunity to return home, to see that life from another perspective, through new eyes. I guess that’s what helped make the second album.

MF: Have you had much of an opportunity to reflect on your journey so far?

JB: Well, I don’t really reflect on the experiences themselves… I often sit back and dwell on the madness, but to sit and reflect can almost get in the way of writing about them. I just like to get in and do it.

MF: As you say, it really has been madness. I read that you performed some 200 shows last year, including some major festival appearances, even a performance at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Norway. Has there been somewhat of a learning curve when it comes to life on the road?

JB: Yeah… you meet a lot of interesting people, you have fortunate experiences. I have learned a lot, but it’s just another way of life that you adapt to fairly quickly… you have to.

MF: Do you find things can get quite stressful, or are you enjoying the roller coaster?

JB: Things do get a bit stressful at times… I am naturally a bit of a tense person. However it’s the music that keeps me level-minded, it’s my outlet. It’s great therapy to write and it makes it all worthwhile. I want to give people something to listen to… something different, if I can.

MF: Speaking of songwriting, it’s recently been confirmed that you’re going to host some songwriting masterclasses at the Royal Albert Hall before performing there. Can you tell us how this came about?

JB: It’s a great initiative on the part of Albert Hall, they get a lot of kids in there. I mean, songwriting isn’t always something you can just teach, it’s very personal and requires a lot of intuition. It comes from the heart and soul. Some kids might walk away thinking that isn’t what they want to do… I would like to help a kid get some direction, in that way. I wouldn’t have passed up the opportunity to go along, as a student or a teacher. I might learn something too… [laughs] But songwriting… that’s the fun part of the job. That’s the best part. I’m looking forward to it.

Watch: Jake Bugg – Lightning Bolt (Live at Music Feeds Studio)


MF: We know that people like to use comparisons when describing a talent, and for you the comparisons are often the classics, particularly Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Do you find you’ve been influenced by any songwriters in particular?

JB: Of course, but I don’t like to listen to one artist for too long. I kind of like to grab a snippet and then move on. There’s definitely a fine line between being influenced and creating an imitation. I listen to as much as I can… even if it’s not that great, you can still learn from it. What I love about music is that, even if it was made 50 years ago, and I have only just heard it, then to me it’s new. That’s the beautiful thing about music — something that can be recorded in two-and-a-half minutes can last an eternity.

MF: So Australia is soon welcoming you back for the West Coast Blues ‘n’ Roots Festival and Byron Bay’s Bluesfest, plus a bunch of sideshows. Do you get much of an opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing while you’re visiting?

JB: Not really. I mean, I’m very lucky to see the world, and when you do go out in these situations you are doing interviews or “official business.” You get shown the “cool” bars or the “cool” hangouts. But there’s never any wandering about with a camera. That’s not to say there isn’t anything worth exploring. There are always wonderful looking museums and such for expanding your mind and making you a bit more cultured, but in my days off, even then there isn’t always the opportunity.

MF: I know for the sideshows particularly, they’re very close to if not entirely sold out. The bar was set pretty high after your Splendour In The Grass appearances last year, what can your fans expect this time around?

JB: There’s the new album, another body of work to expand the show, give the new songs new legs. I want to play the songs people want to hear, even the old ones.

MF: Do you find that you’re more at ease on a festival stage in front of thousands or in a smaller, enclosed arena for a sideshow?

JB: It really depends. You can play for a festival of tens of thousands of people and it can feel very intimate, like you’re sharing a moment. Or you can share that with a small room of people. But then there are rooms that are soulless, and perhaps the audience isn’t feeling it. But it’s always fun to play a festival. I’ve never attended a music festival, but when I’m playing one it’s great to see people having a good time, dressing up in costumes or whatever.

MF: Given how much you’ve already achieved in a relatively short amount of time, is there any musical aspirations you still have your eye on?

JB: I mean, I’ve already done more than I thought I would get the opportunity to do, I’m very grateful for everything. My aim would be to continue doing what I love, which is making music. I like to give people songs to listen to. Something different.

See Jake Bugg at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014 and at his own headlining shows this April – details below. His latest album, ‘Shangri La’, is out now.

Jake Bugg Shangri La Tour 2014

Wednesday, 16th April

Melbourne, Palace Theatre

Tix: Secret Sounds

Thursday, 17th April – SOLD OUT

Melbourne, Palace Theatre

Tix: Secret Sounds

Sunday, 20th April

Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Tix: Secret Sounds

Wednesday, 23rd April

The Hi-Fi, Brisbane

Tix: Secret Sounds

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Monday, 21st April 2014

Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, North of Byron Bay, NSW

Tix: Via Bluesfest

West Coast Blues ‘n’ Roots Festival 2014

Sunday, 13th April 2014

Fremantle Park, Fremantle

Tix: Via Moshtix

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