With a final single due from his self-titled debut album, Jake Bugg decided to spruce-up his hymn-like track Broken (29 July). However rather than a quick remix, the singer-songwriter recently headed to the US to work with Rick Rubin, who called on the likes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’s Chad Smith to help with the re-recording. With the Nottingham singer-songwriter now planning to make his debut album with the Beastie Boys and Johnny Cash producer it’s fair to say things went well. Ahead of Bugg’s double slots at Glastonbury next week (28-30 June), he speaks to Q about the festival, the sessions and what’s next for the 19 year-old.
How the devil are you?
“I’m cool, man.”
Last summer you did pretty well at the festivals, making your name with some big crowds. Are you confident of doing it all again?
“Well, as usual I’m pretty apprehensive. I’m high up on the bills this year and that means I’ve got to step it up in a way and fight for my place. Hopefully next year I’ll be even higher. But at the same time, I’m looking forward to it. I think the summer could be nice.”
Do you feel a bit of pressure then? Last year you had audience too big to fit into the smaller tents you were playing; this year there’s a bit more space to fill…
“Not really pressure. It’s more just from myself. If there’s any pressure, I do it to myself.”
Have you thought about what you want to play?
“I got three new tunes I’m going to put in the set. They’re from the new record which I’d like to get our this year or maybe early next year. It puts me in a bit of a dilemma. I know around this time people just want to hear the record but I want people to hear some new stuff as well, it will be nice to do that. I don’t want it to stick out like a saw thumb, so it’s about moderation and balance.”
You have two slots at Glastonbury, are you a fan of the festival? Have you ever been for fun?
“I played it two years ago on the BBC Introducing stage which is like the smallest stage on site, now I’m on the biggest, which is a big leap for me. To be honest, I’m not a fan of the actual festival experience but I really enjoy playing them, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve only ever played festivals, I’ve no aspirations to go as a punter. Do I fancy three days roughing it in the mud? Absolutely not!”
You’re releasing a new version of Broken in July, how did come about?
“I was happy with the album version, but I thought if this is the last single before I put my debut to bed I’d like to do something special. The choir and the strings on there are not genuine, their samples or what not. So I wanted to do the same but with it being real and bring it to life a bit more and I think we’ve done that.”
You didn’t pop down your local church hall and grabbed some singers though did you? It’s a deluxe upgrade…
“Yeah, well I just wanted it sound bigger. It was an amazing experience. It was crazy for me, I’m not musically trained whereas the people I worked with learned to play music in a different way from me. So it was a real learning experience to see how they worked. The quartet would say mad things, like, I think you should remove those minor ninths from the seventh bar… I didn’t have a fucking clue what they were talking about, I just put four chords together, know what I mean?” [laughs]
Did you find a way to communicate your ideas to them?
“I have to understand they’re professionals but I have to also know what I want. I had to be cynically open-minded in a weird way.”
Are you going to learn more theory? Learn to read music?
“It’s not for me. Some people see music as, they wake up and write song because it’s their job for that day. Whereas me, I do it because I love to do it, it’s therapeutic for me and good for my soul. I like to pick up a guitar and write a tune. If it’s good, brilliant, if not move on to the next one.”
Do you enjoy the fact that a lot of your audience are your age and seem to relate a lot with what you sing about?
“It’s great that the songs have connected with people, it’s the reason they come to the shows, but while I’m working on my new record it’s going to be difficult to sing about smoking and drinking on the streets and doing what I was doing before when I’m in Malibu in the sunshine and can see the blue sea. It would be very dishonest. Saying that, on the first record all I did was sing about what I wanted to sing about and it just so happened it related to people. With this second one I think I’ve got to give people who don’t get the opportunities I get a insight into what it’s about.”
You recorded the new version of Broken with Rick Rubin, what was he like to work with?
“It was fantastic. I went up there to record two songs and ended-up recording 12 by accident. I wasn’t meant to start recording the second record till January but I had a lot of ideas and I showed them to Rick and he brought the best of them out for me. I want to go back there in August to finish the record and try to put it out this year.”
Is it true you didn’t really know his work before you met him?
“No, I didn’t know all his work. I knew he’d worked with Johnny Cash which was pretty cool, but I didn’t know how renown he was. I do now, but by the time I got to know him I knew the guy, so we got on well.”
He also brought Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer to help. You didn’t know him either?
“Yeah, I didn’t know who Chad Smith was [laughs]. Once he started playing I was very aware of how good he was. It was good though because it allowed me to get on with what I do. They played around me rather than me play around them. It’s my record after all.”
So you’ll go back to the US to finish the record?
“Yeah, the place where we record Shangri-La has a very peaceful atmosphere, you feel away from civilisation. It’s an inspiring place to write. I also did some demos at Sun Studios which was pretty cool. It’s a bit crazy. I don’t know how people will perceive the next record or how they’re going to take it but it’s just about putting records out there. Whether people like them or not is for them to decide, I’m just the person who writes the songs.”
Well as long as you don’t come back referring to yourself in the third person…
How do you feel the album is going?
“It sounds like it’s matured and progressed a bit more, but I’m 19 so I don’t want it to mature too much. I want to emulate what I did with the first record but at the same time I want it to be better. There’ll be some more upbeat songs, I want to keep the acoustic side of what I do and then there’ll be a bit of electric too.”
We have noticed the odd guitar solo is creeping in live.
“Yeah, they’re creeping in. I try not to go longer than 30 seconds. I enjoy soloing but I’ve got to balance it out so it’s enjoyable for me as it is for the people watching. I can’t go OTT.” [laughs]
Finally, do you still speak to you friends from home? What do they make of what’s happened to you over the last year?
“It is a bit strange but I still speak to them. I went back the other day and it’s weird, I know Clifton better than anywhere but I’ve not been there for such a long time. I went to see my friends and my best mate was telling me he’s now doing the night shift in Boots or whatever. It makes you feel a bit guilty in a way, but what can you do? If I do well enough I can sort them out with a job in the future. They’re very supportive of what I do. They could easily be bitter about it, but they’re not.”
For more head to Jakebugg.com.