“The reason I write is because it’s soul cleansing for me. If you don’t like it, I don’t care.”
Jake Bugg - Clash Magazine - Issue 84

This is an excerpt from the May 2013 issue of Clash magazine. Find out more about the issue.

Buy this issue of Clash Magazine.

Last year, eighteen-year-old Jake Bugg sat sheepishly in Clash HQ, preparing to be grilled for our Ones To Watch pages. We’d seen the YouTube videos and heard his early demos and realised not only that this kid was seriously talented, but that his retro-tinged tunes laced with dissatisfaction and frustration showed an acute awareness beyond his years.

It wasn’t a difficult interview, yet Jake looked uncomfortable. Unused to being away from the environs of his Nottingham council estate home, Clifton, and still uneasy with the duties of an aspiring singer/songwriter, his demeanour was shy and maybe wary. Fast-forward eight months, and Clash is faced with a completely different person: nineteen-year-old Jake Bugg is an experienced world traveller with a Number One album and BRIT nomination to his name, rumoured dalliances with models, a war of words with One Direction, and an enthusiasm for talking about his music (though a friendship with ex-touring partner Noel Gallagher attests to a shared quality of having little patience for irrelevant and irreverent discussions, which is fine, as so does Clash.)

We meet Jake while both in Austin, experiencing two very different South By South West festivals. Ours is busy yet fulfilling, his is just frantic and tiring - but apparently successful: when Clash attends a midnight show mid-week (his first that day was at 10am), we were equally surprised and delighted to see the largely American crowd singing along.

The chance to sit down and look back over a life-changing year, therefore, was just the tonic for avoiding the Texan glare.

Did you always want to be famous or were your intentions just to be able to play music?

Well, I know I always wanted to do this, but in reality you can’t rely on it. I never had a safety net - although I knew that I should have, I didn’t. But I think that’s because the only thing that I wanted to do was music. If I wasn’t doing this, I honestly couldn’t tell you what I would be doing. 

When you write a song, do you think you have a duty to try and get a message across in it, to make an impact on the listener, or are you just creating it merely for someone’s entertainment?

The reason I write is because it’s soul cleansing for me. Whether people like my music or not… Well, if you don’t like it, I don’t care. If you do, and there’s something you can take away from it, no matter what it is - whether it’s hands up in the air or whether it’s just that they get it - then that’s brilliant, that’s great. They say for me to go out on the stage and play my songs, they say it must be a confidence thing, but I don’t see it like that. I’m not really the most confident person. Sometimes when I get in front of a camera I don’t know how to react, so I just speak. But the reason I do it is because that song you’ve wrote, you might not feel confident in performing it, but that song could make one person’s day, and if I can make one person’s day, then that makes my day. That’s why I do it.

Your album very much extols the working class roots from whence you came. How do you think your life over the last twelve months will affect your next record?

Quite a few people have asked that, and it’s a very fair point because obviously being on the road and being able to live my dream and, for example, being here, it can be much more difficult to sympathise with your roots and the working class people. But because of that, I’ve been given opportunities that my friends or people where I’m from won’t usually get, and so I’ve had the opportunity to look into other people’s lives. For example, people question why did I go to the Burberry fashion show. I’m like, ‘Because I would never get that opportunity. I might as well go see what it’s like before I comment on it.’ And things like the BRITS - I didn’t particularly want to go, but I should, because some people would kill for that opportunity. There’s no point in turning your nose up at it. 

You’re playing a lot of festivals this summer - what do you make of them: do you like performing at them? Do you like going to them?

I’ve never been to a festival as a punter in my life, ever. I don’t particularly enjoy them. I love playing them - I appreciate people coming through the mud and coming to watch me play, but personally it’s not for me. But it’s a good vibe and everyone’s just there to listen to music and get a bit pissed, so it’s cool, man.

Have you got any plans for your next album yet? You’ve a UK tour in November so I was wondering whether you would have some new songs in time for it?

I like to try and be prolific. I want to keep putting stuff out there and try to build up to the second instead of having people wait around - keep putting things out for people to listen to. Yeah, I’ve got a few ideas knocking around. I go back to America next week just to hang out and write some tunes. I think I’ve got a couple of days in Sun Studios, so it would be interesting to see what comes from that. And there’s no pressure on it; I’m just out there to have a bit of fun and see what happens.

Jake’s summer festival appearances include: Evolution, Roskilde, Splendour, Benicassim, Summer Sonic, and T In The Park.

Words: Simon Harper
Photography: Dima Hohlov
Fashion: John Colver

This is an excerpt from the May 2013 issue of Clash magazine. Find out more about the issue.

Buy this issue of Clash Magazine.


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