Jake Bugg : “I think I think we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel”
Alice Gee | 01/03/2021
The ever-hopeful Jake Bugg sets the tone for what will hopefully be the beginning of the end when it comes to COVID-19. Both Jake and I seem to agree that the thing at the forefront of our minds is the pub with Jake also holding onto the idea of getting back out on the road gigging. Having spent lockdown bunkered under in his London home he tells me the things top of his to-do list when the world opens up. “I’d like to travel to new places. Obviously, we travel a lot for work, but it’s mostly cities. I’d like to go anywhere different even if it was something mad like the Amazon rainforest or the desert. I’d like to mix it up a little bit. I think that’s one of the good things to come out of this, it’s definitely going to make people more appreciative of life”
For many in the industry, it’s been a tough call to decide whether to continue with planned releases or whether to bide their time with COVID-19 being rampant. Jake for one has moved full steam ahead with his new album due to be released in April and tells me how he felt less stress when it came to producing it than his previous albums. While many felt the pressure to be productive and creative in the extra time the pandemic gave them he felt the opposite only stumbling across pure joy when making his 5th studio album.
“This has probably been the most fun record for me. It’s been a great time. The last album was very tough, it was a difficult process. But with this album, it’s been a lot more fun. I think it’s because I’ve just got a little bit older and a lot more open. I’ve released a lot of music, so I don’t feel I have much to prove to myself. Being more open and working with loads of different people was a lot of fun, it was nice to realise you can have fun and still do right by my music. Whereas, in the past, I found it a little bit more of a chore.”
His latest single ‘All I Need’ was produced with the immensely talented Steve Mac, moving in a refreshing new direction, oozing pop-focused melodies whilst still staying loyal to his musical roots.“My label made it possible to work with Steve Mac and luckily, he decided that he would work me. We got on really well. Steve definitely comes from a more pop-oriented background, which was what I was looking for. I know that I have plenty of ideas for melodies, songs and things like that but what was great, working with Steve, was stripping it all back and making it as simple as you possibly can. I wanted the songs to get straight to the point which I think a lot of artists struggle with. I’ve got better at it through working with others but in the past I’ve found myself being very self-indulgent, adding a couple of chords here and there that aren’t necessary. So here we kept it simple, and it worked.”
In comparison to the other tracks Jake has released we can see the shift to a more modern take on Folk-Rock while still maintaining his signature sounds and honest lyrics. "Something I was very aware of was that I knew that I wanted to take this approach. I wanted to modernise the sound to my DNA and what I already do, but the thing I was aware of is that it had to be me, it couldn’t be a more generic side, it had to come from me. I feel like I’m still there in the songs just with a little bit of pop production. If anything, it makes it a bit more accessible than previously. That was the challenge with the first two records. It’s very hard to recapture that, especially if you’re trying to do it. I think the single has moved things forward whilst evolving my sound.”
Being a perfectionist tends to come with the territory of being an artist. Having recently moved Label I wondered whether Jake felt a huge amount of pressure to produce a hit record.“Fortunately, I had a lot of songs ready before I signed the deal. Ultimately that was what helped me get the deal, I got signed on a lot of the songs I already had which was great because I felt it told me I was moving in the right direction. I felt I hadn’t had as much success with the last two records, so to be offered a new deal with better terms than my old one was a promising sign to me. And I think that was because of the songs I had. It was a fresh start in a way. It definitely feels like chapter two for sure which was most definitely needed.”
Most would assume by the time they’ve played Graham Norton three times it would be a given that an artist would have a large group of followers. Jake dismisses that notion, shyly telling me he has a ‘few’ fans who want to listen to his tracks and performances. He’s either horrendously modest, or he really doesn’t realise the following he has built over the past 8 years. With that in mind, Jake laughs questioning why people tuned in when he felt he could at times look miserable.
“I was speaking to my manager about this the other day. I kind of said that in the past whenever I was doing TV performances I always looked like I wasn’t happy to be there. I think it’s because you’re always on the back of coming off tour and you’re exhausted. Like it would be meant to be a day off, instead, you’ve got to go spend the whole day in the studio, but this time we hadn’t done anything for ages. So we’re all like, absolutely overjoyed to be there doing it. And just to get out and playing again. And obviously, the rehearsals building up to it with the crew meant we were just having a great time. It was brilliant to be on the show again. I actually had a really good time.”
And just like that Jake and I are dreaming of being anywhere but home, mostly the pub again. With lockdown on our minds, I wanted to ask how he’d been feeling mentally, not just through the pandemic, but how he’s found his mental health change over the years.
“It’s difficult to say because I struggle with it in different ways. I think going through different things and different experiences makes us who we are. Personally, I’ve felt depressed many times, especially in the midst of the first two records and the amount of touring and pressure that was going on. To be honest, I always felt no matter how much reassurance and love the people around you gave you, it has to kind of come from you in a way that you’re prepared to pull yourself out of that hole which is very difficult to do. But you’ve just got to find that in you. It’s sad as I just don’t want anyone to have to deal with that. It’s a terrible thing.
Touring was was one of the things that kept me going. I’m very lucky to be able to have that perspective when I’m feeling down when things aren’t going my way or as well as I would like. I’m more fortunate than most people and I remind myself of that, I’m lucky I really am. I get to do what I love for a career and that’s amazing. So I’m able to think like that, but I know it’s not as easy for others.”
We leave the interview on that note. It’s hard to see what’s not to love about Jake, not only his music but him as an individual. In the space of our quick chat, there was nothing but uplifting optimism and excitement for the release of his 5th studio album. It’s clear to see the time and work Jake’s put into his new music and the new sound he’s leaning in to without forgetting the origins of his folk-rock beginnings.