WTMD Welcomes Jake Bugg at Rams Head Live
Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 8:00pm
This event has been postponed. New Date TBA
There are lightning bolt moments in the career of every artist when their fame is thrown into sharp relief. For 19-year-old Jake Bugg it happened in the summer of 2013 before 17,000 people at the Splendour festival in his home town of Nottingham. Two years earlier, the unknown and unsigned Bugg had been the opening act there on the smallest stage. Now he returned as victorious local hero and main headliner. Looking out into the crowd he noticed a familiar face. A girl in his class at school who, once upon a lunch break, had told him “I’ll never listen to your kind of music because I don’t like it.” The same girl who was now
bouncing aloft on male shoulders, singing her head off to every word falling from Bugg’s lips.
“It was funny,” he says, “but also a bit of a mad realisation.”
Such is the “mad” nature of this Bugg’s life since last October’s self-titled debut album entered the charts at number one, announcing one of the most electrifying young British singer-songwriters to emerge in recent memory. In its wake have come multiple award nominations including BRIT, Ivor Novello and Mercury Music Prize, prestigious supports with Noel Gallagher, The Stone Roses and The Rolling Stones and a euphoric globetrotting summer from Glastonbury to Japan, Australia and America.
“I’ve had an amazing year,” says Bugg. “A lot of crazy experiences. Glastonbury alone, just being on stage and looking out and realising all those thousands of people were standing there to see me. It blew my mind.”
Any other teenage artist in his position would be forgiven for spending another 18 months lapping up the adoration and resting on their laurels. But then Jake Bugg isn’t any other
teenage artist. Barely a year after his debut, in November 2013 he returns with its bar-raising follow-up, Shangri La. The album shares a title with the Malibu studio where it was made,
once the 70s haven of Bob Dylan and The Band, now the creative hub of legendary producer Rick Rubin, the recording Titan whose jawdropping c.v. spans from Def Jam and Johnny Cash to Adele and Kanye West. Rubin first worked with Bugg earlier in the year on a re-recording of haunting debut album ballad Broken. Jake confesses the secret to their musical bond was his relative ignorance of Rubin’s track record. “It might sound daft that I
didn’t know much about him,” he laughs, “but it allowed me to build a friendship with Rick without being in awe of him.” Rubin, in turn, was so enamoured with Jake that his original offer to come back and demo two songs flourished into a whole album. “I called the album Shangri La because it means a place of peacefulness and that’s exactly what Rick’s place feels like,” he adds. “Some people really worry about their second album. I’ve worked hard on it, but at the same time making this record has been like a holiday. Creatively, you can’t help but feed off the studio’s therapeutic atmosphere.”
Rubin’s assembled wrecking crew of Shangri La session regulars includes guitarist Matt Sweeney (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Neil Diamond, Endless Boogie), bassist Jason Lader (The
Mars Volta) and drummers Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello). Yet for all its stellar cast and production kudos, the real star of Shangri La is,unquestionably, Bugg himself. “They’re great, experienced musicians and they all bring their own ideas to each song,” he explains. “But it was a case of me letting them experiment and then telling them what I did or didn’t like. From the off, I went in with a strong idea of how the album should sound and I stayed true to that.”
Grabbing the baton of his debut’s tales of teenage life growing up on his Clifton estate in Nottingham, Shangri La runs further and faster with the gritty urgency of Kingpin, Slumville
Sunrise and mighty opener What Doesn’t Kill You.
“That song was written after my mate Olly and myself were in Germany and came out of some place,” recalls Bugg. “These guys asked if he wanted to buy some stuff, he went off with them and when he came back he’d been robbed. It wasn’t a big thing, and where I’m from that happens all the time. But it sort of
taught me that wherever you are in the world, that kind of thing goes on. So it was a small event for me and him, but the song itself is a large message.”
The album’s rich seam of classic guitar pop stretches deeper still on the irresistibly romantic Me And You and the exhilarating Messed Up Kids. “I feel like I’m fortunate to live my dream
and do what I love,” says Bugg, “so I wanted to sing about real stuff that happens. I did it a lot on the first album but when I went back to Clifton not much has changed. There’s still the
same problems and some aspects of it are even worse. So Messed Up Kids and some of the others on this album are just me going back and taking a last look at where I’m from. But
the point of the song is there are messed up kids everywhere, not just Clifton.”
Such breakneck moments are tempered by Bugg’s ever-broadening musical palette, from the stripped-down folk of Pine Trees to the Crazy Horse squeal of All Your Reasons, the
country swing of Storm Passes and the slapback rockabilly hysteria of Beast which magically invokes the spirit of Sun Studios in Memphis where Bugg first demoed it. Yet
scratch beneath Shangri La’s surface sound and fury and at its core we find an emotional depth and soul-baring honesty that place Bugg in a different league from his peers. Listen to
the open heartache of the delicate Pretty Lady or the howling tour-de-force Simple Pleasures (Rubin’s personal favourite) and remind yourself that Bugg is still only 19 yearsold.
Or swoon at Song About Love and try and picture how many festival fields will be hollering themselves hoarse to its soaring chorus come the summer of 2014. Collectively these dozen tracks see Bugg strolling with effortless grace towards his ever-nearing horizon signposted ‘Classic Songwriter’. “I’m just pleased I managed to get 12 songs together so
quickly that I feel are good enough,” says Bugg with characteristic modesty. “I always thought it would be a nice idea to have two albums before I turned 20. I’m proud I’ve done
Asked to compare Shangri La with its predecessor, Bugg concludes: “My first album felt like a list of songs, whereas this one feels like a whole entity with something to say. Or if my first
album was the colour of grey reality, this one’s the colour of the sun.” The colour of our planet’s nearest star. Or maybe the sound of a new star intensifying their musical colours.
Listening to his second album you dare to wonder where a talent like Jake Bugg could find themselves in ten years’ time. His prediction: “Up front for England.”
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