Profile: Jake Bugg
At last year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival, one of the most highly distinguished festivals in the world, solo artist Jake Bugg stood meekly on a side stage.
He performed during a short daytime slot and garnered a very small crowd of fans (which happened to include myself).
But since then, this just-barely-adult British artist has performed for enormous crowds, opening for bigger names including Oasis’ Noel Gallagher and the Stone Roses within the past year.
It’s been about two years since the recording of his first album, but Bugg is on the move with his career and is slowly growing up and forming an identity.
On the surface, he seems to be the epitome of your average young British indie teen: beginning his career in a garage, dropping out of school at age 16, publicly condemning current pop music.
When compared to similarly folky Mumford & Sons, Bugg (born Jacob Kennedy) rebuked the group as some “posh farmers with banjos.”
Bugg taught himself to play guitar at age 12 while living a lower-class life with a single working mother.
He grew up unglamorously and, in his music, sheds light on some rough childhood stories, making for some notably vivid lyrics.
In the song entitled “Seen It All,” he admits to taking “a pill or maybe two,” crashing a party at “a local house belonging to a gangster’s crew” and getting warned by a friend that “everyone here has a knife.”
In another number aptly titled “Trouble Town,” Bugg opens and closes with “stuck in speed bump city / where the only thing that’s pretty / is the thought of getting out” and explicates further with “kick the bottom make troubles flee / smoke until our eyes would bleed.”
Nonetheless, what makes Bugg seemingly different than his underprivileged garage-band counterparts is that he actually got out of that “trouble town” and is making a name for himself.
With his first full-length work topping UK charts and another album in the making — this time in Def Jam founder Rick Rubin’s studio with a number of seasoned musicians — Bugg is slowly but surely squeezing his way into the independent and folk rock scene.
In Bugg’s self-titled debut album, this 19-year old singer-songwriter channels an early Bob Dylan and Neil Young, with especially folky acoustic tracks such as “Two Fingers” and “Lighting Bolt.” All of his songs sound sincere and unaffected, almost as if they were recorded on an old, rusty microphone in a backyard barn somewhere.
In “Two Fingers” (his first release), Bugg presents his unruly teenage Brit persona while acknowledging his escape from his Nottingham home.
He addresses that he has “some things to be proud of” and “some stuff to regret” but ultimately states, in an explosive and positively blissful chorus, that he’s “alive but here to stay.”
On his soon-to-be-released album, titled Shangri La after Rubin’s Malibu studio, Bugg appears to explore some faster and heftier blues sounds and experimentation with the electric guitar.
Bugg told Rolling Stone that he feels like he’s coming back with a more proficient and experienced singing voice on this next album.
Despite Bugg’s poor grammar and almost cockney-sounding accent, he’s an extremely talented songwriter and has produced so much work in so little time that critics have even questioned whether it’s too soon for the release of a new album.
He still has the vibe of a rather “low-key” artist here in the States, but back in the United Kingdom he has already played large shows — not to mention dating international supermodel Cara Delevigne.
To boot, none of this seems to be provoking him to acknowledge his rising status.
Jake Bugg has been named one of the best new singer-songwriters of our era, yet he continues to live the simpleton life of shaggy hair and Marlboro cigarettes, while manifesting the “striving musician” character.
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