We spoke to musician-on-the-rise Jake Bugg about being signed to a major label, song writing, and his experiences as a musician so far.
How did you sign to Mercury?
A year and a half a go now, I met a guy who knew a guy that ended up to be my manager. He knew someone who worked at Mercury and I ended up signing with them last August.
What made you want to sign with a major as opposed to an indie?
I think for any up and coming songwriter, you want your music to be heard by as many people as possible, and still to this day the best way to do that is to go through a major. I know indies are cool and Adele is signed to XL and she ended up massively popular, but it’s just so hard and that’s usually very unlikely to happen to a musician. I just want my music to be heard, really.
A lot of singer/songwriters that I’ve spoken to say that they were nervous about how people would react to their voice when they started out live as that’s usually their second instrument. Are you as confident in your vocals as you are playing the guitar?
I’m not too sure. To be fair, I wouldn’t necessarily sing without my guitar because I can feel a bit lost without it.
You cite people like Don McClean and Nick Drake and The Beatles as your influences, amongst other classics like Bob Dylan. Is there anything your influences have in common that make them your favourite musicians, and are there any qualities you take from their music to apply to your own songs?
I guess what makes them so good is not knowing what makes them good. If I like a song, it pricks my ears. But for example, with Drake his timing’s incredible and Dylan’s lyrics are great – so they all have distinct talents.
You started writing songs when you were about fourteen, right? What made you start and why did you want to get into it?
When I first heard Don McClean’s song ‘Vincent’, I thought “I want to write songs like that”. I started playing and learning covers when I was twelve and when I got to about fourteen I thought I’d try to write something on my own. It was just something I wanted to do.
Do you go about writing each song differently or do you have the same sort of formula for each one?
Sometimes it can follow the same process. Say, if I had a fast song and want to write something similar then I’d take the same route. Usually I write the guitar part first, and if I’m sat on the train or anything I’ll write some lyrics. But the most important thing is to let it flow instead of forcing it, sitting down and trying to write a song.
Do you have a particular time or place when/where you find you write better?
I can’t say I do, actually. You write in the moment, whatever moment that tends to be. If I’m so involved in writing a song I don’t really think about what I’m doing or what time of day it is.
You’ve been writing throughout your teen years. Have you noticed your songwriting change or develop throughout that time?
Yeah, definitely. As you grow older you see more things and have more to write about. But I’m still trying things out.
You’ve been writing with people like Iain Archer, right? Does writing with other people add to your music or your songwriting, or does it change it in some way?
I wouldn’t say it changes it, but I’m always learning things like new chord structures from people and I take away something new every time I work with someone.
Does the aesthetic side of your music interest you, like artwork and videos?
Yeah, I like to get involved with what I can. It’s important because when I pick my album up in ten or fifteen years’ time I don’t want to regret anything about it. Any artist should be happy with everything they put out, including things like artwork and videos.
Played any weird gigs recently?
When I played in Stockholm supporting Michael Kiwanuka, that was very strange. The venue was about seven hundred in capacity and the whole crowd was silent for me, which is usually unheard of because people normally always talk through the support act’s set. But they were really nice people – it was an odd gig, but a good one.
Festival season’s here, so do you tend to stick around to watch other acts when you play festivals?
If there’s an up and coming act that I want to see, then yeah. Especially if a festival’s in different venues; if it’s in a field then I don’t usually stick around because I’m not a big fan of the mud!
Favourite lyric of all time?
“I don’t want to sell my soul,” a line from ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ by the Stone Roses. That’s not my favourite lyric of all time, though – that’s just off the top of my head.
Are there any new artists that you’re into at the moment that you’d recommend?
There’s a girl called Natalie Findlay who supported me at The Hunger Club, and she’s really good.
Plans for the rest of 2012?
Get the record out, and do more shows with other artists.
Do you have any ultimate goals as a musician?
You always want a number one, but for any artist really you just want to be around in another forty or fifty years making records.