Tucked away in a room in Google’s London office, we caught up with Jake Bugg as he prepared to take the stage in London to talk about touring, stage nerves and recording his latest album Hearts That Strain.
RIOT: Are you looking forward to tonight?
Jake Bugg: Yeah. I think I played at this venue twice before. It is a beautiful place so I am looking forward to tonight.
Nervous a bit?
Not really. It’s toward the end of this tour and I already played a lot of shows. Usually, the crowd in London is a bit harder to please so I am just gonna go and do my thing.
Do you have any rituals before you go on stage?
I might have a beer before but no.
What you loved about touring was being to see many places and people and around people you love. In 2018, you will be touring on your own?
No, It has been nice so far. I have got a couple of crew members but also my band has been coming and hanging around and that was nice. It is always nice to have people come and go so it keeps being interesting. It has been a really amazing tour and you meet some lovely people, fans after the shows. It has been very pleasant all the way through.
What about the audience on this tour? Has the audience mix changed?
The audience has always been a bit mixed. The other night, I played in Stoke on Trent and It was more of a younger audience there with usually the older people at the back but they all seemed to sing along so that was great.
You played the Intimate Sofa Sound gig for Amnesty International, how was it?
It was amazing! It was great to especially go and play in my football club but also to contribute to a great cause. It was strange and lovely to play in someone’s living room.
Something you would like to do in the future?
I always liked to play different kinds of shows. It is very cool to play in very big festivals with bigger crowds but sometimes It is nice to play in a smaller venue where you can talk to the crowd a bit more.
Over the years, you’ve become less shy in talking directly to the audience between songs. Recently in your Antwerp show, you had a bit of a banter and you seem to be coming out of your shell.
I think I am not the most confident person in the world. Sometimes when you feel like the crowd is warm, it is easier to speak to them and be more comfortable. Also with the stage lights on this show, I don’t see the distance and it helps too.
Your new album, “Hearts that Strain” was recorded in the Country Music Capital of the World in Nashville. Was it a choice or an opportunity?
I chose It because I met the producers and my friend, Matt Sweeny, a few years ago and I always wanted to make an album in Nashville because they have got such a range of amazing musicians. I always wanted to do it but at the beginning of this year I had an opportunity to go and see what it was like and the songs kept writing themselves and coming. It was probably the easiest album I made as well and probably the most fun.
Bobby Woods played on three tracks on this album?
Bobby Woods is probably the best musician I have ever played with. He has an incredible mind for music.
You collaborated with Chad Smith and James Gadson on your past records – how was it?
Playing with Chad was amazing because he has a more heavy rock thing going on and he is a great drummer and a funny guy as well. But James Gadson is probably my favourite drummer and always has been. To have him to play along was great. Both have been teaching me to play a little drum and it has been amazing. I am never gonna be any good but I appreciate them being patient with me…
The creative process and launch of your previous album On My One was a lot longer and intense with a personal and experimental set of tracks. “Hearts that Strain” is more mature and authentic at the same time.
Yeah…. It has the most consistent sound throughout definitely. But also the musicians I played with on this record had a big input in that. I always wanted to make a record in Nashville and there was an opportunity to go and revisit musical influences from the Blues and Folk era and also the country music. It was nice to revisit a lot of that stuff.
How come did you write the songs so fast this time around?
It just kept coming. I stayed in my flat in London and played the guitar and then I went to record the songs in Nashville. That was it. I did not even realize I was making an album as such. I was just writing because that’s what I love to do and record. Before I knew It, I had an album and I did not think it would be that quick.
There is also an evolution of your voice.
On this record, the keys are a lot lower and I sing a bit lazy behind the beat but it was because I was playing in my flat and did not want the neighbours to hear me. Also on previous albums, producers always to put you on a higher key. It is like a pop trick and it clearly does not work with me.
Are you more of a writer or singer?
Definitely a writer. When it comes to singing or even playing an instrument, there is always someone better than me out there. I concentrate more on the writing because I feel there is more of a chance for expression, a chance to be a bit more unique.
Do you write for other artists? Do you want to write for other artists?
I’d like to give it a go but I’d like to write with them.
A bit like you and Archer?
Exactly because he was pulling the best out of me as supposed to write for me. He could not have written a song like “Two Fingers” without knowing all the details but he helped me to realize what I wanted to sing about.
Coming back to your new album – Why “Hearts that Strain”
I’d be honest, to pick the title for the album is usually the hardest thing because you have to choose something that kind of has meaning to all the songs in the album and that was the only title that covered the whole record in that sense for me.
On your first two albums, the songs were about your life in Nottingham with upbeat songs to talk about sad realities. This album has more positive and romantic stories but the melodies are softer.
I think that on all the records, there are dark sides as well. I guess for me the first two records are a little bit more brutal in that sense just because of how close to reality it really was. Whereas my two last records are more being used as an escapism for me really.
Blossoms was your supporting band, now Georgie. You are surrounded by great emerging talents!
Laughs…. Yes I should probably buy these guys some socks for Xmas
Speaking of Xmas any plans?
I will probably go back home and see the family.
What is your favourite Xmas song?
It has to be Jingle Bell Rocks or Chuck Berry “Run Run Rudolph”. Any rock n’ roll Xmas tune is fine. Anything after 1959 is a no go.
Words and Cover photo by Alexia Arrizabalaga