» Contact Us
» Advertise With Us
» Newspaper Ads
It's a Bugg's life for young British singer-songwriter
Jake Bugg has made a big impact in a short amount of time.
In just over two years, the 19-year-old British singer-songwriter has logged two Top 5 albums in his homeland -- his self-titled debut hit No. 1, in fact -- and was a finalist for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize. Bugg has been nominated for several other honors and won the Q Award for Best New Act, and he's made the round of late-night talk show appearances in both the U.S. and the U.K. He also performed at last year's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and at the Nobel Peace PRize Concert in Oslo, Norway.
With his second album "Shangri La," out in November and earning more critical raves, Bugg isn't exactly a household name. But he certainly seems like he's on his way there.
"It's just been nice to get the records out and play the shows, you know?" Bugg says with characteristic understatement. "I could never have been able to anticipate how well it was going to go -- if it was even going to happen at all.
"But at the same time, because I dreamt about it so much and now it's become a reality, it all seems quite normal, actually.
Bugg "fell in love (with music) straightaway" as a child. Born Jake Kennedy in Clifton, Nottingham England, he was surrounded by a musical family that helped to stoke his interest -- including an uncle who gave Bugg his first guitar when he was 12 years old. "I think I was baffled by the fact I could move my fingers slightly on this piece of wood and do something that sounded good to my ears," he recalls.
Don McLean -- and particularly his hit "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)," which Bugg first heard on an episode of "The Simpsons" -- was an early influence, and through that he began exploring everything from the Beatles, Donovan and the Everly Brothers to Johnny Cash and American roots and blues music. "Some of that old blues school became some of my favorite stuff," says Bugg, who was something of an anomaly among his peers. "Yeah, I had friends that liked hip-hop and grunge, heavy metal and stuff," he remembers. "But they never looked down on me for the music I liked. I don't think they even thought it was old; they just didn't know what it was, and I probably introduced them to it in a way."
Bugg wrote his first "proper song" at age 15, though he now calls "I See Her Crying" "very naive. I was young. It's not a great song, but when I thought, 'Well, I've made a song,' it was the start of something and I just carried on with it. I figured you can only get better and better if you keep writing." He developed a local reputation that led the BBC to book Bugg on its Introducing Stage at England's 2011 Glastonbury Festival. That led to a record deal, and before long he was dubbed "an East Midlands Bob Dylan" and had one of his tunes, "Country Song," featured in a popular TV ad for Greene King IPA beer.
The "Jake Bugg" album appeared on a slew of best-of lists for 2012 and 2013, but for "Shangri La" Bugg wanted to make a few changes. He was introduced to Grammy Award-winning producer Rick Rubin, though when the two first went into his Shangri-La Studio in Malibu Bugg says that "I didn't think I was going to record an (entire) album. I walked in initially to record two songs. Then I had a few ideas knocking around and Rick kind of dragged them out of me and made me turn them into songs," with production that was notably fuller and meatier than the sound on "Jake Bugg." Before Bugg knew it, he was in full-scale recording mode with "some great musicians" -- including Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith -- and taking photos for album art.
"It just came through really easy," Bugg recalls. "It didn't feel like it was a task or a job. It was just something I really enjoyed doing, and when we finished we had an album."
Bugg also co-wrote three of "Shangri La's" songs with Detroit native Brendan Benson, along with Bugg's regular collaborator Ian Archer. "That came from my publishing company," he says. "I was very skeptical about three guys in a room trying to write a tune, but I gave it a try. I thought I'd learn a thing or two. We just jammed around in the studio for a few days and it was fun, very natural. So that was sweet."
"Shangri La" will keep Bugg busy throughout 2014. He's in the midst of his first full North American headlining tour and returns to the U.K. in February. He'll be part of the Lollapalooza bills during April in Argentina and Chile followed by a swing through Australia and Japan and more after that, though Bugg anticipates more new music is ahead, too.
"Y'know, I'm just going to keep writing and see what happens and see what comes up," he says. "I don't know what's going to happen -- that's the exciting bit of it. I have a few songs that didn't make it on 'Shangri La,' but whenever I get a free moment I end up picking up a guitar and working on something, so there's always gonna music around."
Jake Bugg, Albert Hammond Jr. and the Skins perform Wednesday, Jan. 15, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to