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Culture, Music, Interviews

Jake Bugg is Coming to Your Town

Jake Bugg

Image Credit: Kevin Cummins

Singer-songwriter Jake Bugg will be on stage at the O2 later this month as part of his mission to bring live music back to the heart of Britain’s communities and grassroots venues. He is currently touring the UK in his bid to reinvigorate the local music scene of some of the UK’s smaller cities and towns and took some time out to tell us more.

What can Oxford expect from your performance?

Well I’m really looking forward to playing in Oxford again. We actually really enjoyed it last time we played as it was a good crowd. We're going to be playing some of the older songs, obviously but some brand news ones as well, which I’m very excited about. So, yeah, looking forward to playing a mix of new and old for the Oxford crowd. 

You played Glastonbury when you were 16, you’ve collaborated with some incredible people, playing some incredible venues. Which of these many achievements really stands out for you: 

I’ve been very lucky to have had some great moments with music. I think ones that stand out to me are probably headlining the Other Stage at Glastonbury. That was pretty special for me, and not only to be having that slot but we were clashing with one of my favourite bands growing up, Metallica. That was quite surreal, and annoyingly that was the only band I wanted to see. I’ve been very fortunate to play some amazing venues like The Royal Albert Hall and with some great musicians. You know, that’s kind of what it’s about for me: it’s about the music, but the journey is also just as important and just having those experiences is amazing. 

Image Credit: John Anderson

Has there been anyone you’ve met that made you feel star-struck?

Probably when I was younger, but weirdly enough it was never musicians – it would be like a footballer or something. I suppose when its more connected to your industry you kind of get less starstruck in a weird way. I was very young when I got to support the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park and Ronnie Wood was great, so that was another surreal moment as well. 

Do you feel a sense of responsibility to emerging musicians into the industry?

I’m a big supporter of up-and-coming musicians. I know how difficult it is and it’s a brutal and tough industry once you’re in it – never mind trying to get into it in the first place. I think it’s important that artists don’t lose their DNA and their identity. And, they keep making the art that they want to make. Sometimes that can be sucked out of you a little bit and it’s important to retain that.

Who would you say were your musical influences?

Growing up I liked a lot of folk and psychedelic music. I would say Johnny Cash who is an amazing storyteller. I was a huge Jimi Hendrix fan – because of the guitar playing – and my favourite singer was probably Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane and I loved Donovan and a lot of the 60s folk guys as well. I was just inspired by a good song; if it was a good song I loved it, it could be a band I absolutely hated but they might have just had one song that was absolutely brilliant. 

I have to mention your song, Trouble Town. It was written about where you grew up in Clifton, Nottingham and now it’s synonymous with the TV show Happy Valley after being used as the theme. How does it feel that something that was written from your heart about your home has become about something else?

I think it’s a good thing. I think songs, as they live on, sometimes take on different meanings, and a new life of their own. That seems to be the way with Trouble Town and it’s great to see as it’s given the song a new audience and I think that’s brilliant. I’ve always believed songs are for people to interpret them the way they choose.

That feels like a really generous answer. 

I mean, it’s over 10 years old now. I’ve still not seen Happy Valley. I’ve heard it’s not the most cheery of TV shows, so I’m just waiting for the right moment. 

Well, it’s brilliant, but it is a bit harrowing.

Jake, you've got a very busy year lined up; the Your Town tour, then a sell-out tour with Liam Gallagher and John Squire, and you seem to be playing most of the festivals. How do you keep grounded whilst you’re on the road?

That’s the life of a touring musician, really. You have to be away a lot of the time, but I love it. You know it’s one of the reason I got into [music] and I’m very lucky to be able to do my favourite thing and travel all around the world whilst doing it. So it’s great to be busy, and especially after the last couple of years I’m really looking forward to it, to be honest. 

I read that you started off doing a music technology course. Is that right?

Yeah, I actually went to music college when I was about 14 for two days a week in between school, which was great. Then I did a music technology course when I left school, and I lasted about eight weeks. 

Image Credit: Kevin Cummins

You just started getting on with making music?

Yeah. I’m sure some of those courses are great, and there’s some inspirational tutors on them but that one I found was slowing me down. I really do think that as much as you can learn from those places, the best experience you’re going to get is just getting out and doing it. Playing shows. That’s what I tried to do.

So you never fancied something like the Brits School?

No, not really, and also I imagine places like that cost money. It’s not an easy route and I think sometimes with the musical training you can lose a bit of your identity. Sometimes it can be trained out of you, and you've got to have that thing that makes it a little bit different. But, I don’t know – I don’t know the experience of going to a school like that so maybe it’s great. I have no idea. 

Finally, you’re playing Oxford in April, and it is our Best of British issue. I was really interested to know what that phrase might mean to you. 

Best of British…I was thinking about it a little bit recently, actually. Especially older British music, compared to other countries I think, it’s a little bit more raw and rough around the edges. I think that’s the charm, possibly. When we've tried to go down this British pop route I don’t think it stands up to other countries so much, and I think we should just stick to what we’re good at: that’s what gives it its character as well and I think we've lost a little bit in our music. 

Jake Bugg will be at the O2 Academy in Oxford on 29 April


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