He is a little bit country, he is a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. He’s a little bit of Memphis and Nashville, with a little bit of Motown in his soul. Yet, with all the varying music styles his studio albums have to offer thus far – from the self-titled debut in 2012, to the most recent Hearts That Strain in 2017, one would find it hard for such a niche style to come from a 24-year-old singer/songwriter, let along one who spent all his life in Nottingham, instead of the open country road across the Transatlantic.

Suffice to say, Jake Bugg is very much an old soul wrapped in a young heart; we might even go so far as to claim that he is some sort of a Johnny Cash reincarnate. If you were present at his surprisingly sold out show at The Bee in Publika end of April, you would have an idea what we are on about.

If not, we did catch up with him hours prior to his gig that day, and picked his mind a little on the music he fancies and creates, despite the heavy jetlag that has been weighing down on him since he started his Hearts That Strain world tour last June.

Your music style has always been a little indie folk, a little country folk, and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, amongst the four studio albums under your sleeves thus far.
Have there always been a conscious decision for the music style you’d explore for each album?
There has never been a conscious decision of sorts in what kind of style I’d go for when putting together an album. Yes, I’ll always want to do something different to keep things exciting for me as a musician, as well as for the listeners, but at the same time, I don’t like to think about – at least not consciously – what I’m about to create next. I’d rather things be more fluid and organic, and out of instinct than anything else.

When commenting about this album to the media, you mentioned that “this time around I just wanted to write the tunes and record them with great musicians.”
Who would you say is your most memorable collaboration on this album?
I thought it was pretty cool to have Dan Auerbech of The Black Keys to co-write and co-produce the album with me. We brought our music all the way out to Nashville, and we had the privilege to work with The Memphis Boys, the house band who used to work in the American Sound Studio, and have once laid down memorable tracks with music legends like Elvis Presley and Dusty Springfield; I felt that I’ve learned quite a bit from those guys. One of the musicians from the band that I’ve seen performed and really enjoyed playing with was the pianist/keyboardist Bobby Wood. What he brought to the plate may just be real simple piano lines, but already, I feel that he’s added so much more soul to the record and music. I don’t know how to put it into words, but he just picked all the notes that I love.

One of the more personal aspects in songwriting for singers/songwriters is that a lot of the musician’s personal life stories go into the songwriting process.
How would you weigh out the intimacy of your songwriting process, which subsequently, goes into your albums?
I’d say about 60% of my songwriting comes from personal life experiences. It’s a way to express myself and get it off my chest, the emotions I’m feeling, or the things that are happening in my life. For Hearts That Strain, it’s more about the reflections I have for my life: ‘Indigo Blue’ is about the reflection of the things I’ve done in my life, and how the decisions to do those things will affect where I’ll be heading to next in life. Besides that, you, of course, have the relationship-themed numbers like ‘Bigger Love’ and ‘How Soon the Dawn’. Love is a very powerful thing, that’s why most songs out there are about it, and it’s something that I feel most righteous to talk about, I suppose.

What is it about country music that appeals to you?
I love the sound of country music; it’s just that my ears like it, and I can’t help it (laughs). It all started when I first got into Johnny Cash, really. I mean, albeit I’d consider him a little bit more rock and roll, but he was definitely that opened doorway to country music for me. I suppose, the music and the vocal are always astounding to me. That being said though, country music can be my favourite sound, but it can also be the worst. Everything that’s past 1979, I don’t like it at all. New country music is just the worst!

Will we be expecting anything new from you any time soon?
I’ve been working on some new music, but I can’t say too much about it at this time. I’ve always had a love for pop music, but good pop music – like The Beatles and ABBA, you know, songs that stand the test of time. I’m in the midst of finding a way to combine that into what I’ve done and learned so far in terms of music. I’m trying to find a nice balance to it. Perhaps something that’s a little bit more accessible to the younger people of today, but hopefully, with lyrics and music that is up to standard as well.

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