Jake Bugg on beating follow-up blues
- 14 November 2013
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Many a music sensation fades after succumbing to difficult second album syndrome. But just 13 months after his chart-topping debut, singer-songwriter Jake Bugg looks set to avoid that fate with his follow-up.
In the cycle of sold-out concerts, festivals, media appearances and international promotional campaigns that inevitably follow a hit album, Jake Bugg's feet have barely touched the ground.
With his self-titled debut among the 10 best-selling albums in Britain this year so far, the 19-year-old has had Brit and Mercury nominations, a supermodel girlfriend and comparisons with everyone from Bob Dylan to Noel Gallagher.
So it comes as something of a surprise to discover that his follow-up is coming out already. And it is even more of a surprise that it is so good.
"Of course I was worried about it because I wanted to maintain everything that I've achieved," he says of the new album, Shangri-La.
"But I managed to drift away from worrying about it and just carried on doing what I do, which is write the songs. And fortunately the songs came. I didn't really plan on it coming this quick but I'm very happy that the songs came like they did."
Bugg is still the reedy-voiced Nottingham lad who swallowed the complete works of Donovan and Don McLean with a side-order of indie anthems.
Those influences were digested and then regurgitated on the debut album, which combined 60s-style folk-rock wisdom with rabble-rousing teenage kicks.
His common touch, singing about "scraping by" on benefits on Trouble Town and taking "a pill or maybe two" on Seen It All, also gave young guitar fans a long-overdue idol.
The new album suggests that Bugg deserves a place next to Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys and Noel Gallagher of Oasis in the lineage of Britain's most gifted rock 'n' roll songwriters.
Much of Shangri-La is about looking back at where he has come from, Bugg explains.
"It's my views on things that I've experienced in the past year, and seeing my old life from a different perception," he says.
"I'm somebody that's observing what's going on from the outside looking in rather than somebody who's living that life."
Until 18 months ago, he was living on the Clifton council estate in Nottingham. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy to get out of there," he says.
"I lived there for all my life. I'd never been out of England and I knew there was a world out there and I wanted to see it, and that's exactly what I'm doing. I think anybody from where I'm from would do the same."
He uses the word "strange" a lot when talking about what he thinks about Clifton now. It is "strange to see that people live like that after everything that's happened to me", he says, and "strange that I was one of those people living that life for that long".
Although most of the new songs were written on tour buses and in hotel rooms, he has largely avoided the trap of writing an album about fame.
However he says one song, All Your Reasons, is about "how people write all these things about all these rumours but there are more important things going on in the world".
That sounds like a reference to the flurry of tabloid stories about his brief romance with the model Cara Delevingne.
Spending 18 months on the road has opened his eyes in lots of ways, he says.
"When I left Clifton and was going down to London, which I'd never really been to, I thought everyone was a weirdo, because I'd never met anybody who wasn't from where I was from before."
Now, he takes friends from Clifton on tour and they keep him grounded amid the whirlwind of screaming fans and fawning journalists.
"It's very important to surround yourself with good people," Bugg says. "If they sense that my head's starting to swell then they certainly tell me."
It is a sign of how far he has come that the new album takes its name from the studio where it was recorded, Shangri-La in Malibu, California, owned by star producer Rick Rubin.
It is the same studio where Lady Gaga recorded some of her new songs. Did he bump into the peculiar pop princess?
"No, but I believe that a couple of musicians who played with her played with me as well," he says. "That studio is so cool, man."
Bugg's songwriting, it must be pointed out, is perhaps not quite as effortless as it may first appear, with the young star sharing writing credits with the likes of former Snow Patrol man Iain Archer and Crispin Hunt of Britpop also-rans The Longpigs.
"If anybody tries to give me an idea, I'm quite ready to discard it because I want it to come from me," Bugg says. "They have to be my songs, but I'm quite happy to have help."
The singer was nominated for best British breakthrough at this year's Brit Awards, and it's a fair bet that only David Bowie will stand between him and the trophy for best British male next year.
He lost out on the Mercury Prize to dubstep artist James Blake. Bugg is not much of a fan. "I didn't particularly enjoy his performance at the Mercury Awards," he says.
"But I could see that he's talented. I was quite pleased that I didn't win the Mercury because I was quite drunk and I didn't want to go on that stage and make a speech, to be honest."
With the follow-up album out so soon, there is always next year.
Shangri-La is released in the UK on Monday.