Jake Bugg - How Soon The Dawn

3 August 2017

Interview and photography Cecilie Harris

The musical landscape needed something a little bit different right now, so it’s a good day when Jake Bugg releases new music. I don’t know anyone else who makes music quite like Jake at the moment, and with his fourth album “Hearts That Strain” releasing 1. September, we’re in for a treat. Today, he drops the first track from the album, and you get to enjoy the full video right here. With his unique sound, Jake’s brings us one step deeper into his take on life and all things in-between - and it’s beautiful. So stay a while.

It doesn’t take long before we’re enjoying our drinks, deep in conversation about the wonders of music, laughing about how Jake got yelled at by talented old men in Nashville for being hung-over in the studio and sharing thoughts on what to do on a dark day. There is something intriguing about Jake. Behind the mysterious surface, there is something so humble, so polite and so honest. I spend a few moments in Soho with the talented musician, curious about this fourth album and new track 'How Soon The Dawn'.

You know those moments when you’re in bed, and you can’t quite be bothered to get up - when the bedroom feels like the universe and only the two of you exist. In this stunning introduction to the album, Jake brings you into his world. With his girlfriend Roxy Horner starring in the music video, it feels authentic and honest - the kind of moments we shouldn’t have access to watching. And it’s a beautifully crafted song. In what Jake describes as one of his uplifting and happy songs on the album, ‘How Soon The Dawn’ gently carries you into an uplifting and laid-back state. Of course, everything is not always what it seems on the surface, and as you go deeper into the lyrics you discover that happiness is often mixed with a variety of challenges. These beautifully captured intimate moments, give you a hint of what to expect from the rest of the album. At this next stage in his life, Jake brings you his current perspective and insights; "I’m probably now the happiest I’ve been in my life.” But fear not, when Jake says happy, there is still a lot of darkness to be found within his music. Throughought the album the uplifting feel is injected with shades of dark, as Jake explores life's complexities. This juxtaposition between the lightness in the music and darkness in the lyrics is an intriguing combination, and leaves you with so much opportunity to interpret. Served together with a healthy dose of humour, lyrically this album is an absolute treat.

Jake’s new album is a rare gift to music lovers. A unique mix of something that feels very classic, with a dash of a country vibe, perfectly merged into a contemporary sound. Ultimately Jake Bugg thinks life should be a beautiful thing, and as he journeys through life to find his happiness, we get to listen along with him. Today is the kind of day it’s worth taking out your good headphones, as you get to take in the full experience of ‘How Soon The Dawn’ and find your own meaning within. “Music is an art, and when you look at a piece of art it can be what you want it to be.”

Jake Bugg's new single 'How Soon The Dawn' is now available to buy here

You are releasing your new song 'How Soon The Dawn' today! Tell me a little bit about what this song means to you?

It’s one of my uplifting and happy songs, I guess, off the record. I loved writing that song. I wrote it with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys and my friend Matt Sweeney. It was one of the first songs I wrote for the new album. What it means to me - it’s a nice memory of making this record. Just a nice feeling. When I listen to it, it takes me back to that time and place, and how enjoyable making this album was.

You say uplifting and happy, but some of the lyrics are a little bit darker?
Yeah, it’s about the whole thing of being away and the life of a musician. Being in a relationship when you are away so much, it’s built on a matter of trust - that’s what the song is about. That lack of trust or how much is there.

Watching the video it feels very raw, real and authentic. Normally I don’t speak about girlfriends and relationships, ‘cause it’s not my business, but if you put your girlfriend Roxy in your video, it becomes a natural question. What were your thoughts behind doing this?
The director that I used, I’ve used him for a few videos. He doesn’t do music videos, but he’s done a couple for me - it was his idea, and I thought it could be quite cool. I worried about the cheese element popping out quite a lot in the video, but I think the way they did it, it worked well. I was just doing my thing in the video, and it was ok in the end. After the last album, I don’t like videos to have a script or anything like that, because as soon as that is put into it that’s when it becomes a bit cheese factor. So I’d get rid of all interpretation.

I agree with you, I think the way it was done had such a cool, raw feel to it, and what it does for us viewers is bring a bit of authenticity. You sharing this personal moment without saying too much about it is quite beautiful in itself.
That’s kind of what music is for me anyway, sharing everything that I can’t share by talking to people in person. Music for me is a way of projecting how I’m feeling in my life and my emotions, and I feel like - myself included, as well as the listener - will discover more about my life and more about me by listening to the music.

Would you say that this album is even more personal than previous ones?
I think every record has been personal. I guess, with the first and second record they were personal in a way that I would write a lot of things that would happen in my life, but also happens in a lot of other people’s lives. On this record I guess it’s more personal on an intimate level in that it’s usually about my own personal thoughts. I’m sure a lot of people go through this, but they’re always difficult to share, whether it be love, strenuous relationships and things like that.

I’m intrigued by the title “How Soon The Dawn”, because in the lyrics there are these dark elements that give a hint of being broken and coming undone, and dawn for me refers to beginnings rather than ends so I’m thinking: Ah bless him, he means dusk…”, but then remembering titles from your last album like ‘On My One’’, which also messes a bit with our heads - I’m thinking: "oh, that Jake…. he’s such a poetic trickster”?
First of all, I find the condescending remark very funny, haha. But you know, I think that people find tricks and they find things that are happening in music. I’m not gonna lie and say that every element I thought about was interlinked with one another, 'cause sometimes it’s not. For me I just write music, because it’s what I love to do, and if people go: "ah, that’s really smart, he tried to do this or he tried to do that", I probably didn’t even think about that. Usually when I think about music, and the smarter I try and be, the worse it is. So I find that the more fun I’m having by making it, that’s usually when it’s best.

I love that you do that, and when you throw in these little unexpected elements - it challenges us as listeners as well.
Sometimes I will sneakily put something in there, but not often. Most of the time I’m not thinking about it, but I think somewhere in the subconscious there are elements you probably are thinking about, and you probably don’t really know.

In the beginning of the video you say that there is always a bit of darkness in your songs, but that if there is darkness there also has to be a little bit of joy. I feel that in “How Soon The Dawn”, and throughout the album, there is this juxtaposition with darkness in some of the lyrics and lightness in the music.
It’s funny that you say that, because…. and this has probably got no relevance to what you’re saying about me, but I remember one song by a guy I love called Donovan, he’s got a song called ‘Universal Soldier’, and his guitar playing and the melody is very uplifting - usually major chords with maybe one minor chord thrown in - but the lyrics were so sad and really heart wrenching that it shouldn’t work, but it did. I don’t know if I took something from that, maybe it’s a folk thing. I think a lot of times I like sad melodies - I love them a lot. They’re like my favourite, and they make me happy in a way that such beautiful music exists. I’ve always just loved melody, and the lyrics are just an opportunity to tell a story.

I really love this throughout the album - it really works and makes it so interesting. And there is a bit of darkness, for example in songs like 'Burn Alone' and 'In The Event Of My Demise'.
I wrote both those songs with Dan Auerbach and Matt Sweeney. ‘Burn Alone’ I also wrote with their producer. It was near the end of the album, and we just sat around in Nashville with all these great musicians. I already had the melody and idea, and thought this one would be a cool one to do with the guys. Even though some of the lyrics of ‘In The Event Of My Demise’ are really dark, with every line - the darker the line was - the funnier and louder the laugh; “wow, that is so amazing how dark that is”. That song is about a very legendary musician, and apparently the story was that they went into a coma and woke up after many years, and they said: “I won’t go, I won’t let them take me”, and he slipped back into the coma. And we were saying: “wow, that’s really dark”, but also kind of funny at the same time, and then we wrote ‘In The Event Of My Demise’. It’s such funny, but dark lyrics. But as funny as we found it when we were writing it, when you listen back and it’s complete - you realise that there’s a dark undertake to it all. I think it’s something that a lot of people can reflect on, and it’s about getting to that point in your life when you’re reflecting back on everything. A lot of people say that when you’re on your deathbed, it comes to light who the most trustworthy people are. It was just a story more than anything, it’s something that happens to everyone at some point.

With all the lyrics on the album, there are positive ones and there are darker ones. What is Jake, 23 years old, learning about life?
I’m probably now the happiest I’ve been in my life. To be honest I never had much enjoyment before. Even when I got my first deal and stuff, people thought: “oh, you should be happy, that’s great”, but I was always worried about it being taken away. So, I’m learning that there is a lot of bad and evil in the world, and I guess the more attention I show it, the worse it becomes. And the more I ignore it; it’s everywhere, especially in my industry and in yours. I feel like sometimes ignorance is a little bit bliss. Sometimes, not all the time. But it’s a fact that’s becoming even more apparent, even though it’s a cliché. I just get so frustrated and angry sometimes, and that represents me as a bad and cynical person.

You’re too young to be cynical…
Well, I am. Growing up I feel like a lot of things happened to me that run fear, and I’m not feeling sorry for myself at all. I feel now that you just gotta get on with it, and luckily for me I have music and that helps me get through it all.

Music is a really powerful thing.
It is. You hear it everywhere you go, and it can change your mood. If somebody is in a mood in the studio, you can hear it with every note they play. It’s incredible. For me it’s the one thing that defies science. You can take a song, put it into a formula and put a science behind it, but I’m sure there is no science involved when the song is written. You can have a song with a million chords, but it might not be as good as the song with two or three chords. It’s just the way it is.

Your new album, ‘Hearts That Strain’, is out 1st of September. I feel that throughout it you’re painting a picture where you’re telling us that life is this thing where there are great things and there are bad things. I often think there can’t be happiness without the hard times. Same with love, love is not one thing or one state - love is struggle and happiness and everything in-between. Am I close to something?
You are correct, but the only difference is when you said that there can’t be happiness without the hard times. I feel like, in harder times, humans make things complicated. Things are purposely made complicated. I don’t know why, I don't know if it’s greed or jealousy, but I think it should be easy - it’s not. And I feel like there’s more bad than there is good, personally. I can talk all day about it, but I’m never going to be able to wrap my head around the fact why it’s like that. Life should be a beautiful thing. For every five bad days I have, I feel like there are two that are worth living, and I don’t think it should be like that. Of course there’s going to be hard times.

What do you want your listeners to take from your music?
Whatever they want to. I’m not going to be one of those people who tell people how to live their lives or what they should be doing; that’s boring and I hate somebody telling that to me. Songs are there for people to receive them, and how they choose to receive them is entirely up to themselves. Going back to the music video, that's why I don’t like to have an interpretation - I want people to have their own story to take away.

I think your lyrics leave us with a lot of fun space to interpret.
I know some of my favourite songs in the world that I enjoy, the writer probably meant something completely different with it to what I think the song is about. But I have my own vision, and I like that, and that stays with me. Music is an art, and when you look at a piece of art it can be what you want it to be. I like a lot of abstract art, because it can be whatever I want it to be. Some people might see a tree, and some people might see a mountain.

On the music side of things, throughout the album it feels like there’s a bit of a country vibe to it. Whilst listening to it, every now and then I got these visions of scenes from a cowboy movie, mixed in with something very contemporary.
When I played it to some American people, they were like; “wow it’s like English country music, man.” And I was wondering what they were talking about, 'cause I’ve never heard any English country music, but it’s kind of good that they are saying that. A lot of my influences are American, but I have a lot of great British influences as well like John Martin and Nick Drake. There is something in the way that some of the British guys write when it’s fused together with great American musicians - something weird happens.

I work a lot with musicians and actors - people that have a voice and an ability to make an impact, so I wanted to ask you as well; is there any impact you’d like to make on the world?
I need to express, and if there’s an opportunity to make an impact, great. But I’m not going to go out there with the attitude that I’m going to change the world or change people’s lives, 'cause the more you think that, the more stubborn people become. I just enjoy doing what I do, and if people take something away from enjoying my music - amazing. When people send you messages through social media to say that you’ve helped them through a hard time, or you’ve inspired them to do something, that’s amazing. It’s incredible, and that makes you wanna carry on and do things. It’s not the reason I got into it, but it’s a real amazing feeling to be told something like that.

And that must get you through when you’re going through hard times yourself?
Yeah exactly, it comes back around. Sometimes it has been like that when I’ve been thinking that there are so many great people doing music out there, you know, how am I going to fit in and all that stuff. And then you hear that your music means a lot to someone and it inspires you. It feels amazing. I don’t let it get to my ego, but it gets the blood rushing and the heart razing to get out there and continue this.

What do you want to say with the album?
It’s just a lot of songs that I had a lot of fun making. I write, because it’s my hobby.

Your hobby, haha?
Yeah, it’s my hobby, luckily I get to do it as my job. But it is my hobby, of course, it’s the whole reason I picked it up. If I wanted a real job, I wouldn’t have picked up a guitar, haha.

You’re so bloody humble - it’s really beautiful.
It is a hobby yeah, a little bit. And football, I love football as well, but we won’t talk about sports, haha.

Anything else you want to mention?
I had an amazing time making this record with some amazing musicians. It’s probably the easiest record I’ve ever made out of all four. I’d love to talk about the musicians that worked on my record, because they’re incredible, and a few of them were the Memphis boys, a couple of them played with Elvis. The drummer played on “Son Of A Preacher Man” and all these hits. Bobby Wood and Gene Chrisman were the piano player and drummer, they were the Memphis guys, and they had more number one’s in six months than anyone has ever had in their lives. They were incredible, and they’re really old guys and were so much fun; ”Come on Jake, let’s go for a cigarette”. “Yeah, of course, man”. I got on with them really well, they were all lovely, and it was really funny as well. If I came in hungover the next day, they’d be like: “God damn, Jake, I told you not to go out last night!” But yeah, we had a great time, and it was amazing - I just wanted to say a big thank you to them. I think any young musician out there, if they could get the opportunity to work with those guys, just do it. They’re the best in the world. You don’t get much better than those guys.

Wow. You really are so passionate about what you do and the people you work with.
Yeh, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve got to work with some incredible people throughout my albums, so I’ve been very fortunate meeting a lot of great people in music, and I couldn’t wish for anything more.

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