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Catching the talent Bugg
7:00am Saturday 3rd November 2012 in Music
From his bedroom in Nottingham to the top of the charts and a tour of US with his idol Noel Gallagher, teenager Jake Bugg is having an incredible year. On the eve of his first UK tour, he tells Andy Welch all about making it big.
The chain of events that has catapulted 18-year-old Jake Bugg to the top of the album charts all started with an episode of The Simpsons.
Bugg was aged just 12 when he was captivated by what he heard while watching the animated comedy series.
"It's all Don McLean's fault," he says, referring to the guest star in that particular episode. "I heard his song Vincent, and that started me off."
Fired with enthusiasm for music, Bugg was given a guitar by his uncle. Two years later, after much practice in his bedroom, he started writing his own songs, some of which feature on his chart-topping album.
"For the first few years I was just learning covers, seeing what chords went with others and how songs went together, then I started writing myself," he explains.
Bugg can't put his finger exactly on his musical influences, but says there was always music playing at home when he was growing up.
"Some of it was good, some of it was shocking. My mum was always listening to Take That or something that I hated.
"People seem to think I'm a massive Bob Dylan fan, but I've not really listened to him that much, and my parents never did. I know his first album, and the famous tracks, like Subterranean Homesick Blues, but not much. It's a strange comparison."
A performance at Glastonbury in 2011 on the BBC's Introducing stage, where unsigned musicians can show off their skills, led to a recording contract with Mercury. Less than a year later, thanks to a performance on Later... With Jools Holland, Bugg had arrived.
"It was all pretty chaotic after that TV appearance," says Bugg, who is clearly still adjusting to his meteoric rise to fame.
Several of his songs hark back to growing up on a housing estate in Clifton, Nottingham, with references to drug use, trouble with the police and generally getting up to no good in car parks of a Friday evening.
He smiles when it's mentioned, but says his beginnings were no more or less traumatic than anyone else's.
"It's been massively exaggerated, I think," he says. "It was no picnic, but it's not as bad as some people would have you believe. It's not easy living on a council estate, it has its bad points as well as good.
"A lot of my songs are about escaping those streets, but it's not just me, it's for anyone in a similar situation.
"My family wanted me to get a job after school, or carry on with education, but that's just life. You've got to be able to feed yourself, but it was my uncle who really pushed me to music.
"I thought it was better not to have the safety net of education or anything, because it'll keep motivating me to write better songs.
"But at the same time I don't think an education would be a bad thing to fall back on. My mum was a singer so I think she's really pleased for me, doing what she wanted to do.
"I don't know how successful I'll be making my escape, but I don't think about that stuff too much. At the moment I'm just concentrating on performing and writing more songs, and we'll see where all this takes me."
So far, his songs have taken him all over Europe as Noel Gallagher's support on the European leg of his world tour.
Gallagher saw Bugg's appearance on Later and decided he had to hear more. The ex-Oasis star trawled YouTube looking for more videos, and decided then and there that he wanted Bugg to go on tour with him.
Gallagher recently told me he was blown away by Bugg's natural talent. "He's from that naturally gifted school of musicians," he says.
"Jake picked up a guitar and virtually the next day comes out sounding like Donovan. I'm from the other side of things, where I have to graft and graft. It's annoying, but best of luck to him."
When the compliments from Gallagher are relayed to Bugg, he seems embarrassed, saying: "Noel's an idol of mine, so to hear something like that blows me away. It's enough that he's even heard of me, let alone go out of his way to ask me on tour with him."
He wasn't really sure what to expect from the tour's opening dates. "I'd never been out of the UK before this year - and now I've been to Germany five times, and France three times, plus loads of other places.
"It was incredible. We played 8,000-seat venues each night, and everyone came in to watch me. It's not like when you support someone in the UK and everyone's in the bar till the main act comes on.
"There was this one night in Italy, in Florence I think, where you could hear a pin drop as I was playing. Then during one song everyone just started applauding and cheering spontaneously. It was an amazing feeling."
Bugg is currently touring the US and Canada with Gallagher and Snow Patrol before setting out next month on his own UK tour.
He says: "We're going to all the inland states, which is what people refer to as Real America. I've obviously got expectations of what it'll be like, mainly that the drives between venues will be really long, so it'll be interesting to see how real it is and how much it differs from what I know."
To cap a remarkable six months, Bugg's debut entered the album chart at No 1 after facing fierce competition from Leona Lewis's third album.
"I didn't think my album would even get in the top 40, to be honest," he says. "So to hear that I was battling Leona Lewis for No 1 was pretty mad. I couldn't really ask for any more."
:: Jake Bugg's eponymous debut album is out now. He begins a UK tour on November 12 - full dates below:
12 - HMV Institute Temple, Birmingham
13 - Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
14 - Koko, London
15 - Thekla, Bristol
17 - Club Academy, Manchester
18 - Cockpit, Leeds
19 - Fibbers, York
21 - King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
22 - O2 Academy, Newcastle
23 - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
2 - O2 Academy, Sheffield
3 - Engine Shed, Lincoln
4 - O2 Academy, Leeds
5 - O2 Academy, Newcastle
7 - Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
8 - Academy, Glasgow
9 - Mandela Hall, Belfast
12 - O2 Academy, Liverpool
13 - 53 Degrees, Preston
14 - Academy, Manchester
15 - Rock City, Nottingham
17 - UEA, Norwich
18 - Brighton Dome
19 - HMV Institute, Birmingham
21 - O2 Academy, Oxford
22 - Cardiff University Solus
23 - Westland, Yeovil
25 - Corn Exchange, Cambridge
26 - Guildhall, Southampton
27 - Shepherds Bush Empire, London
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