Jake Bugg on Nashville, ballads and his new album Hearts That Strain...
Jake Bugg isn’t wasting any time. That’s for sure.
Still only 23, the singer-songwriter returns today with his fourth studio album Hearts That Strain. Determined to make each album a radical departure from the one before. His relentlessly street level self-titled debut, an album inspired by the everyday grind of his hometown of Nottingham, was followed by Shangri-La, an album recorded in the sunny climes of California with super producer Rick Rubin.
This time he follows up On My One, an album he largely self-produced, with a new LP recorded in Nashville with assistance from The Memphis Boys, a band who have played on legendary records from the likes of Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick.
The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, Zwan’s Matt Sweeney and Johnny Cash engineer David Ferguson have all been on hand for production assistance for this new album.
We spoke to Bugg about making the album, why he decided on Nashville and whether he’ll ever go back...
When did the idea to go to Nashville to do the album come from?
“The idea has been knocking around for a while. I knew the producer and my friend Matt (Sweeney, former Zwan guitarist) is there and I’d always known I could go, it was more a question of finding the right time to do it.”
What made this time the right time?
“I wanted to make a new record quickly. I didn’t want to waste any time sitting around, waiting for the right producer, trying out musicians, I just wanted to get in the studio and get on with things. I got out there, we tried it out and I was really happy with the results so we kept going.”
How did you find living and working in Nashville?
“I don’t know if I could live there full-time, it’s a great place to visit, it’s fun and full of music, but just to visit.”
Were you able to learn a lot from The Memphis Boys? They’ve played on some pretty big records...
“Not really. It was more the experience of being around those guys. Any musician can learn so much from them.”
You did some of the album with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, what was he like to work with?
“I’ve known Dan for a while, I did some shows with The Black Keys so we met then and got on really well. We wrote two or three songs together, he’s very easy to work with, very straightforward.”
You did a lot of the last record producing yourself, that must have helped define this album?
“I feel like I learned a lot from the last record. It definitely helped this time, I knew how I wanted things to work.”
You’ve said you worked quickly, can you talk us through how the songs would go from writing to finishing?
“I’d write songs at home then I’d go over to Nashville and the musicians I played with were just incredible. They picked things up very quickly and that made things very easy. We’d do three songs every day. The songs were just coming that quickly.”
What kind of record is it lyrically?
“I don’t think there’s a theme. There are a few ballads in there, some stories, like I always have, some darker elements, some more reflective moments, some are just pure imagination.”
When did you settle on the title?
“Titles are always the hardest part. This one came really late, I went through all the songs and Hearts That Strain was the one that felt most like a proper title. So I went with that.”
What are your live plans for this album?
“I’ve got an acoustic tour in early November, which I’m looking forward to. Excited to see how the new and the old songs sit together in that environment. Then early next year will be a full tour.”
Are you already looking to the next record?
“I’ll keep writing. I’m always writing. As long as my schedule isn’t too brutal I’ll keep working.”
Can you see yourself ever going back to Nashville to do another album?
“Maybe. I don’t know. I like trying new things every time. But I’m really happy with the record and I made it with great people, so I’m not sure. Who knows?”