“The title is very apt, there’s plenty of uptempo songs for a Saturday night and a few ballads for your hangover on Sunday....” - Jake Bugg on starting again on new LP, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning
Jake Bugg has always been a fast worker. He delivered his first LP, the big-selling self-titled album which included hit singles 'Troubled Town' and 'Lightning Bolt', aged just 18. Despite intensive touring and promotion, he unveiled a follow-up, the Rick Rubin-produced Shangri La, just a year later.
Two more records, On My One and Hearts That Strain, followed in 2016 and 2017, giving Bugg four LPs before he’d turned 24. After that, it was time for a break and for Bugg to reassess things. He’d made himself a household name on the back of raw, confrontational, folk-tinged indie pop, but, after parting ways with Virgin EMI, his label since the beginning, he decided to take his time over his next move.
Four years have passed, giving Bugg time to earn himself a new deal with Sony RCA and to experiment with different sounds and an array of new producers. That’s all on show on his new album Saturday Night, Sunday Morning.
Largely produced by Andrew Watt and Ali Tamposi, whose recent credits include Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, with contributions from hitmaker Steve Mac, Jason Mraz key man Andrew Wells and country star Tobias Jesso Jnr , the album is a diverse, vibrant and much poppier project than anything the singer has ever done.
We spoke to Bugg about his new direction, his new label and why he can’t wait to get back on tour...
It’s the longest gap you’ve had between records in your career, was that by accident or design?
“It was the process. I wanted to try and get the best record I c0uld and work with as many different people as I could. I had a lot of fun doing it and I really wanted to make sure everything was solid and every song was as good as it could be. With everything that’s happened in the past year, it’s probably a wise move to wait a while.”
You’ve worked with a few different producers, have you been touring studios across the world?
“I was looking for a different sound and definitely a new sound, but I didn’t know what it was precisely I was looking for. I just knew I’d know when I heard it. I started with Andrew Watt and Ali Tamposi and we got the first bunch of songs down. I wanted to try things and keep much more of an open mind.”
What did you want in the sound? Did you want something more upbeat? Poppier? A move away from your earlier records?
“I wanted to try and put my DNA into something more modern. I wanted modern production and I’ve always been very traditional. It was nice to try new things, suddenly you’re using samplers, synths and 808s, it was an interesting time.”
How did you find working with all that stuff? Must be different from starting everything on acoustic guitar...
“The writing was much simpler. It was more hearing what sounds could bring the record to life and finding what modern production could give my songs.”
Did you end up with a lot of songs to pick through?
“I had more than 30 for this record and that’s new for me. Normally it’s somewhere between 14 and 18 and you work on them until they’re bulletproof. This was much more experimental and a process of discovery. It wasn’t too difficult to pick the final ones, the best songs, when they’re fleshed out and produced, they really show themselves to you. The biggest challenge was trying to find songs to match the early ones, keeping the vibe going.”
Is there a song on the record that’s taken the longest to get right?
“‘Lonely Hours’ was hard. The first recording was good, but it didn’t fit with the rest of the record, certainly in terms of production. I ended up sitting on it for a while and then I had the idea to re-cut it completely with Andrew Wells. He did ‘Screaming’ and ‘Rabbit Hole’ and he did a brilliant job of taking that song to the next level and making sure it fitted. Getting it right was never the problem, it was just something that I sat on, but I’m glad I went back to it.”
When you’re trying lots of different things, there’s always the worry about cohesion. Were you concerned it might feel more like a singles collection than a record?
“Absolutely. A couple of my records in the past have felt much more like an accumulation of songs as opposed to an actual record. My debut feels a bit like that. It didn’t matter that I’ve worked with lots of different people, there’s a style and a feel to the album and that was very important to me.”
What about lyrically? Is there a theme to it?
“Every song has its own story, but it is a reflection of my life and my experiences. I wanted to put in a way that spoke to people and was relatable, but wasn’t too over the top. My life is very different to the one I had years ago. I still want to sing about how I feel, but to try and have some relevance to real things.”
How are lyrics for you? Are you constantly scribbling or does the music need to be there?
“Especially on this record. I’ve always been melody first, but with these songs it had to be. You can write one of the best verses ever and most of the time it won’t fit anything. I need the melody, it tells you what to sing and what subject fits. You never want the words to be out of place.”
It’s called Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, did you kick any other titles around?
“No. Album titles are always difficult for me, getting across the subjects of the record in a few words. The title comes from a book by Alan Sillitoe, he’s from my home town and it’s nice to have that reference in there. The title is very apt, there’s plenty of uptempo songs for a Saturday night and a few ballads for your hangover on Sunday.”
How long did it take you to settle on it?
“I don’t know how it came to be. I liked the home town aspect and it wasn’t like I had any other working titles. It popped into my head one day. Simple as that.”
How’s your live set looking ahead of touring? And you must be excited to get back out there...
“It’s been too long now. Every artist is dying to get back out there and audiences are dying to listen to some music. When I was making the record, live was always in the forefront of my mind and how new songs fit in the set. I love Hearts That Strain, but it’s very mellow and very downtempo. I wanted to inject some energy into the set and this album is perfect for that. The downtempo songs can be a nice breather.”
It’s a new label set-up this time, how’s that been?
“They’ve been excellent. I feel grateful for the opportunity and they’ve believed in me and let me make this record the way I wanted to make it. I’m working with a few people I did my first two records with and it’s nice to know that.”
How was that process to deal with? You’ve got a fanbase, you could work by yourself or on an indie label…
“I had a few choices. It was difficult to find the right fit. You have to get it right or you’re a bit stuck. Sony believed in me, that was the big thing. I had a few songs ready and they loved them and understood the potential. That was big for me.”
You got signed so young, you must have learned a lot about the ways of the music industry…
“Every decision frames your career. There’s always a lot of compromise and politics, but you have to remember the music is the most important thing. You can’t do anything if that isn’t there.”