Jake Bugg: 'It's all about the music - that's what people want to see and hear'
T HERE is no one more laid back about his success than Jake Bugg himself. "I don't really know anything else," he says. "This is what I do. I just write the tunes and if people enjoy them, that's brilliant."
Admittedly, he's not been following the struggle for Nottingham musicians to be acknowledged on a national level for the past 20 years.
Every time we speak and he's achieved another first as a Nottingham artist, he'll respond with a verbal shrug.
To recap, Jake Bugg is:
1. The first Nottingham artist to top the albums chart.
2. The youngest male solo artist in UK chart history to debut at No.1.
3. He's toured Europe and the US with Noel Gallagher.
4. He opened a secret Stone Roses show in front of 400 celebrities and Olympians.
5. TV and radio appearances have included Later With Jools Holland, BBC Breakfast, a live session and chat on Chris Evans' Radio 2 breakfast show and repeated plays and sessions on Radio 1.
6. In the press he's been on the cover of the NME and the Guardian.
7. In the US he's appeared on network television.
You won't find him skipping across the Old Market Square, chirping his delight. "Yeah, it's all right," is his response, more often than not.
But don't mistake it for arrogance. It's simply that he doesn't know anything else.
It's only been a few years since he gave up football and picked up a guitar.
It's less than a year since his first single, Trouble Town.
And he's still only 18. In fact, his birthday is on February 28, the very day he finishes his first major UK tour.
And here's another first: Tonight's Rock City gig is the first by a Nottingham artist to sell out.
"It's been a bit of a mad year, to be honest," says Jake, who was born in Nottingham City Hospital and grew up in Clifton, where he stays with his mum when he's home.
"But if you think about such a dramatic rise to success too much it would probably distract you. You have to keep thinking about the next thing, the next song you're going to write, how you're going to move forward.
"It has been a brilliant year, though. But you've got to live it rather than analyse it."
It was the No. 1 success of his debut, self-titled album in October (and it's still at No. 2) which he has said was all he'd dreamed of.
So, how hard was that to deal with as an 18-year-old?
"Not that hard," he laughs.
"When I was growing up, this is what I wanted to do and when you're sitting in your bedroom as a teenager working out songs and practising constantly, you dream of success all the time.
"This sounds odd, but when success actually happens you've had it in your head for so many years it doesn't actually feel that weird.
"It did feel like I'd been working towards it since I was about 12."
Though he admits: "That so many people have liked the album so quickly is the strange thing. I can only put that down to those who started following me liked what they heard, and told other people."
He hasn't seen his success as any kind of renaissance in guitar-based music.
"Perhaps my timing was right, but it wasn't planned or anything. We certainly won't know whether anything comes of this increased interest for another year or so. We'll just have to see how it goes."
The last wave of guitar-based music in Britain that dominated the charts was Britpop, led by Oasis (Jake was just two months old when their debut single was released). So, when he toured the US with Noel Gallagher, did the Oasis man offer any advice?
"No, but I learned a lot from him about playing in front of big audiences. You see how life on the road works. He was a nice guy."
So how was the US?
"I enjoyed seeing the sights! An individual state is like a country all of its own, which I find really interesting. I did always hope I'd get the chance to play there, so just to do that was enough for me."
He's been back this year, culminating in an appearance on the Conan O'Brien Show. He's also played Europe and is now on his own UK tour. One wonders if he's found any time to write new material.
"Well, I'm going to be on tour for quite a long time but writing songs is what I love best.
"When I feel like I've got enough new ones together then we'll record it. I'm not worried about it at all.
"It's never difficult to find new inspiration. For me, I'd never been out of England before recording this album, but now I've seen different parts of the world, how different people live their lives, and I'm looking forward to writing about it.
"You get little insights, don't you? Little snippets of conversations in the street that feed into songs. It definitely won't be an album about dressing rooms and airports."
The first album was written with former Snow Patrol member Iain Archer, with whom he plans on collaborating again for the second album.
"The actual process with Iain was quite easy. I'd pop round to his, we'd have a cup of tea and get the guitars out.
"Sometimes he came up with stuff I hadn't thought of, but the way I see it, Lennon needed McCartney, Simon needed Garfunkel.
"You need that second opinion or instinctive thought when you're not sure."
He's already played the Rock City main stage, as part of a charity show for the Julie Cotton Foundation in April 2011. Now he's headlining to a sell-out crowd. So has he been working on more of a performance?
"Well, of course everyone is used to pop acts putting on a 'show', but for me I'm a songwriter, and that's most important.
"It's about the music – that's what people who buy a ticket want to come and see and hear.
"You have to make sure you entertain, but you can do that through playing well."
There's little doubt that Jake's incredible success has not only helped other Notts musicians to believe that they can also make it, but also inspired teenagers to pick up a guitar.
"Just get out there and do it," is his advice.
"That's what I did. Write the tunes, do your gigs, and practice.
"I had nothing to do growing up, so I sat in my bedroom and practised and practised."
Music first: Jake Bugg photographed by the Post's Dustin Michailovs on the Splendour main stage last year. Inset opposite: Jake with Noel Gallagher last year. Inset below: Jake's chart-topping debut album.