Jake Bugg Chips Away at America With Rick Rubin-Produced Album

Jake Bugg performs as part of Lollapalooza 2013 at Grant Park on August 4, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

"I didn't go into the studio thinking I was going to record an album with (Rubin)," Bugg says of "Shangri La," his sophomore effort

Jake Bugg's formula for success isn't particularly complicated. "You just write some tunes and see what happens, see what comes up," the British troubadour tells Billboard. "You never know what's going to happen. That's the exciting bit of it."

Things have been pretty exciting for Bugg during the past couple of years, of course. His self-titled 2012 debut went No. 1 and platinum in his homeland and was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize. Now he's hoping the U.S. will catch on; "Shangri La," his sophomore set debuted at No. 46 on the Billboard 200 after its mid-November release, 29 points higher than "Jake Bugg" peaked. And Bugg is hoping to win more fans when he comes across the pond for a 19-date North America run starting Jan. 8 in Philadelphia. 

"It's hard to say what's going to happen," Bugg notes. "I'm just going to have to tour it and play my songs and see what happens, really. That's all I can do is keep chipping away with it and see how people react."

Bugg raised eyebrows by moving from the spartan soundscape of his debut to working on "Shangri La" with Rick Rubin, who beefed up Bugg's somewhat with a cadre of players that included drummers Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello's Imposters. 

"It wasn't a choice of my own," Bugg says of Rubin. "I think my managers put in a request thinking it would be great, and much to their surprise he got back in touch. I don't think any of us thought it would happen. He asked me to come by the studio, play him some ideas and that was that."

In fact, Bugg says, the initial plan was to record a pair of songs, including the single "Slumville Sunrise." 

"I didn't go into the studio thinking I was going to record an album with (Rubin)," Bugg explains. "I walked in initially to record the two songs. Then I had a few ideas knocking around and Rick kind of dragged them out of me and made me turn them into songs and put some great musicians around me. It all came together really easy. I didn't feel like it was a task or a job, just something I really enjoyed doing."

"Shangri La" also features three songs co-written with Brendan Benson as well as regular collaborator and "Jake Bugg" co-producer Iain Archer in Memphis. 

"That came from my publishing end," Bugg recalls. "I was very skeptical about three guys in a room trying to write tunes, but I gave it a try and thought maybe I'd learn a thing or two. We just jammed around in the studio and it was fun and natural for a few days. So that was pretty sweet."

Besides the upcoming North American dates, Bugg perfomed at the Nobel Prize Peace Concert on Wednesday [Dec. 11] in Oslo and has U.K. dates booked for February, followed by Lollapalooza's South American shows in March and a trip to Australia and Japan in April.