“Before age 12, I had no interest in music,” folk/rock singer-songwriter Jake Bugg recalled at a recent visit to Billboard’s New York offices. “Then, me uncle came around with a guitar and showed me basic chords. I started listening to Jimi Hendrix and it just blew me away.
“It was also disheartening. I mean, when you listen to Jimi Hendrix for the first time, you think, ‘How am I going to be able to play like that?’,” he admitted with a chuckle.
Bugg then began writing songs at 14. Along with Hendrix, he counts the Beatles among his earliest musical educators. “They’re a starting point for anyone, I should think. Then, I traced things back to Buddy Holly and Elvis, just discovering all those great records.”
Now 19, Bugg has transformed into a worldwide chart force with his self-titled debut album, which mixes gentle folk with old-soul rockabilly. The set topped the Official U.K. Albums chart the week of Nov. 3, 2012, impressively unseating Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” after two weeks at No. 1.
This week, the Nottingham native crashes U.S. Billboard charts for the first time, as “Jake Bugg” enters Folk Albums at No. 7, Top Rock Albums at No. 24 and the Billboard 200 at No. 75. It sold 6,000 copies in its opening week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
New single “Lightning Bolt” accompanies the album’s American launch. In addition to airplay on alternative and adult alternative radio, the song has built familiarity via its exposure in a new Gatorade commercial. The song’s official video has garnered 4.7 million YouTube views, while “Jake Bugg” lead track “Two Fingers” has drawn 4.1 million views.
Following his U.S. chart debut, Bugg will tour Europe through August before beginning a string of U.S. dates in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14. He’ll return to his home country to play more European dates through the end of the the year.
For all his newfound notoriety, Bugg says that song craft remains his main focus as an artist. “I think it’s good as a songwriter to use your imagination and make up stories sometimes, ’cause it’s fun to do. But, it’s also important to draw on your experiences and make your music honest.
“That’s what connects with people.”