In early 2012, then eighteen-year-old Jake Bugg released his first United Kingdom hit, the folky, buoyant “Lightning Bolt.” Later that year, his debut album reached number one in the U.K. Five years on, Bugg has released four albums, toured the world and been a Brit Awards and Mercury Prize nominee and New Musical Express and Q Awards winner.
A native of Nottingham, England, Bugg journeyed to Nashville to make his new album, Hearts That Strain. It’s an achingly lovely collection influenced by 1960s and ’70s pop. Bugg’s collaborators include Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and Noah Cyrus. Miley Cyrus’ sound-alike little sister Noah duets with Bugg for the Memphis soul–styled ballad, “Waiting.”
Grammy-winner David Ferguson, whose studio clients include Auerbach, Sturgill Simpson, Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer and Loretta Lynn, co-produced Hearts That Strain. Veteran studio musicians Gene Chrisman and Bobby Wood (Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” and Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis) put the icing on the cake.
Bugg will play the final date of his North American solo acoustic tour December 17 at Tipitina’s.
Why record your new album in Nashville?
I met the producer, David Ferguson, a couple of years previously at one of those things they call a picking party. I grew up with the music [from Nashville]. To actually be in Nashville and see a picking party was cool.
So a natural next step?
It was a no-brainer, really. Just to go over there and see what it sounded like. If it sounded terrible, we didn’t have to continue.
What did Ferguson contribute to the album?
Out of all the records I’ve done, David got the best vocal sound. That’s something quite a few producers have found difficult to do. I’m not the best singer in the world. David brought a lot of warmth and great musicianship as well. It was his call to get Gene Chrisman and Bobby Wood in. It was great to get to play my songs with those guys.
How did your co-writing with Dan Auerbach develop?
I’d toured with the Black Keys. My friend Matt Sweeney (the album’s co-producer) knew Dan. I always find it a bit difficult writing with new people, because they have their ways of working, but it was worth it.
Your songs can be so heartfelt.
Music is how I project how I’m feeling. Otherwise, I’m quite reserved. I don’t like to let anyone in, really. Music is my way of expressing myself. Many artists are inhibited in life, but free in their art.