It’s been a tempestuous four years for Jake Bugg since the 27-years-old last released a record. Even though 2017’s Dan Auerbach produced Hearts That Strain contained all the hallmarks of a classic Nashville album, it didn’t quite hit the highs commercially in the way Bugg intended. Now though, he’s re-emerged with a fire in his belly.
Bugg left his record label and turned a new page in his career. His spirited new album, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, feels like the beginning of a revitalising new chapter, and it’s a record he needed to get right. On it, he proves that he’s no longer the teenager armed with an acoustic guitar as he sprinkles his trademark sound with radio-friendly hits that his last album lacked.
Bugg’s fairytale start in music was truly like something drawn up in Hollywood. At 16, he applied to BBC Introducing, who, in turn, handed him a set at Glastonbury, which led to a major-label deal while he was barely out of school. Then in 2012, his Mercury-nominated debut album flew to number one in the charts when he was still only 18-years-old. Everything that he’d ever dreamt of happening since he started playing became Bugg’s reality in a flash taste of fame.
Suddenly, he’d gone from living at his mother’s home in Nottingham to a never-ending cycle of touring, waking up in a different city every morning and, by the age of 23, he had four top ten albums. However, that pace wasn’t sustainable, and the last four years have seen Bugg take his time to focus on his next move.
Since moving on from his record deal with Virgin EMI and subsequently signing to Sony, Bugg has released a flurry of singles as he progresses and develops his sound. Additionally, he has wisely used this time to step out of his comfort zone by collaborating with Camelphat, refusing to rush into releasing his fifth album until the timing was perfect.
Naturally, when an album is a collection of songs built up from such an extensive period, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is a diverse final product. The folk origins will always be ingrained in Bugg, and they flicker in and out during the album. More noticeably, however, is his ambitious sound and desire to prove that he is a contemporary artist that isn’t just chasing yesterday.
“I just like to incorporate as many different styles as I can without it sounding all over the place and incorporate into my sound and keeping with my DNA,” Bugg notes to Far Out about the expansive genre-bending Saturday Night, Sunday Morning. “I’d say my two main ones were probably ’70s pop stuff and more psychedelic sounds.
“Growing up, I’ve always been a fan of The 13th Floor Elevators, The Electric Prunes, and Jefferson Airplane were one of my favourite groups growing up as well. I’ve always wanted to try to bring those influences into my music, and I think today you sometimes hear it in dance music, but in the pop world, there’s a lot more room for it.”
His love of psychedelia exists on the hypnotising efforts, ‘Rabbit Hole’ and ‘About Last Night’, where he immaculately channels those influences without veering into imitation territory.
Both of those tracks feel like a logical progression for Bugg, and it’s a new facet to his sound, which curveball from Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, came in May when he unveiled ‘Lost’ as a single. The opulent trance effort is the most glistening example of his growth as an artist and confidence to put out music that matters to him.
“I knew what kind of comments were coming my way,” Bugg says when discussing the reaction to the track from a vocal minority of fans. “But, at the same time, just because something is a completely different style or different to what I do, I believed it was a good solid song that people are going to enjoy, then I should release it, and I shouldn’t be worried about the negative comments.”
‘Lost’ is not the first time Bugg has played around with the expectations of fans and put a red-herring on an album purely because he loves the track. Bugg did it with the hip-hop infused ‘Ain’t No Rhyme’ on his third album, On My One, which admittedly missed the mark. However, his vigorous game on Saturday Night, Sunday Morning pays off emphatically and provides the liveliest point on the record.
Bugg sought out the assistance of Andrew Watt as a producer on the record, who boasts artists such as Post Malone and Miley Cyrus listed on his credits. His background in pop music has allowed Bugg to funnel his love of vintage records but provide them with a polished edge. “It was so refreshing,” Bugg notes about the collaboration. “He’s a guy with a lot of great energy and a brilliant musician. He was the first person I worked with at the beginning of the album process pretty early on and, and we wrote ‘About Last Night’ and ‘Kiss Like The Sun’. That was just brilliant because I knew that I wanted to find a different kind of sound and bring what I do into a more modern sound. I felt like we nailed it.”
Simultaneously, while making the album, Bugg also itched the more experimental part of his musical brain as he created the soundtrack to an upcoming documentary about legendary Brazillian footballer Ronaldinho, which was a beneficial experience in more ways than one for him.
“It’s just been a new experience, a brilliant one,” Bugg beams about his voyage into composing. “It’s kept me incredibly busy, which is what I needed throughout this whole crazy time, and you’re never short of inspiration when you’re watching him play football.
“It kind of allowed me to be more focused in terms of I didn’t need to be as experimental with my album because I already had another creative output with the film where I could experiment more and try things.”
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is the natural development of Bugg’s sound and a reminder that he is still just 27. He’s at an age where many artists are labelled ’emerging’, but it’s an entirely different story for him. Bugg has had to fight to prove that he’s worthy of a place of a table in an industry notorious for building you up just to spit you out.
“It gets harder and harder,” Bugg admits about the brutal side of the music business. “It almost becomes a battle, really, and it’s a very competitive industry. It’s very difficult to survive in the industry as well, so it can be incredibly frustrating, but that gives me the ambition and the drive to keep going.”
The rebirth of Jake Bugg over the last couple of years has delivered his most successful single, ‘All I Need’, which felt even sweeter after being written off in some quarters. After being released last October, the single caught fire on streaming platforms. A few months after its release, Bugg performed the track on Graham Norton before it got daytime playlisted on BBC Radio 1 in February.
“Over the last few years, I’ve probably not had the amount of success as I would have liked,” Bugg brutally honestly admits. “But it’s nice when a few years down the line, you release another track, and it becomes one of your biggest songs for a while. Those things do keep you going and inspiring to keep going. You never know when a song is going to really connect.”
While 2017’s Hearts That Straight is a delightful, rustic Nashville record, it only touches one side of his musical persona. After a four-year absence, Bugg needed to produce a comprehensive sounding project that reflects the full scale of his sound and stops people from pigeon-holing his talent.
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is a reminder of his eclectic capabilities and a defiant two fingers to those who’ve written him off in favour of the latest viral TikTok sensation.
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is available on August 20th through RCA Records.