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Jake Bugg: The Biography

May 2014

The first book about Nottingham’s most successful musician also throws the spotlight on the city’s burgeoning music scene. Manchester journalist and author of Jake Bugg: The Biography David Nolan reveals why he wrote the book and why he thinks the city could be on the way to having its own Madchester...
Why write a book about Jake Bugg?
I was commissioned to do it by the publishers, John Blake, who are very keen on catching things at the right moment. The last two books I’ve done for them have been about, at the time they were commissioned, relatively unknown people: Ed Sheeran and Emilie Sandé. There’s an art to that. If you don’t get it right you end up with a warehouse full of books that no-one’s interested in.
So you’re a fan?

Yes. The hallmark of good music to me, most of the time, is that it’s played by a skinny lad with a guitar. I turn down offers to write books because I’m not interested in the music or I feel there’s no story there. With Jake, I like the music and it’s a great story.
The story being, that he’s the first major music star from Nottingham in a long time. If ever. And that he was leading a scene that is now enjoying recognition nationally. How long was it before you realised that was going to a major part of the book?
I was unaware of the whole Nottingham story at the very beginning. I am now. It runs through me like a Blackpool stick of rock. As soon as I came to Nottingham last summer and started talking to people, that was what came out; ‘We’ve been waiting for this for such a long time’. In addition to that people said to me ‘Please don’t let this be a flash in the pan. Don’t let Jake Bugg be another Paper Lace.’ I was asking people like you, Dean Jackson, Mark Del, George Akins... when this book comes out, is it all going to be ancient history or is this the start of something? And you all said ‘this is the start of something’. And the names mentioned were people like Indiana, Saint Raymond, Kagoule... you were all on the money. It made me wonder if this is the last time it will happen. This could be the last city-wide music explosion that will happen in this country.
Because these days you can just as easily access music from Idaho as you can from Beeston. All the walls that existed years ago have come down. It’s hard to imagine it happening again, like it did in Liverpool in the early 80s, like it did in Manchester in the late 80s, which was the last one.
You think Nottingham is going to do a Madchester?
It looks like you might. The success of the music scene has exceeded everyone’s expectations. And Jake’s success is international. There are fan sites and Twitter accounts from fans in Indonesia, Brazil, France... to think that this is the same lad Gaz Peacham at the Maze remembered tipping up with a guitar on his back using a boot lace as a strap and thinking ‘he looks about 12 this lad but if he wants to play he can play.’ Even you guys at the Post, who have supported him right from the start, must be thinking ‘even we didn’t think he was going to be this big!’ So it’s a great story. From after school gigs at the Maze to Splendour and the Arena... and beyond. For a writer it’s a great story.
What has been the reaction to the book?
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had tweets from Indonesia, Japan, Brazil, Poland, France... asking ‘can I get the book?’ That has completely taken me by surprise. It didn’t happen with the Sandé and Sheeran books.
And can they?
Of course. I’ll take one round their house if they want. With Amazon and Kindle, that book is a click away. It’s the same as music.
Did you approach Jake about the book, to tell his own story?
I approached one of his managers Jay (Hart) and initially he seemed interested but then backed off from the idea. I think it’s deemed to be a bit uncool to be in your own book anyway. And if he had been involved it would have changed the dynamic. It would have become like a ghosted autobiography. With an unofficial biography, I can write what I want. And I have.
What do you think is the key to Jake’s success?
There’s a musical history lesson with Jake Bugg, in terms of where he’s drawn it all from. People always mention Bob Dylan and Donovan but I can hear Glen Campbell, John Denver, Bruce Springsteen... and that is the secret of his success. He’s pulled it from sources than no-one else has. Three years ago if I’d have said the next big thing will be a teenage rockabilly, Johnny Cash, folk hybrid, you’d have spilt your pint.
Had you been to Nottingham before?
I’d been to the BBC with work before. Apart from that all I knew was that there were an awful lot of roundabouts.
And how did you find the city when you visited last summer?
I like that can walk everywhere. Everything is just 15 minutes away from the centre. And everyone was so open. If you had come to Manchester to write a book about the music scene, there’d be a gang of us at the train station sending you on your way. Because it’s a very insular scene.
What is your background?
I left school at 16 with no qualifications, was an apprentice journalist at the local newspaper, went on to magazines, radio, then television. I was a journalist and news editor at Granada, a producer and director, and worked on Tonight With Trevor McDonald until I left to write books. I got into it by accident. I did a documentary about the famous Sex Pistols gig at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1976 that everyone claims to have been at. And someone suggested doing a book about it. Now I write, do a bit of lecturing and training. and still some TV documentaries.
Jake Bugg: The Biography (John Blake) is out now, priced at £14.99.

WE gave Jake's dad, David Bugg, 40, from Clifton, a copy of the book and this is his verdict...

It's quite surreal seeing your son's life documented in so much detail, from the age of around 13 when he became interested in music.
I have to say it's a fantastic book and well written. There's a lot of detail about the Nottingham music scene and rightly so. We have a very diverse scene and it is doing remarkable things out there.
It's not just about Jake but also the environment where he learned his craft.
And all the key players are mentioned like the Post and Zoe Kirk, the BBC and Dean Jackson, and all the bands he was playing with during the early years.
There is some information in there about Jake that I didn't know. The first few chapters made me realise just how determined and hard working he was when he was 14 and 15. A lot of the gigs he was doing when he was that age, I was unaware of.
He didn't know how I'd react if he said he was playing in a pub in Nottingham city centre so he kept me out of the loop. There was a chance I'd say no. The idea of my 15-year-old son playing in a city centre pub on his own, in a room full of people drinking alcohol, doesn't sit well with me but I probably would have been OK with it as long myself or his mum went with him.
His work ethic during that period really impressed me.
Reading it was quite emotional at times. Mine and Jake's lives touched and parted on a number of occasions as he embarked on his music career. His mum and I split up when he was quite young but I was just around the corner and I'd still be a dad to him. But there were things about his music career that I wasn't aware of.
The part in the book where Dean Jackson told him to get some CDs together to take to the workshop at Abbey Road... I didn't know Dean had told him to do that. But Jake came to me and asked me to do the CDs for him. I thought it was to send to A&R people. It's interesting to see where I fitted in with the chain of events.
There are things that are missing from Jake's story, such as his passion for football. He had no interest in any music up until he was 12 or 13. He was playing for quite a few teams and he'd got medals, trophies and certificates. At one point he was being scouted.
Then, all of a sudden, his uncle Mark gave him a guitar and the football just stopped.
He was writing and playing in his room but it was all hidden. I had no idea until he came to me to record him. And straight away I realised how much effort he'd been putting in to this new direction in his life.
I had a 32-track at home that I was using to record my own music. I recorded him doing three covers: If You're Going To San Francisco (Scott McKenzie), Empty Chairs (Don McLean) and Vincent (Don McLean).
This was before his voice had broken. I've a copy of that recording and no one will ever hear it. I think Jake would kill me.
I had another 16-track that I gave to him there and then so he could learn about recording.
There are a few mistakes in the book, such as him being named after the boxer Jake LaMotta. That's not true. When we first fell pregnant with him, my cousin Carl Duffy and I were great friends and his son was named Jake. We asked if he'd mind if we named our son Jake.
And he was never Jacob. It has always been Jake. It was annoying me so much that I had it changed on Wikipedia.

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