Roughly a year ago, teenage folk-rockabilly revivalist Jake Bugg quietly issued his eponymous debut, then headed out on tour with one of his biggest champions, ex-Oasis bandleader Noel Gallagher. Then he tumbled straight down the surreal rabbit hole, getting nominated in his native England for the Mercury Prize (plus NME, BRIT and Ivor Novello awards), and taking the Q Awards trophy for best new act. In the U.S., he opened for one of his heroes, Jerry Lee Lewis; wrote new songs in Nashville, Tenn., with Brendan Benson; recorded at historic Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn.; and tracked his sophomore CD, “Shangri La” with super-producer Rick Rubin in Malibu. He even found time to date — then leave — a supermodel. He turns 20 on Feb. 28.
What did you learn from Noel Gallagher? To just continue writing tunes and not think about it. And also, playing those shows that he was playing, I was playing to audiences that were much bigger than what I’m used to. So that was a whole learning process in itself.
Did you visit any folk, country or rockabilly landmarks while touring America? Well, I played the Ryman the last time I was with Noel, and that was really special. And I went to Brune’s Guitars and I got an old ’50s Telly from there, which is also really special. And recording at the Sun Studio was just amazing, man — to think of all the people that stood there before you, playing such great music? It was very inspiring.
Did you pick up any knowledge from Rick Rubin? He kind of just put great musicians around me, so I was with great people and I felt like I’d improved as a player. And as a musician and as a writer, as well. So Rick just gave me a great experience, and it was a wonderful opportunity to have.
Did your romantic breakup fuel “Shangri La”? Not necessarily. But it’s very difficult when you’re a traveling musician to maintain a relationship. You’re always in another place and you’re always meeting new people. But there are a few songs on the album, like “A Song About Love,” that were written out of stubbornness. It’s like a lady saying “Oh, you should write a song about me!” And whenever anybody says that, you feel, well, less obligated to do it, because the feeling’s not there. There’s no surprise element.
Are you into American food now? I love Southern fried chicken now! There’s a place called Lou’s Fried Chicken in Memphis that was great. I mean, England has some good fried chicken, but it’s nowhere near the same as it is in the South.