For a 19-year-old with a No. 1 debut album in the U.K., Jake Bugg seems to be taking his success in stride. Maybe he saw it coming: The British singer-songwriter started strumming the guitar at the tender age of 12, penned his first song at 14 and bagged a deal with Mercury Records two years later. He topped off 2012 with some rather prominent gigs, supporting acts such as the Stone Roses and Oasis man Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
Clearly, this newcomer isn’t your average teenager, even if labels like “the new Dylan” (applied by The Guardian) feel like a bit much. Bugg has mastered retro-modern songwriting on his 40-minute self-titled debut LP (out this spring in the States), which fits in with a long lineage of Brit-rock forefathers, while taking cues from manifestly stateside icons such as Dylan and Robert Johnson. Bugg’s gentle fingerpicking spans wizened folk and jangly rock, from polished acoustic ballads to bluesy shuffles. Raised in the Nottingham projects and poised to become a working-class hero, he dispenses reckless-teen stories in a prematurely throaty voice, like “Seen It All,” a tale of a pill-popping Friday night gone wrong.
Despite all the buildup, interviews reveal the fringe-haired troubadour to be supremely unfazed—and we wish the rest of the world would follow his lead. Within a sea of Auto-Tuned formulas and manufactured acts, Bugg’s simplicity beckons; whether America will buy the hype remains to be seen.—Marley Lynch
Jake Bugg plays Coachella Friday April 12 and Friday April 19.