Jake Bugg has come a long way from the teenager fresh out of Nottingham that first broke onto the music scene in 2011.
Both musically and in life, Bugg has undergone something of a transformation, but if How Soon The Dawn, the first single from his fourth album Hearts That Strain, is anything to go by, he may be coming full circle.
How Soon the Dawn is a soft, lilting ballad that could have easily featured on his eponymous first album, which had a distinctly one-man-and-his-guitar feel.
But if his second, Shangri-La, saw him plug that guitar into the socket, then his third, On My One, appeared to do away with the guitar altogether at times.
It is commendable that he has not stood still as an artist and attempted to broaden his output, but the further he has strayed from the foot-tapping strummers that made his name, the more mixed the results seem to have been.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Bugg has spread his wings as an artist, having spread his wings from the Clifton council estate in Nottingham where he grew up.
“No matter what happens you’re always going to go through different scenarios and situations in your life,” he says.
“They’re not the same ones I had when I was writing my first record. It’s hard to relate to that now.
“But it’s just life. It surprises you in many ways and gives you plenty to write about.”
Bugg is a manifestation of his music; thoughtful, mature and reflective. Even the fact he is usually dressed in all black is symbolic of his stage presence.
Bugg recedes into the background when performing at the recent Exit Festival in Serbia and lets the songs take centre stage; self-effacing and unassuming yet blessed with remarkable guitar-playing dexterity and a spine-chilling voice, especially on ballads such as A Song About Love, Broken and Love, Hope and Misery.
Before his performance, he sits patiently as half-a-dozen journalists cue up for a chat. Some answers, presumably to questions he’s been asked a thousand times before, are given politely but with a world-weary undertone, but Bugg responds well to originality and replies with enthusiasm to queries that pique his interest.
And it’s when talking about music that Bugg comes to life, with the words tumbling out of his mouth when discussing who he has worked with on his latest album.
“The fourth record is more of a record compared to the last one. I feel like the songs were OK on the last one but it was a little bit all over the place production-wise but I had a lot of trouble with A&R at that time.
“But with the new one, I’ve done it all in Nashville with musicians who have played with Elvis. The drummer played on Son Of A Preacher Man. They’re like The Memphis Boys, they’re pretty amazing. I’m very happy with it. It feels like it has a more like an English country vibe to it.”
When asked if there was anything he missed from before he became a musician, he replied: “No, not really. My mates I guess, but they come on tour with me sometimes and then I’ll drop them back off on the estate and that feels quite cool. It’s like ‘see you later lads!’
“It’s everything I thought it would be. There’s a lot of politics involved in the industry-side but if it means I can continue writing songs and travelling the world then I’m happy.
“I want to be the best musician and songwriter I can be. I just want to write songs for the rest of my life. That’s what I enjoy doing. That’s all I want to do.
“I’m not a very animated character. I just want to keep ticking along, write my tunes and see what happens.”
Hearts That Strain is released on September 1.