Written by Georgina Langford
Admittedly, arranging to interview 18-year-old musician Jake Bugg the day after the 2013 Brit Awards was perhaps not the greatest idea. When he finally arrives backstage at Oxford's O2 Academy, wearing a black Burberry trench - three hours later than planned, at five in the afternoon - he is sporting sleepy eyes and an ashen pallor. It's only after he drains a mug of tea and scarfs down a sandwich ("the first thing I've eaten all day!") that the colour returns to his cheeks and he is ready to talk about life as one of the most interesting new figures in rock'n'roll.
The Brit Awards' alcohol-drenched revelries are to blame for Jake's delayed arrival and he tells District MTV that he skipped the red carpet at this year's ceremony, opting for the "Spinal Tap entrance. No-one knew I was even there," he grins, kicking back in the cosy confines of his tour bus. Jake was nominated in the British Breakthrough Act category, losing to Ben Howard, but clearly untroubled by the glamorous chaos of award shows. "To keep living my dream and playing music to make a living, that's all I care about. Not being famous or anything," he explains humbly, despite the fact that his debut album went straight to number one in the week of its release. His childhood on a Nottingham council estate has kept the young star's feet firmly grounded while the trappings of success surround him.
"Before this I had nothing going for me. I had no job, no money. I had one pair of trainers, one pair of jeans, so the idea that now, if I want a pair of shoes, I can just go out and get them, that's crazy to me. In a way I feel guilty, what have I done to deserve this? It doesn't seem fair, somehow."
Jake has a tendency to downplay his own achievements. After teaching himself to sing aged 12, by listening to old songs ("Johnny Cash for the lows, The Beatles for the highs" he explains) he was discovered aged 16. His startling voice could have been lifted straight from a 1960s country-folk-blues record, inciting appropriate comparisons to Bob Dylan. His songs, including hit singles 'Lightning Bolt' and 'Two Fingers', carry a worldliness that might not be expected from such a new act. "Sometimes I find it difficult to talk about how I'm feeling, so music is a way for me to project those feelings in a way I feel comfortable with. It's important as a writer to fantasise as well as drawing on your own experiences," he says, unwittingly having slouched onto a sofa next to one of his own framed gold discs.
Jake states matter-of-factly that he fell in love the first time he picked up a guitar, now never going anywhere without one. Even during his current UK tour he writes everyday, and thrives off the pressure of live performance. "Live TV or radio: I love it. Something just clicks – you know you have to nail this right now." On stage, his serious demeanour belies the fact that he is concentrating to ensure the audience enjoys themselves: "People have paid good money to watch you play. I'm just the guy singing the songs. I put myself back in the place I was when I wrote that song and sing it like it's the first time I have ever sung it."
District MTV witnessed his intense performing style at the recent Burberry Acoustic party; Jake also attended his first ever London Fashion Week show for the brand. "I actually enjoyed how short [the catwalk show] was, I thought that was brilliant," he smiles wryly. "I was expecting it to go on for ages." Fashion is a new development in Jake's world and doing photoshoots is "an interesting experience. It's like looking in on a different world. I still like my tracksuits; back home, I would lock up a shop wearing my green Adidas tracksuit and go straight to play an open mic night. I was this kid, singing folk-country songs wearing my tracksuit and the crowd would be like 'what the…?!' he laughs.
A final question as to whether or not this Burberry-clad boy is dating supermodel Cara Delevinge is simply met with a smirk and with that, Jake Bugg has shrugged off his hangover and is ready for soundcheck.
Jake Bugg is on tour until 30 March
Photography: Sam Hiscox