Jake Bugg Goes Big (With Rick Rubin's Help)

Buzzy U.K. singer-songwriter hits Malibu and Memphis for rootsy new 'Shangri La'

Jake Bugg
Kevin Westenberg
Jake Bugg
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Jake Bugg still can't believe the success of his 2012 debut, which topped the U.K. charts and made him a tabloid fixture there. He started dating supermodel Cara Delevingne and trashed One Direction and Taylor Swift in the press. "I never could have anticipated it," says the English singer-songwriter, calling from his hugest U.K. tour yet. "The venues are much bigger – it's going to take some getting used to."

Jake Bugg Finishing New Album With Producer Rick Rubin

On November 19th, the 19-year-old will release Shangri La – recorded in three weeks with Rick Rubin at the producer's Malibu studio of the same name. Standout rockers like "There's a Beast and We All Feed It" and the Wire-inspired drug tale "Kingpin" feature howling vocals, freight-train rhythms and jangly riffs. Bugg was listening to a ton of Neil Young during the sessions – which you can hear on the spooky ballad "Kitchen Table," written after another relationship ended. "It was my first proper relationship," he says. "A very dark time."

Bugg's biggest inspiration came when he traveled to Tennessee, where he wrote with Brendan Benson in Nashville and demo'ed at Memphis' Sun Studio, resulting in the spare, gospel-influenced "Storm Passes Away." "To think of all the people that stood there when I was recording my song was crazy, man."

For a teenager, Bugg has seriously classic taste – he claims not to listen to any current music. "I want to find something I enjoy, but my ears won't let me," he says. "There's a lot of generic stuff on the charts. I think people just want to hear songs every now and again."

This story is from the November 21st, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 1196: November 21, 2013