interviews

Hitmakers: Gotcha on the songwriting secrets behind Tion Wayne and Russ Millions' hit Body

Producer Gotcha – real name Kamron Lloyd Chevannes – has been making beats since 2016, and this year he played a central role in drill’s biggest moment yet, as TikTok-powered phenomenon Body gave the genre its first No.1. Here, he ...

Through the looking glass: Jake Bugg, David Dollimore and Keith Armstrong on the next phase

Think you know Jake Bugg? Think again. The rock troubadour has stepped outside of his comfort zone on imminent fifth album Saturday Night, Sunday Morning – uniting with some of the hottest songwriters in the world like Steve Mac and Ali Tamposi for his first outing on RCA Records. Here, the prolific singer/songwriter, label boss David Dollimore and longtime manager Keith Armstrong offer Music Week a glimpse into the surprising next phase of a unique voice in British music...   WORDS: Niall Doherty         PHOTOS: Jack Bridgeland  The biggest lesson that Jake Bugg has learned over the past decade is to keep the faith, no matter what. It’s over 10 years since he emerged from Nottingham as a 16-year-old, guitar in hand, looking every inch a cheeky, cherubic go-getter who’d forgone a Saturday job in favour of busking outside of McDonald’s. His combination of tales of life as a teen in modern Britain and indie anthems was a winner. In the time since, his bluesy folk breakthrough single Lightning Bolt has become more than just a song. It’s one of those tracks that, whether it’s on the TV or on the radio or someone’s ringtone or just in the air, is always around.  But as any artist who made it past the Difficult Second album, No-one Really Seems To Care As Much third album and Is It Me Or Are These Venues Getting Smaller fourth album will tell you, a long career in music is filled with ups and downs. On the eve of releasing his euphoric fifth record Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Jake Bugg has officially had a long career in music. He is a 27-year-old veteran, and the old timer realised it was time for a rethink. “It’s hard when you see other artists bringing their stuff out and it’s doing a lot better than yours,” he says, in his East Midlands twang. “You’ve just gotta keep going. It might sound clichéd, but you’ve just got to keep believing in yourself. Not everyone is gonna have your back all the time, and you’re not always going to get the support that you want. A lot of the time it comes down to you and how much you really believe in it.”  Bugg knows how easily things can slide and isn’t afraid to admit that he’s an ambitious sort. It’s why Saturday Night, Sunday Morning marks a creative reset. His last album, 2017’s Hearts That Strain, was a woozy, country-influenced acoustic affair, but his fifth record is an urgent, immediate modern pop album that combines big verses and bigger choruses with contemporary production tricks. The indie troubadour is a long, long way from home.  Speak to any of Bugg’s team about his new record, and they will speak as if it’s his debut. The fresh start certainly goes beyond the sound and the songs – Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is Bugg’s first record on RCA after a career spent on Mercury, which morphed into Virgin EMI.  “In the last decade, there’s only been a handful of artists that have achieved breakout success and have distinct voices, whether it’s Ed Sheeran, whether it’s Adele, and you put Jake in that category because you know as soon as [one of his] records comes on, it’s Jake Bugg,” says RCA president David Dollimore.  He states that RCA asks every artist it works with, ‘What’s your ambitions on this record? Do you want success? Do you want a Mercury nomination?’ Bugg’s response was to tell them he wanted to sell records and have big festival anthems.  “That’s kind of where we got to with the music on this record,” Dollimore adds. For Bugg’s manager, Soul Kitchen boss Keith Armstrong, signing to RCA felt like coming home. Many of the team who helped Bugg’s self-titled 2012 debut become a global hit (817,417 UK sales, OCC) are on the staff at RCA having joined chairman and CEO Jason Iley in eventually migrating from Mercury to Sony, chief among them head of A&R Adrian Jolly.  “We were very lucky when we signed to Mercury,” says Armstrong. “We had a lot of very creative people around us. Mercury was at a stage where it was just buzzing, and that was to Jason Iley’s credit because he gave everybody the chance to be excited about Jake’s first record. So for us, it was a chance to be reunited with Jake’s A&R guy Adrian and to be back working with Jason Iley again.”  Armstrong says that working with RCA is a breath of fresh air.  “The great thing about RCA is that there’s a lot of really young, creative, exciting people there. David Dollimore is a great person to work with, [label MD] Stacy Tang’s really vibrant, Sabrina Kristiansen is our product manager and full of really good ideas. It just feels like a really young,fresh team.” Bugg says that it feels like a new chapter in his career. He had a few offers, he reveals, but RCA was the label he sensed really believed in what he was doing.  “RCA have been brilliant,” he says. “It felt like they understood me and what I was about.” After the mellow vibes of Hearts That Strain, Bugg wanted to inject some energy into his catalogue and expand his musical horizons. His 2019 banger with CamelPhat, Be Someone – which has a whopping 243,679 sales to date – opened his mind to a world of sonic possibilities.  “It’s obviously a very modern dance record,” he says.  Bugg wondered how he could apply its cutting-edge recording techniques and production to his own music.  “It started out as a curiosity,” he explains. “I wanted to try and experiment and put my DNA and my sound into a more modern sound, approach it differently and see what the results would be.”  He had also been listening to a lot of bittersweet ’70s pop classics, where uplifting hooks are tethered by creeping melancholy, and became healthily obsessed with ABBA’s The Visitors as well as the music of Supertramp and the Bee Gees. He wanted to channel those influences into his writing.  “There’s a sinister vibe to The Visitors,” he says. “That kind of sound really spoke to me. There’s more room for that in pop music today.” Key to bringing this new musical vision to life were the songwriters and producers he worked with. Dollimore says that Bugg’s willingness to collaborate and try new things was key.  “It’s a great cast of current songwriters and producers, pretty immense,” he opines. “It’s never forced upon by me or the teams, it’s totally up to the artists if they’re comfortable with that. So fair play to Jake.”  It’s a stellar gathering: among the contributors on Saturday Night, Sunday Morning are ace producer and former Music Week Songwriter Of The Year Steve Mac, smash hit specialist songwriter Ali Tamposi, Halsey and Celine Dion collaborator Andrew Wells and Grammy Award-winning producer Andrew Watt, among others.  Bugg couldn’t believe how easy it was working with Shape Of You co-writer Steve Mac. The pair wrote and cut the vocal to the irresistible single All I Need, for example, in three hours. “That was so refreshing to me,” he says. “I like to work quite quickly these days, and so does he. He was brilliant.” After previously working with Rick Rubin on 2013’s No.3 album Shangri La (285,193 sales), being in the studio with Mac has given Bugg the opportunity to compare production greats.  “They’re very different,” he says. “Working with Steve is a very quick process, whereas working with Rick on Shangri La, it was very much more of a raw record with a live band. It’s just an absolute pleasure and great learning experience to work with that calibre of producer, really. They’re both very different, but both amazing.” Ali Tamposi, meanwhile, helped to open up his lyrical world, the Havana writer offering an opposing outlook to the one he would usually take.  “Ali is brilliant,” says Bugg. “She just had a different perspective. Being a male artist, you write a certain way. To have that input, it added more depth to it, especially with the ballad stuff. I love the different dynamics she added to the music, too.” Armstrong says that Bugg was keen to work with people closer to his own age.  “He’s always worked with a lot of older producers, so Andrew Watt totally fits that bill. They’re a similar age and a similar vibe, putting energy, youth and all that into it.”  Bugg doesn’t want Saturday Night, Sunday Morning to be a huge success because of any commercial aspirations or because he likes being famous, it’s because he wants to have a career in music for the rest of his life.  “If you want people to get behind you and support what you do, then the way the industry is run, it’s built on chart success,” he reasons. “That’s just a preference for me. That’s what I’m after.” As much as he works closely with the art and the music, David Dollimore is very data-driven. The RCA president likes what he’s seen so far in this campaign – pre-orders are doing well, there’s been growth on Bugg’s TikTok page and YouTube channel, his Spotify numbers are growing (2,512,629 monthly listeners and counting) and now it’s time to build on a solid start.  “There are lots of new initiatives and new ideas that we’ve put in front of him that he’s embraced,” he says. “One of those was joining TikTok last year, where he has been uploading guitar tutorials. He has 20,000 followers.” TV appearances will also be important.  “He’ll be doing Sunday Brunch,” says Dollimore. “He’s not been on those TV shows for some time but he really wants to embrace it, as long as it feels right for him.”  Getting Bugg onto podcasts to talk about his life is another strand of the label’s strategy to get him out there, whilst he has also been working with SBTV’s Jamal Edwards on a content series. Dollimore thinks that the key to getting Bugg’s streaming numbers up is to release a steady supply of music and content.  “Fans want more than ever,” he says. “Of course, it has to be quality, but you can’t go away, you can’t stop. It’s just a constant stream of getting him in front of his core audience, but then a new audience as well.” Jake Bugg fans are both teenage girls at the front of the crowd singing every word back to him and 30-to-40 year-old Oasis fans getting their indie fix, reckons Dollimore.  “It’s really broad,” he says. “The lines have blurred. We didn’t want this record in any way to alienate his audience. We wanted to open it up wider and younger because the youth culture are so online driven. We want to make sure we’re targeting them.”  The main aim for Keith Armstrong is to make sure these tracks reach the audiences he thinks they deserve. “Keeping albums with a lot of big songs on them going is the challenge,” says Bugg’s manager, “making sure every song gets its day in the sun.”  Jake Bugg did not grow from teenager to adult in the way that other humans do. While his mates were getting told off for smoking behind the bike sheds and asking their tallest mate to buy WKDs for them, Bugg was in the spotlight. But he wouldn’t have had it any other way.  “From the age of 14, I knew what I wanted to do, even if I was going to be doing toilet tours for ever, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he says.  He knows there’s a lot of pressure, especially for a solo artist when there’s only one name (his) on the cover, but he’s happy to soak it up. Keith Armstrong thinks that his charge has blossomed.  “He’s matured musically, he’s matured as a writer and he’s come of age as a person,” he says. “I think it’s to his eternal credit that he’s managed to do that and grow up in the spotlight.” In the past, Bugg has felt a little defensive and protective over his music, but he decided to approach his fifth album with a sense of freedom. That sense of reinvigoration is all over Saturday Night, Sunday Morning.  “It’s just having more of an open mind,” he says, “and working with different people. If you don’t get something good out of it, then it doesn’t matter. No-one has to listen to it. It’s been brilliant, probably the most fun I’ve had making a record.”  In the hard times, Jake Bugg kept believing in himself. He wants to do this for life. His hard-earned faith is starting to pay off. 

Jamz Session: Jamz Supernova celebrates her 10th year in the business

Since her days interning at BBC Radio 1Xtra, Jamz Supernova has become a true force of nature in theUK music industry as a DJ, broadcaster and record label boss. To celebrate her 10th year in the business, Music Week meets her to talk alternative culture, Black music and independence...  WORDS: Colleen Harris        PHOTOS: Sarah Harry Isaacs  While the pandemic might have shut down clubs, opportunities have still loomed large for BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Jamz Supernova. In fact, the DJ is now spinning more plates now than ever.  She’s three months into her new Saturday afternoon show on BBC 6 Music, she has a new podcast, DIY Handbook, (candid conversations on career do’s and don’ts with industry friends) and recently she released a vinyl compilation of underground club tracks on Future Bounce Records, the label she founded in 2018.  It all caps off a decade in radio during which the broadcaster has consistently whizzed past career milestones, long surpassing her initial dream of becoming a BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter.  Yet 6 Music wasn’t among Supernova’s plans until a three-week stint covering Gilles Peterson during lockdown shifted her focus.  “It was a different position to getting on 1Xtra because on 1Xtra, I wanted it, I had to prove to them why they needed me,” she says, telling Music Week how she convinced her bosses to give her a regular slot.  “But on 6, it’s a bit different, it’s like, ‘I want it but I know there is an element of what I can bring that you don’t have.’ I’d never been in that position before. So that makes you move in a different way, with more confidence, more purpose and more ownership. Maybe it was the mixture of age and the climate that made me approach it differently.” She approaches the rest of her career with the same energy, so unsurprisingly persistence and how to say ‘no’ are topics she has dived into on her DIY Handbook podcast with guests including long-time mentor DJ Toddla T, Olympic athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Jorja Smith’s manager Zubin Irani.  “I always think back to something that a friend told me, ‘You can build a team but it has to be led by you, you have to steer the ship,’ that’s always stayed with me,” she says. “People can only do what you tell them to, you have to know what you want.”  Steering her own ship has been a deliberate move, but one that saw her 1Xtra programme win Best Specialist Music Show at the ARIAS back in May.  Clearly, there’s much to discuss as Supernova sits down with Music Week to reflect on her achievements, staying independent and scaling up her plans to support underground artists. Ten years in the game – congratulations. What do you feel you’ve achieved? “From the age of 17 I knew I wanted to be on 1Xtra, it was a lifelong ambition to get on the station. It was all I could think about, all I wanted and all the decisions I’d made between that age, then coming out of college, were dedicated to getting me closer. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I got my own show, but it felt like a real achievement because it wasn’t an easy journey. It was five years of ‘no’ but I learned a lot in those years, and I worked behind the scenes. I loved the experience of being in production. I didn’t go to university, so it felt like that was my degree, and my Master’s was going from an intern into production, and then to being on air. But it showed me that I have the belief and have the determination, and that if I want something I can make it happen. I just don’t know how long it will take. That was a real affirming moment for me.” What does it mean to join the line-up at 6 Music?  “It was a really nice surprise to have that door opened. I loved some of the broadcasters on there, from Gilles [Peterson] to Mary Anne [Hobbs] to Tom Ravenscroft. Just what they do and the legacy that they have. I really admire the radio they make. I like hearing music that I don’t know and it’s very rare that you hear that on a daytime schedule on a national station and I just enjoyed that. I’d make little notes, then I’d go check out this or that person. I enjoyed that musical discovery, which is what I always wanted my show to be like. So I thought, ‘OK, that’s where the best of the best specialists go – that’s where I want to head’. Also, I know that I have so many friends who listen to 6, people in my age group, from 25-35. I thought I could represent that side of the audience who definitely do listen. I felt like there was a gap to play more Black music. There’s an audience out there, of Black listeners, where maybe 1Xtra’s a bit too young for them in the daytime, maybe they don’t really vibe with some of the music. But there are some aspects of other sides of Black music, be it jazz, be it broken beat, the electronic stuff or the biggest things coming out of Africa or Latin America that they resonate with. Being able to be a mouthpiece for that is amazing.” What’s the reaction been like? “It’s been amazing from my peers, from other people within the community. I’ve been celebrated in that way, which has been amazing. And for the most part, the listeners have been incredible and really welcoming. But you do get stuff online, especially when I’m covering across daytime, that I’m, ‘Making the station sound too like 1Xtra’, I’m, ‘The worst thing about the station’, or a lot of, ‘What about me? Do I not matter any more?’ which is laughable but also a little bit hurtful. At the core of it, it’s about race, because there are plenty of people across the station that are playing Black music, but it’s just more threatening when it’s coming from a Black woman.” Does it feel like home now? “Yeah, definitely. I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe it’s only been three months’. It feels like I’ve been doing it for years.” How can radio help break a new artist? “We can definitely accompany an artist on their journey. It’s about supporting an artist over a period of time. We have different stages of the show that they can be involved in, whether it’s the After Dark Discovery, the EP Top 5, an interview or a Maida Vale Session. Then it’s, ‘Do they go on to be one of my Ones To Watch? Do we constantly talk about this artist over the course of their early career and shout about them?’ I think that does a lot more than just playing them once and saying: ‘This artist is hot and I played them first.’ That goes alongside them talking about the projects they’re releasing, to celebrating the milestones that they’re achieving. So we’re on that journey with them, and being the hype person, the cheerleader. You can see the effects of it, I think Greentea Peng or Hak Baker would be good examples of us being there right from the beginning.” So what are you excited about at the moment? “KG [London-based producer] is really sick, just effortless with it and has had a journey in the industry, so it’s nice to see her getting her dues. I always try and have a global outlook and a finger on what’s happening. I’m loving all the alternative hip-hop that’s coming through, there’s such a sub-genre of it now, it’s so huge and so wide. On 1Xtra we’ve been quite massive supporters of artists like Wesley Joseph, Nayana IZ and the Nine8 Collective. Had the last year not been shut down these guys would have been selling some really solid tickets. They stream well, they’re part of culture, they’re part of identity, they speak for the youth on the peripheries of Black music. It’s not directly rap, it’s not directly drill, but there’s influences and elements of it but there’s maybe an indie take on it as well. I’m loving that scene at the moment. And on the electronic music side, the rave music scene, I think it’s cyclical. It’s 30 years since the height of the UK rave scene in the Margaret Thatcher times, and illegal raves, and 30 years on you’ve got kids that are making that music now and referencing those times and that feeling of wanting to party. There’s a lot of women that are making that music as well, which is really cool.” It’s been a tough year for nightclubs and festivals. How have you coped without being able to go out and play? “I feel it more for my peers. I set up my career so that I have different streams of income. I didn’t want to ever rely on one of my favourite crafts to bring in money because I didn’t want to attach monetary value to it and then be disappointed. But for some people it’s been absolutely devastating. For me, it’s given me a little chance to refine what I do and how I play. Having the break allows me just to go back and play how I feel, not what I think people should expect from me.” How difficult will it be for the industry to bounce back from this? “I don’t think it’ll bounce back easily. We will have definitely lost some venues, some promoters and some great minds. It will take a few years for it to get back to where it was. But I think there are some [lessons] that we can take from it as well. Can we make it a safer space when we do come back? Can we make it a more inclusive space? It’s been amazing seeing my peers who were reliant on just DJing, specifically ones that identify as women or non-binary, that have decided to start producing. In the long run, that will really shake things up. They’re producing some really good music. It’s mind-blowing.” You run a label, Future Bounce – what’s your aim with it? “I’ve been running it for a few years but in the last year I really got stuck into it. I want to continue that as a boutique label, I kind of see us like a smaller XL Recordings. We just put out a vinyl compilation [Future Bounce Club Series: Vol 1] which is amazing. We’re going to start up the Club Series Volume Two, and there’s an artist I’ve been working with called Sola, we put out a project last year with her, that did well, and we’ve got a follow-up EP. She’s been working really hard on new music. I don’t see it as, ‘I’m the label and you’re the artist’, it’s a collaborative process. It’s all her when it comes to the aesthetic of things. I can facilitate her creativity. Then when it comes to strategy it’s, ‘How are we going to get this out?’ and that’s when I really step into gear. Because I’m a one-woman band, I have to be mindful of what I take on. I don’t want to ever not do a good job.” Your podcast DIY Handbook is about overcoming challenges. How do you select your guests? “I’m really proud of that. All of the people were hand-picked, I didn’t want anyone to be pitched to me. They have either invoked the spirit of what I was trying to get to, or they already embodied that spirit of the lesson that I was trying to learn. So someone like Ciara [Madden], seeing how she built a team in a short space of time in her fitness empire, seeing all of her wisdom… She’s smart, I want to be able to tap into that brain. Toddla [T] is someone that I’ve worked with very closely, he’s been a mentor, a brother, so I know quite a lot about his career and the choices that he’s made. That has informed some of the choices that I’ve gone on to make so I wanted people to hear the conversations that we would have had in the studio when I was coming up – real talk that he was able to give me when I was searching for guidance. Because I used to do DIY Generation on 1Xtra, I have a database of incredible business-minded creative people in all walks of life that I can tap into.”  Finally, you’re presenting the AIM Awards 2021 and you work a lot in the indie sphere. What does independence mean to you? “We have to be mindful with how we use the word independent. So many people now assume that to be independent is to do it all on your own. I think being independent is to have the autonomy and the choices to build the team that you need to achieve what you need to achieve. Even with the label, I had a decision to make last year, ‘Do I want to go into a venture that would make it a mainstream label? Or do I want to remain boutique?’ And I think that being independent is having the autonomy to say: ‘No, I want to remain boutique.’ I could partner with a much bigger label, but with that you would lose so much of the essence. That’s definitely been something I’ve been thinking about, scalability versus maintaining its essence. Do I want to be the biggest DJ in the world? Well, being the biggest DJ in the world means I’m going to have to play the biggest records [laughs]. I don’t think I want that life…”  

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