Jake Bugg: Students should swap The X Factor for songwriting classes

The rising star gave a masterclass to music students at the Royal Albert Hall

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The Independent Culture

Children should be weaned off an obsession with fame and be given a solid grounding in songwriting at schools and colleges, one of rock’s rising stars has said.

Ten A-level music students were given a special masterclass at the Royal Albert Hall by Jake Bugg, the 19 year-old songwriter from Nottingham, whose observational lyrics, gritty vocal style and acoustic strumming have provoked comparisons with Bob Dylan.

Brit Award nominee Bugg was the latest talent to work with young musicians at the Kensington venue, following student sessions with violinist Nicola Benedetti and Emeli Sande.

Bugg rehearsed with the singers, chosen from London schools, who will perform his hit song "Broken" on the Royal Albert Hall stage with the star this Friday.

Bugg, who admitted that he failed his own music theory course at college, said schools should do more to help children explore their creative instincts.

“Maths and English come from the brain but music comes from the heart and soul,” he said. “I lasted four weeks before I was kicked out of my media technology course. Some teachers weren’t the most inspiring. They wouldn’t let us experiment for ourselves. I realised that I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to do what I wanted to do.”

The students will be joining Jake on stage to perform with him at his 'Albert Session' concert this Friday

Bugg told the students: “The key is learning how to write songs. It’s all about having songs that when you play them, people connect to them and relate to them.  Whenever I get a free moment I try to write songs.”

The singer said: “A lot of young people are quite besotted by fame. They want to see their faces on the side of buses. But I couldn’t really care less about the fame side of it. I knew music was all I ever wanted to do.”

He warned that going on talent shows like The X Factor might deliver a short-cut to fame but they wouldn’t help young artists pursue a long-term career.

“It’s good exposure but it would be a lot better if you got people writing their own songs,” said Bugg, whose self-titled debut album topped the charts in 2012. “It would be great to see people going on there, writing songs and getting the opportunity to make their own record. Not to have one song and never be seen again. That’s what happens. What’s the point?”


Music students should study the roots of artists they admire.  Citing Jimi Hendrix as his inspiration, Bugg told his audience: “I was blown away and disheartened at the same time because I knew I’d never play guitar like Hendrix.

“Whenever I get into an artist I trace their music back to the people who influenced them to create that sound. With Hendrix it’s the blues, Robert Johnson and Son House.”

Even educational failures can make their mark in music. “I can’t read music and I failed my theory exam so I suppose my experience shows you don’t really need to know music theory. Most songs come along by accident. A song is up in the ether and you need someone to pull it down and grab hold of it,” he said.

Although nominated for Best British Male at Wednesday’s Brits in a category that includes David Bowie, Bugg said winning won’t change his life. “It’s cool to be nominated. But an award doesn’t have a lot of sentimental value to me. It won’t change how I think about music or my career.”

The workshops are part of the Royal Albert Hall’s education and outreach programme which currently reaches 100,000 young people each year.