Joe Pug’s story is almost cinema-worthy: Undergrad drops out of the University of North Carolina to start over in Chicago, eventually picking up an old guitar and rediscovering a passion for music.
And since 2008, Pug has been taking his life along with him on the road, playing shows wherever he can and getting his music heard by any means necessary. Though it has only been three years since this newest chapter in his life began, Pug’s musical growth in that short time has been staggering.
His rusty, weathered voice is unmistakable, and though he feels like his influences are many, he says he realizes that he wears them on his sleeve. It’s hard to hear him croon without visualizing great American songwriters like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, and he admits that he owes a lot of his style to the artists he grew up on.
“[John] Hiatt’s going to have grounds for a lawsuit at this point, in my opinion,” Pug jokes.
And though he does recall a certain heartland folk style, to refer to these influences too much is not giving him due credit. His simple approach to both performing and writing make him something of an enigma. Pug creates songs that are dense and layered, yet spontaneous and inspired.
Pug has had fast success, he says, by making an important business decision early in his music career: He gave away some of his recordings for free, often by sending CDs through the mail.
“You want as few roadblocks as possible for people to have an opportunity to at least listen to one of your songs once,” Pug says, “and I think price would certainly be one of those roadblocks.”
Giving away music to fans for whatever reason has become common among musicians nowadays, with the advent of digital music files. Still, Pug’s logic would have worked even before the mp3.
There are so many guitar-toting vinyl collectors wanting to be the next Dylan out there that it’s easy to overlook the true artists.
Don’t overlook Joe Pug.
Joe Pug plays with Strand of Oaks • Tuesday, May 10, at 8 pm • The BellTower • 125 SE Spring St., Pullman, Wash. • $10-$12 • All-ages • stereopathicmusic.com