It wasn’t until I became a Contributor here at Ninebullets that I had heard of Joe Pug. (I know, I know. For shame! Better late than never, though, right?) Considering how hard and diligently Pug has worked over the past five years, and the fact that I prefer strong, expressive, earnest song writing styles, it truly is a wonder.
Pug’s music makes my mind wander. His lyrics are just specific enough that I can relate to them, but not so specific that I feel as if I would need to be him in order to understand them. That, to me, is one mark of a good songwriter.
I caught up with Pug for a few minutes during his busy touring schedule to ask him a few questions:
So, Bryan [Childs] booked you for the very first SxSW showcase. Do you remember that?
That had to be a good time. Got any good stories?
Oh, man, I wish I did, but that was the year I first played SxSW as well, I believe, and that was before we knew how to really do it. We had just done so many events, that, ya know, the Ninebullets event was awesome, but it was sandwiched between so many shit-shows throughout the day, that I was just going around, ya know, like a chicken with my head cut off. It’s all a big blur to me at this point, sadly.
This is your first jaunt into Florida. What took you so long, man? [laughs]
I know. We’ve been all over the country many times. I dunno… The way it happens – the way that music comes to different cities that aren’t New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, because you’re always gonna get bands coming through those places – is by people who are music lovers first and music promoters second. We’ve just never had the offers or opportunities to come through Florida before, and when we finally got it, we jumped on it.
Well, that’s awesome. Welcome.
So I’ve noticed that you get compared to Bob Dylan a lot.
Sure, sure. I mean, I’m a guy that, at the base of what I do – I play acoustic guitar, sing songs that I write, and play harmonica – I mean, I think it’s a valid comparison. I think it’s a pretty uninteresting comparison, but a valid one, nonetheless.
Who are your influences?
I have always been profoundly affected by all of the iconic lyric and singer-songwriters, like John Hiatt, John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Neko Case, all those people. I’m informed by all of their work. I’ve always looked to them, musically.
Who are you listening to these days? Anyone new?
Yeah, there’s a band from Los Angeles called Lord Huron, and their latest album, Lonesome Dream, is very emotionally affecting.
What is your writing process like?
Well, I write when I’m off the road. I tend to collect ideas when I’m on the road, and then, when I get home, I have time to process them, and that’s when I put them into form. It’s pretty matter of fact. I just wake up in the morning, have some breakfast, wait for a couple hours, then read and play guitar for a little bit. Then, in the afternoon, I will do a demo of anything I deemed worthy of doing that with.
It sounds like you’re pretty disciplined.
Well, uh, [laughs a little], there’s always room for improvement, but, yeah, I’m as disciplined as I can be right now.
I admire that. As a writer, too, I find it hard to stay focused if I am not in the mood to write. I will find any excuse not to do it.
Yeah, sure, that’s always the writer’s dilemma.
You have a very DIY, “find a way”-type ethos and attitude that I respect. Was that something instilled in you, or is it utilitarian in origin…?
When I first started playing and put out my first album, we did the rounds, and we talked to a bunch of different labels and publishing companies and stuff like that, and none of it ever jived with how I wanted business to be done. I also wanted to work for myself. I didn’t wanna work for somebody else. I spent my whole life up until then working for somebody else, and I just didn’t want to do that anymore. It just came down to that. I wanted there to be as few barriers between myself, the person who creates the music, and, ya know, the people who listen to it and are affected by it or anything like that.
I like that. Well, last but certainly not least, what’s next for you?
Comin’ to Florida! [laughs] And this particular tour will go through May.
Thanks to Ninebullets and Thx Mgmt, Joe Pug is finally (yay!) performing TONIGHT with Matt Burke (of Have Gun Will Travel) and Lauris Vidal at New World Brewery in Tampa, FL . You can listen to and buy his music here, and, well, you heard the man: he’s touring through May. GO SEE HIM.