An Examination of Joe Pug - OurVinyl

An Examination of Joe Pug

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A true storyteller, with comparisons to Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Bruce Springsteen; Joe Pug’s lyrics tug at your insides and leave you wanting more.

After touring Europe and Australia promoting his debut full-length offering “Messenger”, Pug, a man of the people, has just released his North American spring tour dates. He has been working with promoters and venues to offer a percentage of tickets for each show with no-fees. The spring tour will be a trial run for how they will be able to offer a larger number for the fall tour.

Joe Pug has steadily been increasing his momentum over the past few years and his story is unlike most. Fed up with the college scene the 23 year old dropped his aspiring plans as a playwright at the University of North Carolina and hit the road for the windy city. As he worked as a carpenter by day, Pug spent his nights honing his guitar skills and sneaking into recording studios when late night slots opened up due to cancelations. Pug’s talents from his playwright past translated beautifully into songwriting. His first EP, “Nation of Heat”, draws from ideas he had for a play he was writing called “Austin Fish”. It was only a matter of time before Pug laid down some tracks that would catch the ears of the Chicago bar scene. As word spread, Pug conceived an idea that would change the course of his new-fangled career.

Driven to get his music noticed by any means necessary, Pug used his own dime to provide unlimited copies of a free 2-song sampler CD to his fans in hopes that they would pass them along to friends. Each package sent out contained a personal note thanking the recipient for helping spread the music. Without the likes of outlets such as MTV or radio, Pug used the power of word of mouth to reach all 50 states and 14 different countries. The offer for the sampler is available still today on

There is an overwhelming amount of reflection that goes on in between the ears of this artist. His ability to put his emotions into writing is what separates him as a man among boys. Anyone can pick up a guitar and call themselves a folk singer, but Pug finds that medium of talent and ability to tell a loaded story.

His songs are layered with complex lyrics that hit you in the mouth and his delivery is mastered, yet never unchanging. Each song is a journey and he often chimes in on themes of irony, self worth, and maximizing the time here on earth to figure out what we are here for. In the title track “Nation of heat” from his first EP, he tackles the unforgiving world and this great country of opportunity. With lines like “even our coughs and our fevers compete” he describes the dog-eat-dog mentality we put up with to find success. Yet, he reminds us that with these flaws, we are all still proud to be American. He describes that sometimes you have to do some things the wrong way to get what you need in such lines as, “The more that I learn, the more that I cheat”. Even though this country may be the melting pot, he takes a shot at the American mentality of immigration with ironic lyrics like, “Blocking boarders with smiles are immigrant’s sons”.

If you have the chance to hear him play live, you will find yourself hanging on every last word he delivers. His stage presence can silence a crowd and draw them into an experience of tranquility and appreciation. The use of harmonica in most of his songs hits the bare bones approach for any folk artist and he couples it beautifully with intricate finger picking patterns.

At the nucleus of this troubadour are tales that beam his intellect. He can make you appreciate his admiration for the beauty of his craft and with lyrics like, “Oh, I loved her, don’t ask how/Must’ve had some reasons that I can’t remember now”, he can take you down the river of heartbreak.

Still new to his craft and with only two albums to date, there is no ceiling for Joe Pug. He has amassed invitations to such festivals as Lollapalooza and the Newport Folk Festival. As his popularity has grown it seems that his days of touring alone in an all but luxurious 1995 Plymouth Voyager are far behind him. All the intangibles are present for this musician to continue to “test the timber of his heart” and have a long career.

By: James Sobie