Joe Pug on touring, giving music away, and becoming an adult



  • Todd Roeth
In April, we highlighted Joe Pug's Daytrotter session, and mentioned how the singer-songwriter broke into the music scene by giving away his tunes to people at his shows. We recently spoke to Pug and asked him about that free music model, how he approaches songwriting, and what inspired him to write the content on his new album, the Great Despiser.

The Pitch: Do you feel like storytelling has always been one of your gifts?

Pug: Well, I think, actually, I'm not really a narrative songwriter type of guy. But, I figured I had a knack for writing. To tell you the truth, it's always a constant battle. It's been, like, some mornings, you wake up, and you're like, oh shoot, writing's hard.

I think that makes sense in any type of writing.

Yeah, for sure.

In general, do you think most of your songs come from life, or is it just what hits you that particular day?

I think it has to do more with that maybe I'm able to give a form to, a poetic form, that mostly other people can recognize in their own lives.

When I saw you last year, it seemed people were really drawn in, and seemed to relate to the songs. So, I assume you like touring because you seem to tour a lot. But do you like putting roots down somewhere and staying for a while?

I don't know, I think I try very much to have a sort of balance in my life between being on the road and, um, being at my house, and writing, and just kind of living life. I think pretty much too much of either of those things would drive me crazy.

You initially gave away your music to get the word out. How did people react? Do you think that helped you attract a really strong fan base?

Yeah, I mean, you have to keep in mind that we started doing that four or five years ago, and now, every band gives their music away for free. It's just sort of the model that happens. But at the time, people were calling us idiots, you know? I think we really benefited from being at the front of that curve. I think it's allowed us to build a fan base that will stick with us through every twist and turn.

What inspired the material on the new album?

You know, it's funny. I think you start to figure that out as a writer as you start to get some distance from the content. And being on the road, playing the songs every night, being farther away from when they were written, um, I'm just starting to figure that out for myself. I can kind of look back and look at the album as a whole and I think it's, the narrator of some of these songs has come to one of the first crossroads in adult life, and is making a choice. And by definition, as you get older and you make choices, other choices are taken off the table. And when you're younger, that's not necessarily the case. It's sort of coming to terms, the narrator on most of the songs on this album.

Where do you want to go from here? I assume there will be new music, but do you think you'll ever take on any other type of art project?

Well, I don't think you'll be seeing me on a reality TV show anytime soon.

Thank goodness!

But, uh, yeah, I just love doing this, and, um, over the last couple years we can do it and everyone can make a living, and, I mean, I just really have no complaints. I'm loving it. I hope we can continue.

Joe Pug will perform at RecordBar this Sunday, May 13. Doors 7 p.m. The 18-plus show is $10-$12. Support from Bailiff, and David Burchfield & the Great Stop.

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