Joe Pug spent three years and countless dollars studying to be a playwright, only to discover that he really likes to read. While college may not have been the correct format for his writing, he brings a lot of theatre theory to his songwriting. Pug humbly describes his room for growth with arrangements in his songwriting. He uses some of the same concepts from writing farces when developing his lyrics; the stock characters from commedia dell’arte allow a playwright to use familiar characters and create stories around them, likewise, Joe Pug uses familiar melodies and subjects to craft his own songs. He considers himself more of a lyricist than a songwriter at this point, letting the songs speak for themselves in creating meaning for a listener.
Early on, Joe Pug recognized that social media, especially YouTube can be incredibly effective for independent musicians. He encouraged taping at his shows and let fans post the audio and video. Pug matched this grassroots method with his own free promotions: sending a home-burned CD with 2 or 3 of his songs on it to any fan who sent their address and asked for one–for free. By controlling the free distribution of his music (to the extent that anyone can control that), Joe developed a loyal fan base who became his “street team” in ways that other entities now copy. By the time Lightning Rod records came on board for his last album, Pug was able to allow this controlled, free distribution of a limited number of songs to continue.
For a guy who references Steinbeck (hence Springsteen’s “Ghost of Tom Joad” tune), Nabokov, and Chekhov in conversation, Joe Pug’s favorite type of venue may surprise you: dive bars. Pug affectionately refers to those dingy, local rock clubs because of their crowds that probably don’t expect to hear a heady songwriter, yet give him their attention and find his music appealing by the end of the evening anyway. A lot has changed for Joe over the last year; after hundreds of gigs, he is finally getting the recognition for his music that leads to performing arts centers and halls with padded seats and clean floors. What remains for Pug, though, is the intensity of his performance and gratitude for the road he ultimately chose.
Songs in Episode 1151 include:
- Songs from Joe Pug’s releases In the Meantime, Messenger, and Nation of Heat
- A Kasey Anderson song from his re-released, Heart of a Dog, “Mercy”
- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “Alabama Pines”
- Justin Townes Earle, “Ain’t Waitin’”
- Bruce Springsteen, “Ghost of Tom Joad,” the title character of the book discussion
- Tom Petty, “Candy,” from Mojo
- M. Ward, “Rollercoaster”
- Warren Zevon, “Werewolves of London” (alternate version)