Joe Pug revives American folk
26-year-old singer-songwriter Joe Pug has been compared to Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and John Prine. After listening to his songs, these comparisons don’t seem far-fetched.
A UNC dropout and former carpenter, Pug writes lyrics that exude wisdom beyond his age. Lines such as, “I am renewed I am just made I am unchanging, I’m a pasture fenced about the edge, I am Dakota thunder raging,” read like a Walt Whitman poem.
But Pug is humble about his talent. He said he thinks the comparisons to some of the greatest songwriters of the century are flattering, but severely premature.
“Those guys made incomparable contributions to American music and that’s something I could only dream about doing,” Pug said.
Pug was studying at UNC to be a playwright, when he dropped out just before his senior year.
“I had a moment where I realized life is short and I knew where I wanted to be and I should just get there,” Pug said.
After dropping out, Pug moved to Chicago and began work as a carpenter. He began writing songs and recorded his first EP, “In the Meantime.”
Pug decided to offer the EP for free in order to promote his name.
“There’s so much music out there these days that you have to find a way to cut through and gain listeners,” Pug said. “I figured if we took away the barrier of price then people might be willing to give it that initial listen.”
Pug said that his songwriting style comes from certain habits he learned in playwriting and from his reading. He said he reads a lot and cited John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos as influences.
These literary influences drive Pug’s lyrics from the realm of forgettable indie folk music to powerful storytelling. Pug crafts songs with the lyrics at the forefront, usually backed by a fingerpicked or strummed guitar. His music exemplifies the spirit of folk songs, started by artists like Woody Guthrie, the spirit that tells a story through its songs and can stand just as well as literature as it can music.
Pug is performing at the Local 506 on Monday June 4 with David Wax Museum at 9:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here
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