Unnecessary Subtitle: Crush of the Week
I was interviewing Kasey Anderson last week (look for that feature in the next few weeks) and when I asked him what he was listening to he mentioned Joe Pug, adding, “Not that that kid needs any more press.”
Indeed, leading up to an immediately following the February 16th release of his first full-length album, Messenger, there was a lot of buzz about the young Joe Pug (born Joe Pugliese –yea for us blue-eyed Italian kids). I was particularly aware of this attention because Joe Pug was en route to Portland on the evening of February 14th to open for Justin Townes Earle.
In any case, it’s attention that’s hard-earned and well-deserved.
Joe started garnering attention via the hard-working singer/songwriter route, playing as many shows as possible, including filling last minute in for canceled acts, until he built up enough critical mass to headline and sell out his own shows in his hometown of Chicago.
But he also recognizes what music fans and bloggers already know: sharing music builds a fan base, and those fans will generate revenue for you even if they don’t initially shell out for your CD. And Joe Pug is not only condoning taking a few first listens for free, he’s supporting this approach sending out sampler CD’s at no cost to anyone who requests one (or five). He may be the perfect example of how to become a successful independent artist in a time when “word-of-mouth” recommendations are likely to be Tweets and links to mp3s shared between strangers.
But none of this would matter if Joe Pug wasn’t making highly listenable and compelling songs. And I would not be paying much attention if I hadn’t seen him live. Based on my few listens to his EP In The Meantime and Messenger, I expected his live set to be really…nice. I was prepared to be moderately engaged and polite and looking forward to Justin Townes Earle. Instead I was immediately impressed and enamored. What may not come through on the somewhat flat treatment of the ten songs on Messenger is how dynamic Joe Pug is. He’s intense and sincere and makes a lot of noise with a guitar and harmonica and sometimes a boy named Andrew on the pedal steel. For me at least, he pretty handily stole the focus of that evening from JTE.
At the core of Joe Pug’s music are intelligent, beautiful, and–at times–heartbreaking lyrics . The line of the year: “I undressed someone’s daughter and complained about her looks.”
Messenger is an album about how being young means being bad at love and growing up means admitting your shortcomings, and Joe Pug is doing a hell of a job articulating those sentiments.
You can learn more, get a free EP and request samplers at his website. Then, you know, spend some money on the guy.
ps-Does anyone else hear the “Me and Bobby McGee” chorus in “Not So Sure”?