Interview: Joe Pug’s Brave New World

RD: You’ve been showered with some pretty heavy praise since the release of Nation of Heat. Are you getting courted by some big labels at this point?

JP: There have been a lot of labels interested so far but I haven’t found one yet that feels right.  I’m making a living right now (by selling records at shows and selling the album over iTunes), and I also have absolute control over every part of the operation.  So the fact of the matter is, I’m in no big rush.

RD: You know the old adage; musicians have their whole lives to write their debut album, but just a year or so for the follow-up? Do you have a back stock of material for your next effort or will it all be from scratch?

JP: I have a bit of material for the next one.  That’s not something I really trip on too much though.  The well is always full.

RD: I see you offer to give your music away for free on your website. Do you think that approach has been a big boost in terms of getting your name and music out there? Would you recommend doing the same for other new artists?

JP: Absolutely.  It’s made a huge difference for me.  There are more people at shows, there’s more traffic on the website, and strangely, record sales have skyrocketed since we began giving them away.  In fact – just to tie in with the record company question – I don’t think I’d sign with a company that wouldn’t let me continue with the free sampler CD program in one way or another.

RD: I’m assuming since you named your first album Nation of Heat, you are pretty interested in politics, the economy and other such concerns. What issue today concerns you the most?

JP: Actually, politics and the economy consume very little of my time.  I worry more about being a good person on a day to day basis than I do about Barack or Bear Stearns.

RD: Would you say having such a turbulent environment today both here and around the globe makes it easier to write good songs?

JP: Yes and no.  I think that an audience is much more willing to listen during times like these.  But, for me, songwriting is such a personal thing… it doesn’t really matter what’s going outside my bedroom door.  To a certain degree, the songs would be the same because you want to write about timeless themes.  Greed and hubris didn’t get their start in hedge fund offices.

RD: Any desire to plug in or round up a band?

JP: Most definitely.  But I still have a lot to explore as a solo act.  A band will come when I’ve exhausted that avenue.  (And when I have enough dough to take care of my guys on the road).

RD: What lyric are you most proud of off the Nation of Heat album and as a follow-up, what is one lyric from another artist that you wish was one of your own?

JP: Choosing a favorite lyric of my own would be like choosing a favorite child… it’s not fair to any of them.  As for another artist…. there’s a line from an old traditional song called Green Pastures that I love:  “Those who have strayed were sought by the master.”  Any lyric that can cram a whole volume into one sentence, I’m partial to.

RD: Are you a Tar Heels fan? Is there a Final Four in the cards for 2009?

JP: Tar Heel basketball and Redskin football are the only athletic allegiances I hold.  And with Roy at the helm, a Final Four is always in the cards.

We’d like to thank Joe for taking the time. Also, for anyone looking for some of Pug’s music (and an answer to the question about plugging in with a live band), follow this link for seven exclusive tracks recorded for Hear Ya Live with a band, including a killer rendition of Gram Parson’s Grievous Angel as well as the EP staples Hymn 101 and Nation of Heat.

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