Joe Pug brings folk to the Sanctuary


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mp3 sample: Joe Pug

"Hymn #101"

Joe Pug used to be a carpenter — and not a very good one.

“I didn’t display any craftsmanship, but I got to watch guys who did,” he said. “They took it very seriously and had a lot of pride in it.”

He connects that craftsmanship to the guitar.

After two EP releases, and with a full-length record coming in February, Pug will return to Iowa City for a show at the Sanctuary, 405 S. Gilbert St., at 9 p.m. today. Admission ranges from $10 to $15.

Pug studied playwriting in college before dropping out just before his senior year began. He credits this period as a time that shaped and toned his writing habits, he said.

“I learned how to sit down and do it every day and how to concentrate and focus,” he said. “That sounds very basic, but it’s a very difficult thing to do.”

Pug’s two EPs, Nation of Heat and In the Meantime, deal with themes of growing up, the songwriter said. His music has a very basic sound — his voice, a guitar, and a harmonica. The artist made both records available for free on his website as a way to spread his name.

“It’s a really nice thing to do for listeners, but in other ways, I think that if people have the chance to hear my music, they will come out to shows to support and maybe buy a T-shirt or the album itself when they’re there,” he said. “I have a much better chance of having a career that way.”

UI freshman Max Johnson, a member of the KRUI music staff, said Pug’s lyrics attract him.

“He sounds like an early Bob Dylan — very honest, and he means every word that he says,” Johnson said. “He’s really dynamic. He sounds like what you want everyone to sound like in music.”

The genuine writing reflected in his lyrics comes from Pug’s way of life.

“If you live in a sloppy way, you’re going to write in a sloppy way,” Pug said. “Not that that’s a bad thing, but that’s just the way it is.”

With his career just beginning, the artist finds making it in music different from his past experiences.

“You’d come in, and you do all this great [musical] stuff when you’re 27,” he said. “Whereas every other job, you’re pretty fucking bad at it when you’re 27, because you’re still learning. And you really hit your peak when you’re 45 and 50. I think it’s a little strange to me people consider 27 to be a peak for people when you’re just getting started.”

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