Singer/songwriter Joe Pug at Telluride Bluegrass

Singer/songwriter Joe Pug at Telluride Bluegrass

[click “Play to listen to Joe Pug’s conversation with Susan]


Joe Pug Joe Pug is one of the new names in the line-up for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, but Festival director Craig Ferguson is betting we will like his soulful voice and lyrical vignettes.

“Craig is a huge huge fan of this fine young Dylan-esque singer-songwriter,” said Planet Bluegrass marketing director Brian Eyster.

Turns out Joe Pug is not just a talented troubadour. The young man also has a gift for marketing. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The day before his senior year as a playwright student at the University of North Carolina, Joe had a lightbulb moment over a cup of coffee: he was profoundly unhappy. Then came his second clearest thought: pack up and go.

In Chicago, the 23 year-old Joe worked as a carpenter by day and spent nights playing the guitar he had not picked up since his teenage years, ultimately recording in a Chicago studio where a friend sneaked him in to late night slots other musicians had canceled. Using ideas originally slated for a play he had been writing, “Austin Fish,” Joe began creating the lyrical arrangements that would become his “Nation of Heat” EP.

Early rumblings of critical praise for the EP were confirmed when his first headlining gig sold out Chicago’s storied Schubas Tavern in 2008. As word spread, Joe Pug struck upon an idea that would later prove to be one of the most significant in his young career, a riff on the notion of giving away the razor to sell the blades: he offered his existing fans unlimited copies of a free two-song sampler CD to pass along to their friends. He sent the CDs out at his own expense, even covering the postage. Inside each package was a personal note thanking the fan for helping to spread the word. The response was overwhelming. To date, Joe has sent out over 15,000 CDs to 50 states and 14 different countries.
“Without question, the more sampler CDs I send out, the more music I sell.”

As his popularity grew, Joe Pug toured with alt-country pioneer Steve Earle, singer-songwriter Josh Ritter, and folk rocker M. Ward. He released his first full-lenth album, “Messenger,” in February 2010. “Messenger” assigns Pug a deserved spot among the finest songwriters of his generation.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to Joe Pug’s interview.

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