Singer and songwriter Joe Pug is set to make his return to Madison on Dec. 7, where he’ll be showcasing his past works — which includes three studio albums and two EPs.
After endless touring, Pug contemplated quitting the music industry, but since studio time was already booked, he decided to keep recording. He recorded in Lexington, Kentucky where he would worked with producer Duane Lundey to record his third studio album, Windfall. The record was released in 2015, but Pug has a very strict regimen of writing everyday, which means new music will be released in 2018 or early 2019.
“I write everyday. I’d say that I throw away about 95 percent of what I write. I keep the best 5 percent, or whatever I deem to be the best 5 percent out of it,” Pug said. “I’m writing [a new album] right now and I have been writing for the past year but it’s just really slow-going.”
Despite a lack of intense progress, Pug has a rich history that allows him to put his personal life into his music. After moving to Chicago, the large American city inspired his work. This was the first time that he was living without his family, and his life experiences are seen in his lyrics.
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Even though Windfall was released in 2015, Pug still feels connected to the album. Years after releasing an album, an artist can look at their work in a negative light, but this isn’t the case for Pug with Windfall. It has been three years since the album’s release and Pug still stands behind almost every lyric on the album.
Pug’s music is highly emotional and personal, but before he could record new music, he had to get a grip on his personal life. After taking a break from four years of nonstop touring, he spent time reconnecting with himself. Once he reached a clear state of mind, he took his life experiences and put them into his music.
“I just tried to speak about my own experience and it just came through the songs in that way,” Pug said. “Putting [emotions] into songs was pretty straightforward.”
Prioritizing personal life over work is highly important to Pug. After his extensive touring, he realized that family had to be his main priority. For Pug, he found he was able to get work dome more efficiently when personal life is prioritized. Family comes first for Pug, and he thinks everyone should find a balance between work and leisure.
Pug isn’t only close to his family, but his band as well. Instead of using a studio band, he used the band members that he has been touring with to record Windfall. By using the band members that he had toured with, they created a sense of familiarity that allowed the album’s recording process to feel organic.
When Pug tours live, his set is never the same. Since he tours often, his live performances are one of Pug’s highlights. Each year, Pug throws new songs into the set list to keep things fresh, he said. For those that came to his University of Wisconsin nearly two years ago and choose to see him again, it will be a completely different show.
Pug said his crowd tends to skew to younger aged people, which makes UW the perfect host for a show. Since Pug “keeps the saw sharp” when it comes to live performing, the Madison area is almost guaranteed a good show.
For those who wish to perform themselves, Pug has hard but real advice. To make it in the music industry, no one can go in with high expectations.
“You have to go into it expecting no one to care about it because the chances are, with this business … the chances are it’s going to be very hard to get people to listen to it or care about what you’re doing,” Pug said. “As long as you’re not expecting to be heard, you can only be pleasantly surprised.”
Those interested in his country-folk ballads can see Joe Pug at the Wisconsin Union Theater on Dec. 7. For $10, students can see the raw live performance of the Maryland native.