From the buttery quality of his voice and the mellow swing of his folky beats, it is hard to imagine that singer-songwriter Joe Pug got his start as a carpenter in Chicago and not as a kid closer to the Americana roots of our country. His music is infectious with soul and in addition to his voice features a number of instruments, including the banjo and the harmonica.
Pug began his music career after leaving college just a year before graduation. He describes his transition to the music world as a fairly organic process.
"When I first moved to Chicago I was working as a framing carpenter for a small contractor, mostly building out residential buildings," he said. "At night I would get home, and I didn't have any friends in the city at first, so I'd just sit and play guitar. Write songs to amuse myself.
"Eventually I started going out to play open mics and such. From there, everything kind of snowballed until I found myself quitting that carpentry job and playing music for a living."
At first, Pug spread the word about his music by word of mouth of his fans. Pug copied his music to CDs and sent them to anyone who requested them. His self-made popularity eventually attracted the attention of the indie label Lightning Rod Records, which signed him in 2010.
Since committing himself full time to his music, Pug has released two albums and has been praised for his unique sound and truth bearing lyrics. Pug released his first album, "Messenger," in 2010. He then penned his second album, "The Great Despiser," after a move to Austin, Texas.
Pug says "Despiser," released in April, differs most from his earlier album in terms of musical arrangement.
"(The songs) were all written the same way — me, alone with a guitar or piano — but when it came time to record them, our producer Brian Deck had a real vision for how they should be fleshed out."
Pug's inspiration for the sound of the album was taken primarily from his own outlook on life.
"I suppose the uniqueness of my songs would be in the world-view that they're written from," Pug said. "I've never been the strongest melodic writer, and I've never been someone who can write a story song with characters and narratives, but I do feel like in a certain sense that I've been trying to write one song the whole time.
"Every album contains 10 different variations of this one big song I'm trying to write," he said.
Though the recording studio may be his place to write that "one" song, Pug also tours constantly.
"I've always felt that music, a live concert in particular, is a conversation between the performers and the audience," he said. "The folks who have been to one of our shows before, I think they probably know the conversation I'm describing. And the folks who will be coming for the first time, we can't wait to welcome them to the fold."
Pug is touring the Midwest and will be perform in Champaign-Urbana next week with Urbana native lead guitarist Greg Tuohey. This is not Pug's first visit to C-U, and he is happy to return.
"I'm not just blowing smoke when I say it remains one of our favorite towns to play. Our audience has been so supportive here," he said.
Concertgoers should expect to hear a range of music from all of Pug's albums and an atmosphere that is welcoming of fans old and new.
"Since we're not working within a distinctly defined genre, since our music doesn't have its root in a particular social scene, we've always just attracted people who have one thing in common — a love for songs that have been labored over — and not much else in common at all," he said.
Of his future, Pug doesn't seem to ask much.
"As long as I can continue traveling and playing to audiences who care, as long as I can get off the road and spend my days writing songs like I do now, there's not a whole lot more that I feel like I could ask for," he said.
If you go
Who: Joe Pug with Denison Witmer
When: 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 (doors open at 8)
Where: Canopy Club, 708 S. Goodwin Ave., U
Tickets: $13 in advance; $15 at the door
Of note: Must be 18 to enter
More info: http://www.joepugmusic.com