Bob Dylan. John Prine. Milk Carton Kids.John Hiatt. Warren Zevon. Beck. Steve Earle.
All influences on Joe Pug, a 35-year-old American folk singer who's just released his fourth album and is returning to Australia in November. He plays Theatre Royal in Castlemaine on November 22.
No doubt, he's got a Dylan-esque voice, deep yet fragile, perfect for a guitar playing (and harmonica-playing) singer-songwriter. And with more than decade of near-constant touring under his belt, he's quite happy to be labelled as a folk singer.
"I think a lot of artists and songwriters get bent out of shape when people try to categorise them with a word, or genre," he says. "Bob Dylan got prickly about it.
"For me, it's an easy and short way for people who are unfamiliar with your music . . . I might be coming back from a gig, in an elevator, with a guitar, and they say what do you play? I say folk music . . . I don't get bent out of shape whatsoever."
Pug's back story notes that he left university on the eve of the start of his final year at the University of North Carolina. He was studying to be a playwright. he drove to a friend's place in Chicago, got a job as a laborer and reinvented himself as a musician. As he said on a recent podcast about that decision: "Life is short, you know where you want to be."
He's moved back to his hometown of Princes George County, Maryland, outside of Washington DC and has a wife and family. But he's drawn from his experience of constant touring and living in the American Midwest and Austin, Texas, for inspiration on his new album, The Flood of Color.
Produced by friend and musician Kenneth Pattendale of Milk Carton Kids, the album stays tightly in the indie folk groove - instrumentation is sparse, the lyrics taut. Pug is not a college campus minstrel, his audience is more sophisticated, more appreciative of what he offers. And he knows it.
"You won't see me put my guitar into special effects," he says. "To me, going through real experimentation is a lyrical point of view, lyrical devices. The actual structure of a song. I don't think an audience would notice. They say I like it or don't like it.
"I'm definitely always experimenting, always writing for new voices."
But, songwise, he doesn't mess around when touring: he plays his familiar catalogue, the songs his fans expect to hear. If you want to hear him play unreleased material, catch him at his mate's pub, The Hamilton, in Washington, DC, where he sometimes plays as an "unannounced opener".
Pug certainly has a fondness for Australia.
"I love Australia" he says. "The people of Australia have a certain spirit. This word doesn't get used a lot: an elan of the Australian spirit. A real swagger. I've enjoyed your country and your people a lot."
The touring routine here varies from the US for him. "Here, you might go to a town and stay there for three days and play three shows in a row. I can go for a jog, have a swim, drink Coopers Green and hang out with my buddies."