According to Candy Pugh, mother and manager for her daughter, Jeanna, “The doors of opportunity opened when we came to Georgia.”
The Pughs had been living in Fort Worth, Texas, but moved to LaGrange when Jeanna’s father, Cole Pugh, was named superintendent for the Troup County Schools.
Even in high school, Jeanna Pugh, now 18, had started to pull together the elements of the music career she’s always dreamed about. Since the family’s move to LaGrange, her career has begun to expand beyond just being a dream. She studies with a voice teacher, performed publicly, signed with Tate Music Group and just released her first album.
After last month’s release party for her first album, “Sweet Tooth,” an awaiting career as a singer/songwriter is more clear now. She is making the transition from singing along with her idols’ recordings in her room to performing in front of large crowds at local events, like Hogansville’s Hummingbird Festival and Grantville’s Crosstie Festival. With the release of her first album of original music, Pugh is hoping to build a fan base throughout the nation and around the world.
Her first musical influence came from her mother – a music educator – who plays the piano and sang with a praise group in their church while her father simply “plays the radio.” Starting in eighth grade, Pugh entered a number of talent competitions that eventually garnering the attention of Tate Music Group.
She was offered a contract with the group, but didn’t feel she was developed enough at that point and didn’t sign with them. Around that time she began studying guitar with Ben Shirey of Creative Soul Music in Keller, Texas. Under his tutelage she also began writing songs in earnest.
Pugh’s friendship with fellow musician Seth Harden also led to her being included on his Dream Big Tour, which also led to her again gaining the notice of Tate Music Group, this time signing a contract. She recorded “Sweet Tooth” late last year.
Pugh said it’s not just her desire for a music career that keeps her going. Her path, she believes, was chosen for her by God.
“Second to God, (music is) the love of my life and I just want to use it for his purpose … to glorify him,” she said.
Though her songs aren’t overtly religious – “I wasn’t born to lead praise and worship,” she said – they can still be tied into her Christian faith. Pugh writes about her relationship with God through the prism of her relationships with guys.
“What is this paradise? What is this love?” she asks in her track, “Paradise,” as she comes to terms with a guy who still listens to her rambling when “most boys would’ve fallen asleep long ago.”
Especially in this song, her references are both worldly and sacred, often at the same time.
Beyond spreading the message of her faith, she also has a message of hope: “No one should let anything stop you.” Born with a condition known as fibular hemimelia, Pugh lacks her left fibula – the longest of the two bones of the lower leg. This led to a severe shortening of her left leg.
To compensate, she wears a prosthetic that cradles her lower leg and foot and makes up for the missing length in her leg. Brightly decorated with “tattoos,” the prosthetic is usually covered by jeans during stage performances so that “people are focusing on my voice and stage presence (rather than) my disability.”
Though later when she wears shorts people will remark, “You’re the girl who sings! What the heck happened?” The prosthetic acts as an ice breaker to conversations where she spreads her message of hope.
Candy Pugh recalled the first time her daughter so blithely acknowledged her disability. Jeanna Pugh was 5 years old and in a local pageant. When a newspaper photographer gathered the contestants together for a photo he asked about Jeanna’s prosthesis. She quickly responded, “I did not break my leg. God made me this way! I wear this so I can wear a really cool shoe.”
Her album is a natural development of Pugh’s faith and high aspirations in overcoming her disability. The album sticks closely to the pop-rock genre and its music and lyrics show the influences of some of her idols, including Hayley Williams of the band Paramore, The Civil Wars and Katy Perry.
Her simple vocal line is unencumbered by extreme vocal ornamentation and complimented by clear diction. The production values of the album are characterized by an economy of accompanying instrumentation that allow Jeanna’s voice to shine through clearly. All the songs are original works and reflect her belief that she is called “to be a light in a dark world.”
“Sweet Tooth” by Jeanna Pugh is available from the iTunes Store, Amazon.com and TateMusicGroup.com. Her website can be found at www.jeannapughmusic.com.