Will Pugh, singer, rhythm guitarist and lyricist, formed Cartel in 2003 with lead guitarist Joseph Pepper, guitarist Nic Hudson, and drummer Kevin Sanders. With four studio albums under their belt, alongside two EPs, Cartel has cemented their place in the pop-punk genre.
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Sean Ritchie: You’re about to kick-off Cartel’s 10-year anniversary tour. Describe the excitement leading up to it. Is the traveling something that you enjoy most? Why?
Will Pugh: Oh yeah. It’s cool that we actually get to experience this. I think a lot of bands don’t really get 10-years ever anyway. Let alone celebrating the 10th anniversary of an album. It’s nice to sort of relive the moments of us recording and doing all that stuff — kind of the early days if you will. Then getting to travel around and experience it with our fans is cool as well.
Pugh’s extensive experience with Cartel has cultivated a wonderful perspective of world travel.
Traveling around, doing it in the van and trailer is not the most luxurious way to do it, but it definitely has its benefits. When we are on the bus and doing that full-time you don’t really get to see anything, because you go to sleep and are there at the city and kind of like, “oh well that’s what concrete looks like.” Verses being able to actually look out the window and see the country.
I remember, just because we were talking about reliving the old days, the first time for us touring. I think the first leg we really did, we went straight out to California. None of us had really been outside of Georgia too far — especially not out west. We were driving to it and once you hit west Texas, you really start getting into the desert there. Your perspective on life changes, because you kind of realize how big things are and how small we are.
Seeing some of that stuff for the first time is almost like a religious experience. Just being able to witness the majesty of some places. Those moments in the van, hitting certain spots around the continent, especially when we were up in Canada driving through Jasper National Park — outside of Edmonton, on the way to Vancouver. That was easily the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s just crazy. We were driving through it for probably an hour and a half. It was nice because there was a little cloud coverage, so it was a little overcast. There were certain points when you come around and the mountains just there. You’re driving through the valleys the whole time. It’s just awe-inspiring.
Photo courtesy | Olivier Issaly
SR: What goes into selecting the touring cities? Old and new markets? Personal preference?
WP: Yeah, usually it kind of depends on where we have traditionally done well. There are some cities you just play regardless. It just is what it is, because you don’t want to drive nine-hours when there is a city you could play right in between. For this tour it was kind of hitting the spots that we have traditionally done well and picking some central points so we are not over playing certain places. So instead of doing Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, we are just doing Columbus. A six-week to seven-week tour around the states is a pretty taxing ordeal.
SR: Out of all the cities you have performed in, are there any that stand out in terms of crowd atmosphere? Were they inline with the city’s nightlife?
WP: You can kind of tell how a city is going to be if it’s not a traditional-music city that hasn’t always really supported shows. Those notwithstanding — usually college towns. Tempe, Arizona is one, even though we are not playing it on this tour. The venue we normally play is pretty much right inside of the Arizona State University campus. You know obviously, with that sort of atmosphere, that’s usually is a pretty rocking show. Even Columbus is a really good example. There’s a place called Newport Music Hall that’s right on High Street — it’s right through Ohio State pretty much. You get some pretty lively crowds, especially playing on the weekend when school is in session.
I know Connecticut at Toad’s Place in New Haven, which is where Yale is. That’s usually pretty righteous. New York is always nuts, just because the nightlife there kind of defines the city a little bit. Philadelphia, we’re playing a place called Theatre of Living Art’s, which is right on South Street I believe — where all the cheesesteak places are. So we are really stoked on that. That’s usually a pretty — a pretty good time. There’s not really a whole lot of parking, so a lot of people have to take trains. You know when people don’t have to drive they get a little bit more rowdy. That’s always a good time.
Photo courtesy | Chris Hunkeler
SR: When visiting a new city, what is the first thing you try and do? Does it differentiate from a city you’ve been to and know well?
WP: Yeah, usually we’re trying to find the closest coffee shop. That’s easily our first motive. I think, just from touring around so much and playing these same venues, we know what’s there. Most of our routes either take us by a coffee shop or a guitar center. Usually we try to venture out and find what’s going on.
While music is Pugh’s unquestioned first love, traveling is up there — right next to his love for golf.
During our time, in between hitting certain places, we’ve seen a lot of areas grow. It’s always interesting, there’s always something new to find in these cities wherever we play them.
SR: Coming from Conyers, Georgia. What’s something that you love about the state that you would encourage people to check out if they go visit for the first time?
WP: Oh wow. If you’re visiting Georgia, you’re probably going to Atlanta I would imagine. Atlanta has so many cool things now. If you want to do the traditional stuff, I think the Georgia Aquarium is one of the biggest aquarium’s in the country — if not the biggest. It’s worth the drive to hit some of the north Georgia wineries, where the wine isn’t Napa Valley, but they have some really beautiful wineries. It’s only about an hour from downtown, depending on where you’re staying around Atlanta.
There are pretty sweet golf courses. That’s one thing I would say about Atlanta that I miss from living here, because I live in Nashville now. The golf around Atlanta is spectacular.
SR: That was actually my next question. I knew you were an avid golfer and wanted to know some of the most scenic courses you’ve played at?
WP: Most recently I was down in Australia. I was producing a record down there for a band. We went out and played a course called St. Michael’s, just outside of Sydney. It sits right on the coastline. I think five of the holes are directly on the cliff. That was pretty awesome.
North of Atlanta, probably an hour and a half, is a course called Currahee. I think it’s hole-13. When you’re on that tee box you can see North Carolina and Tennessee. It’s pretty high up. That’s a really beautiful course. Otherwise around the country, I was lucky enough to play Bethpage Black. That was right on; that was awesome.
Photo courtesy | Currahee Club Lake Hartwell
SR: When in search for a personal getaway, what do you look for in a vacation? Is the golf included? Or are you trying to lay out on a beach and relax?
WP: Usually I’m a golf guy. If I’m going somewhere, I’m wanting a golf course nearby. If I don’t have to work then it means that I can play golf — as long as my wife will allow me. The wife likes the beach, so we try to get to a lot of beach courses. I’m not a big sand guy. Obviously being a golfer, the sand is kind of my enemy. I try to stay away from that and getting sunburned as much as possible. I do love the ocean, but if it’s daylight and it’s not raining I’m probably playing golf.
SR: How does music and travel fit together for you?
WP: For me the music is basically the currency that allowed us to travel. I wouldn’t have said that at the onset. It’s kind of like I want to play music, because I want to play music, but looking back on it, I think being able to travel and see the world, the way we have seen it, is probably the most priceless thing about what we’ve been lucky enough to do.
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For more information on Cartel’s 10-year anniversary tour visit their website.
Additional thanks to: The Catalyst Publicity Group