Last July Matt Pryor (Get Up Kids, New Amsterdams) released some of the best work of his life and it came in the form of an album called Confidence Man, his first solo record. Over the course of the album's 15 tracks, he unveils maybe his most intimate side yet. It's truly a commendable return to form and then some.
I (Frank Corva) caught up with him a little while back to discuss where the material came from and why this is his first release sans moniker. We also talked about what it means to be a touring musician and a father as well as what brought him back to Vagrant.
I have to say that Iâm a massive fan of Something To Write Home About and I think that this new record is as close as youâve come to it since.
Thank you very much.
Youâre welcome. I was wondering what made you want to step out on your own as Matt Pryor to play these songs as opposed to doing it with the New Amsterdams.
Itâs something Iâve always intended to do. We put out two New Amsterdams records last year and so it seemed it was kinda winding down. Mostly, it was just that I wanted to do a solo acoustic thing for a little bit. The band is awesome and I love doing that, but it takes a lot of organization and rehearsal and expenses and the whole thing. I wanted to do something simple, something mellow.
And so out on the road itâs just you on stage every night?
What is it like being a touring musician and a father? Are they difficult duties to balance?
Um, yes (laughter). Finally, after a couple of years weâve kinda worked out a system as far as like who watches the kids when Iâm gone. Iâm a stay at home Dad when Iâm home. So, childcare is an issue and Iâve kinda figured that out and Iâve also kind of come to terms with the fact that this is something that I have to do to make a living. But itâs hard, itâs really hard. I spend the extra time, the extra money to have them come out and meet me on the road as often as possible - to kinda keep me from losing my mind.
Youâve mentioned in previous articles that youâre not the biggest fan of touring, that its more something you have to do to back your records up.
I really enjoy performing, for sure. And I really enjoy meeting the people that come to the shows. I appreciate the hell out of everybody who comes. But the other 23 and a half hours a day when Iâm not home are kind of lonely. Thatâs the part that makes it hard, but you know, it is what it is. Itâs better than flipping burgers.
Speaking of which, how long has music been your primary source of income?
Um, 10 years or so. I mean, pretty much when The Get Up Kids started touring in â97, I [said] âWell, hey, this is better than working at a library,â and we just kept going. Legally, Iâve been a professional musician since 2000.
Back then you guys mustâve been out something like 10 months out of the year.
Um, the most shows we ever did was about 240 shows in a year. But again, what else were we gonna do?
And now what do you temper it at?
Well, I made the proclamation that I was going to do at least 100 shows this year. There are upcoming tours in April and May and those tours are 40 date to 30 some odd dates. I donât know if weâll reach the 100 mark.
Youâll get close.
Itâs still more than I [have done] since â04. That was the last time I went out on a long tour.
Did you foresee all of this touring continuing upon knowing that The Get Up Kids were going to break up? Was your plan to still do music full time?
Well, my plan was to do music and stay home. So far that hasnât really panned out. My little dream is that I put out records and then I open up a small theater in Lawrence [where] people can just come here. Itâll be like the Vegas of the Midwest.
Youâll be like Celine Dion or something.
Yeah, yeah. That would be great!
That doesnât sound too bad at all. Also, with this record you went back to working with Vagrant. With the last New Amsterdams record you were working with your own label, Elmar, and Curb Appeal. What was the reason for going back to Vagrant?
I tried my hand at running my own label and I didnât like it. Iâm having a hard enough time balancing writing and recording, running the business that is my band, and [then] balancing that with my family life. Putting in running a record label and all that kind of stuff on top of it was just too much. Curb Appeal did as much as they could, [but] when I was on Vagrant people definitely knew more that I had a record out. They got the word out a little better than I could.
Was it more profitable to do it on your own?
You definitely make more per record sold, but thatâs the way itâs always been - the Dischord philosophy. I just canât put in the time or the money to promote them in order to sell them. Having said that, Vagrant is really cool. They do really artist friendly record deals. They basically let me do whatever I want. Itâs a very good relationship.
Do you still speak with Rich Egan a lot?
Yeah, I speak with Rich all the time.
Does he manage this solo project or the New Amsterdams?
No, but we actually have to keep in touch because thereâs business that needs to be sorted out from time to time. The band (The Get Up Kids) still exists on paper because we still get royalties and merch stuff and all that sort of crap.
Is it surprising to you to still be making money off of something like that after all these years? Do you still see a decent amount of income from it?
Itâs not a ton of money, but you know, itâs weird to still be making anything off of something that you kind of wrapped up over a decade ago. Itâs a weird system, the music industry. I mean, that record has recouped, so if it makes any money we get it. It doesnât have to go back into the cost of making it or anything like that. I donât really count on it (laughter). Itâs just sort of like, âHey look, I got a check, wooo!â (laughter).