There’s a lot of stories and memories that come with being a touring musician. Playing original tunes in front of audiences around the country and parts of the globe can spawn one-of-a-kind interactions and situations. Now imagine living this lifestyle as a diabetic and that’s what Matt Pryor has had to deal with while being the vocalist and guitarist for the Kansas City indie rock band The Get Up Kids. He details this and more in his book “Red Letter Days,” which is being released and published through Washed Up Books on January 23. A few days before the book’s unveiling, Pryor is going to be talking about it while performing a few songs at the Space Ballroom in Hamden on January 20 with J. Russell and Willcody starting off the evening at 8pm.
We had a talk ahead of the show about the genesis behind the book, what people can expect this Saturday night and what he hopes people take from “Red Letter Days” when they give it a read.
RD: “Red Letter Days” details your life as a musician through journal entries that you wrote from 1990 to 2000. What was your initial reasoning for keeping a journal at the time? Was it just to pass the time, keep your mind sharp or to just reflect on things?
MP: Wow, I don’t know (laughs). I kind of would always write things down to get them out of my brain, I guess. It wasn’t really anything intentional, it’s just something I’ve done since I was very young. I actually didn’t get to do it as much once I started touring because it’s hard to journal on the road, so part of this is me wanting to write down a lot of these stories before I begin to forget them. Journaling is a very positive thing to do to keep your mind kind of straight and to keep your mental health up.
RD: I totally agree. What gave you the idea that you could convert these journal entries into a book? Did you rediscover them a few years ago and realize that they could make for a great read?
MP: It wasn’t really anything to do with the journal entries. I got a hankering a couple of years ago to see if I could do it, I’ve read a lot of musician’s memoirs and I didn’t have a lot of friends who have done it before. The only person that I knew who has actually done it was Frank Turner and I asked him about it and he told me to write 1,000 words a day. That seemed reasonable to me, so that’s what I set out to do. It took a while, but it’s sort of similar to why I started doing podcasting.
I just kind of like this medium and I wanted to see if I could do it. It’s similar to how I felt when I first started making records, I liked making music and I wanted to see if it was something I could do. I figured that it was pretty low risk because it doesn’t cost anything to write a book, except time and there’s no up-front investment necessarily. I have a lot of time and touring isn’t terribly time-consuming. It’s time-consuming in the days and weeks, not in hours, so I figured that I might as well do something constructive.
After a year of being locked up because of COVID, I wanted to try to do something productive with the time I had. Again, I just wanted to see if I could do it really, that was the big thing. I also wanted to preserve these things and I had already done multiple podcasts so I wanted to try something different.
RD: When you were going back to these journal entries to include them in the book, which one would you say made the biggest impression on you? Which is the one that sparked the most vivid memories?
MP: It’s kind of painful to go back and read journals from when you were in your 20s, I don’t know if I have one in particular that’s really the most vivid. The first time we went to Europe was a pretty epic adventure and I could only tell part of the story in the book. I tried specifically not to include other people’s stories without their consent, so I wanted to only focus on things from my perspective. I guess the big thing for me was being a touring musician is kind of a weird job anyway, but then being a touring musician who is also a diabetic seemed like an even more niche sort of thing. I think those two things combined sparked the idea for an interesting story to tell.
RD: This upcoming appearance at the Space Ballroom has you talking about the book, but what else can people expect? Will you be performing any songs? Will there be a Q&A?
MP: It’s a musical performance along with what you just mentioned. It’s not a typical book tour show because a lot of the songs that I’ve written over the years are about similar stories that are in the book. My plan is to do a songwriter’s set where I’ll tell a story from the book and then I’ll play the song that kind of goes along with that story. There’s a lot of things I’ve written about that maybe people don’t even know about because songs have a way of being a bit more difficult to decode than books are.
RD: It seems like it’s a night of storytelling that goes behind the music.
MP: Yeah, there’s no way to pitch it without sounding corny, but that’s basically what it is. It’s a combination of stories and songs.
RD: Nice, that’s awesome. When it comes to insight or a certain connection, what do you hope people take from “Red Letter Days” after they give it a read?
MP: I don’t know if I’ve thought that deeply about it, but I hope people enjoy it and they find that it’s an interesting read. I also hope that people think it’s at least partially well-written. It’s not like a self-help book and it’s not meant to be cathartic for anyone other than myself, so I hope the only thing they take away from it is an understanding of what it’s like to tour the world with a backpack full of syringes that aren’t for heroin.
Who: Matt Pryor with J. Russell and Willcody
When: Jan. 20, 2024 at 8 p.m.
Where: Space Ballroom, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, CT 06514
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of the Connecticut Examiner, he also writes for DigBoston, The Aquarian Weekly, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.