“I’ve always wanted to do something that was quieter and acoustic and could be played by one person. I wanted to go out and play shows alone. I just want to have my little folk moment.” That’s the first thing musician and songwriter Matt Pryor, known and beloved for his role fronting The Get Up Kids and The New Amsterdams, says about the impetus behind his new solo album, the flagship disc on his extensive discography to be released under his own name.
The album, entitled Confidence Man (Vagrant, 07/29/08), is just that, a hushed, intimate collection of folk-tinged acoustic songs that strip Pryor’s skillful songwriting down its bare, emotive minimum. The 15 tracks encompass a long span of Pryor’s career. The oldest, “Dear Lover,” originated in 1995 and appears on this record in its third incarnation. The newest songs, like “A Totally New Year,” “Only” and “Lovers Who Have Lost Their Cause,” were conceived only a few months before the actual release of the record.
“When I decided to do the solo record,” Pryor explains, “there was a really short window to get it done in time. That’s all I did for a month. Write and record. Write and record. That’s where the bulk of the songs came from. And then beyond that going through the back catalogue and saying ‘Well, I’ve always like this song and maybe I can make it better and make it fit.”
The writing and recording was all done in Pryor’s garage, where he self-produced and self-recorded the entire album. This sounds like a practiced musician returning to his roots, but actually it is only in recent years that Pryor has attempted the art of home-recording. “I never actually recorded in a garage before now,” he notes. “The first records that I ever did were in fancy recording studios, but I’ve been doing a lot of home recording lately.”
Like on Pryor’s most recent albums, the songwriting on these tracks is less autobiographical and more observant, often drawing on his friends’ bad relationships to inspire the lyrics. But despite the portrayal of anything negative, Pryor’s own happiness and stability are reflected throughout, shining between the sparse acoustic guitar riffs and his sweetly sung vocals. “It’s subtle, but there’s supposed to be this underlying air of positivity to some of the songs,” he admits. “Just trying to reevaluate things and take more responsibility for the things that need to be done. I love my wife, I love my kids, everything’s great, but that doesn’t make for a very good or interesting record. You start to sound like you’re gloating.”
Pryor, who notes that “this probably will co-exist with the New Amsterdams in some capacity, I just have to wait and see what that capacity is,” shouldn’t need to prove that he is a successful solo musician after so many years of honing his chops in bands, but ultimately does do so on this album. And while he didn’t set out to do so, he joking admits that’s the root of the disc’s title.
“It’s tongue-in-cheek,” Pryor laughs. “I’m trying to convince you that I can pull this off.”