Ask a diabetic rock star!

By | 24 February, 2011
Shoot Up develops sideburn envy

Shoot Up develops sideburn envy

Brett Ryan Stewart is a gifted young, up and coming American musician who writes and plays some good music described as “indie/pop peppered with a southern influence”. You can listen to his stuff over on his MySpace page here.

As well as being irritatingly talented, Brett is also lucky enough to have Type One diabetes and, for some bizarre reason, took the time to be asked questions about being a diabetic rock star by the soaraway Shoot Up mob.

Geek us out – tell us about your preferred basal / bolus, pump / MDI insulin regime and how you manage your diabetes

I just switched from MiniMed to OmniPod. I have only great things to say about MiniMed, but I have got to say, the tubeless OmniPod system is unbeatable. ESPECIALLY on stage. There’s enough wires on stage already. Was nice to get rid of one of ’em!

Usual basal rate is 1.20/hr.  I have a few settings for different infusion sites. For instance, my legs and arm don’t absorb as well, so I’ll crank ‘er up to 1.40/hr when I use those spots. At the gym, I’ve got a temp basal saved for -50% for 1.5 hours.

I eat whatever I want, and constantly. My appetite knows no limit. Still rock an A1c of under 6.0 though. How’s that for some Meep Zorp info?

When were you diagnosed with diabetes?

Age 9.  The Doc said I had the ‘flu. I was drinking lots of liquids, which for me, meant Welch’s Grape Soda.  Finally, Mom took me to the hospital when I got worse. I walked in with a BG of 981 [54ish in British!] Beat that! [Bloody hell! -Tim]

Describe your music in 3 words.

Not Justin Bieber.

Does diabetes affect your rock and roll lifestyle? For example, does it prevent you from chucking televisions out of hotel windows and having drink-fuelled orgies with hot chicks, etc?

Only when I’m hypo, in which case I get my musical partner, Chris Tench, to chuck the TV on my behalf.  I don’t drink much alcohol these days and Ovaltine isn’t known to be quite the same “social lubricant” as booze…

Chris has seen first hand how highs and lows affect me, musically speaking. Particularly the highs. A few years back, when we just began working together, and before he was aware of my mood swings that come with the fluctuating sugars, he had the privilege of watching me flip out while recording vocals for our band Wide Eyed Sleeper.

After a few takes that were cut short by me throwing the headphones across the room and cursing the songs, yelling “It’s shit! It’s all shit!” He, very Zen-like and patiently asked “You feelin’ ok?” I check my sugar, and of course I was dancing around 300 [16ish in British].

That’s when I had to calm down and explain the birds and the bees of diabetes with him. Now, when we’re writing or recording, if I start in with the “it’s all shit” routine, he insists on me checking my sugar. He’s usually right.

Have you ever had a hypo mid gig? If so, did it result in a complete gig stoppage, or just an interlude while sugaring yourself up again?

Typically the stress of the show shoots it upwards. That definitely affects my performance. But actually I nearly passed out from hypo this past June at a show. The last song of the set, suddenly sounded, umm, funny. I couldn’t remember words. Guitar was feeling heavy all of a sudden. Sweat. Lot’s of sweat. Luckily it was the last song, I got through it, then tossed some glucose tabs down in a jif.


Brett safely behind bulletproof glass

Brett safely behind bulletproof glass

Where do you wear your pump when you are on stage?

When I had the MiniMed, I’d have to strap it to my belt in the back. With the OmniPod it’s great because it can be anywhere!

Who would win in a fight between you and Nick Jonas?

Nick Jonas initially. I’d let him pin me so I could get close enough to his pump to replace his insulin with 7-Up.

Do you think Diabetes-Pop is going to be the next hot niche music sub genre?

God willing. At the rate of diagnosis’ these days, won’t be long ’til we’re mainstream.

Do you tune your instruments/songs to your pump alarm? (Perhaps we pumpers could record a Christmas single – X Factor eat your heart out!)

Not yet, and the only reason is I’m afraid of being pigeonholed in the Diabetes-Pop genre.

Seeing that the hand you use to squeeze and stroke strings with tends to get callused, do you have to set your finger pricker on a deeper depth to get to blood, or don’t you milk that hand at all?

I’ve had the pricker set at the highest setting for years. I use ’em all for blood. No milking required.

We have a long running thread on the forums made up of diabetes-related limericks. We’ve found that it’s very difficult to rhyme anything with pancreas or insulin. Is this why you have so few songs about diabetes?

Well damn, now that you mention it, it IS difficult to rhyme! That’s up there with “orange”.

I think I’ve subconsciously written about diabetes, as a matter of fact. When I was a teenager, my band had a song called “Why Am I So Tired” where I say something to the effect of “am I high or am I low”… It was written with my late friend, Paul, who nicknamed me “Diabeto”

Who are your diabetic heroes?

Having grown up outside of Philly, it was Bobby Clarke from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Now it’s everyone I’ve met who lives with it and doesn’t put up with any BS from their pancreas.

Do you know who Nicolae Paulescu is?

Pancreatine sounds like an energy drink.


Plugging people's albums on Shoot Up? Never.

Plugging people’s albums on Shoot Up? Never.

Do you, by any chance, have a new album out soon?

Whatever would lead you to think that, by golly?

February 28th, I’ll be releasing my 2nd full length album, called “Tilt”.

Let me say this about it…

The theme of this record is one of acceptance. Living life on life’s terms, and the peace and clarity that comes once the mountain towards this acceptance has been climbed, and you’re at the summit. For me, this journey has involved a wide array of personal experience, and it goes without saying that living with this disease has been an enormous factor. I wouldn’t say there are any direct allusions to Diabetes, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t add some of the weight to the words.

Many thanks to Brett for taking time out from his busy schedule to answer our silly questions; do go have a listen to some of his stuff – it’s actually quite good! (“Quite good” – you can tell this is a diabetic blog and not a music review site, eh?)

12 thoughts on “Ask a diabetic rock star!

  1. Bennet Dunlap

    @Tim Thanks for this bit. I just abused you on YDMV and helped talk this guy up – what are friends for, right?

  2. Stephen

    … and even my question got sneaked in there 😀 Great interview @tim, and thanks to Brett aka “Not Justin Bieber” for doing it 🙂

    PS – Does he think all UK diabetics are raving lunatics now?

  3. Tim Post author

    @bennet – Indeed! Just left a comment on your blog which should hopefully confuse your readers! 🙂

  4. Tim Post author

    @stephen – I think he might think we’re all nuts; but it didn’t seem to be much of an issue; which leads me suspect the stability of Brett’s sanity 😉

  5. Rohan

    I have to say that I am certainly a fan of Brett now, if only cause of that interview! 🙂

    *goes off to his myspace*

    My personal favourite line is: “I’m afraid of being pigeonholed in the Diabetes-Pop genre”
    Should totally be used in his advertising from now on 😉

    Hmmm, I wonder if any of my favourite artists are diabetic? Would be a great way to sneak an interview 😛

  6. Hairy Gnome

    I have to agree with @Alison, much to my surprise I found the interview very interesting. I’ve not managed to listen to his music yet, but I promise I will. 😛


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