FACES: Matt O’Ree — Guitarist
by Diana Schwaeble
photo by Mark Weiss Photography—courtesy of Matt O’Ree
If the road to success is measured in awards and recognition, then guitarist Matt O’Ree is already there.
His first album, “88 Miles” garnered him national press, and opening band work for such notable acts as Blue Oyster Cult, Blues Traveler and Marshall Tucker – to name a few. His second album “Chalk it Up” was also well-received. It was his third, “Shelf Life,” which was released in 2005, that put him on a whole different level, winning four Asbury Park music awards for “Best Blues Band,” “Best Guitarist,” “Best Local Release,” and “Best Song of the Year” for the song “Saints & Sinners.” An achievement by anyone’s standards, but really just the beginning of good things to come. In 2006, Matt became the winner of Guitarmageddon “King of Blues” guitar contest hosted by the great B.B. King and John Mayer. He beat out literally thousands other guitarists for the title. “It was so great,” said Matt. “I finally felt like I got some kind of payoff after all that hard work.”
And it seems, other nationally known musicians were paying attention as well. Soon after, Matt had a magical music moment when he had the opportunity to audition for none other than Jon Bon Jovi. Matt says the experience was “life changing.” He got the gig and went on tour with Bon Jovi. “It was the biggest education you could hope for. Night after night, we played for 50 or 60 thousand people,” he said. He credits Bon Jovi for the sold out show Matt performed on his return to New Jersey at the Stone Pony. What he learned after touring on the national circuit is simple: “The size of the audience doesn’t matter – you are there to entertain.”
Matt credits much of his success to meeting David Bryan, Bon Jovi’s keyboardist. One of Matt’s former students was having dinner with Bryan and suggested they go hear him play. “When I first met David, he introduced himself as if he wasn’t famous. I thought he was just such a humble person. He came up and played a song with us. Music is the language musicians speak to each other and I felt like I knew him for twenty years,” he said.
At his recent show at the Stone Pony, Matt performed the song “Black Boots,” which will be on his next album to be released in the spring. On the new album, the song features guest vocalist and rock legend Bruce Springsteen. For years, Matt taught Bruce’s son guitar. He recalls having to work up the nerve to ask if Bruce would be up for playing the song. He was. “He offered to add some stuff to the song. He is such a great artist and musician,” Matt said.
Still flying high from his national tour, Matt is doing what he does best: play music. He has several dates booked throughout the year, including his January 30 show at Maxwell’s. Ever humble and modest about his achievements, he doesn’t think too much about the added fame since returning from tour with Bon Jovi. “I did 11 shows with Jon on the other side of the world and then I came home,” he said. “I think of myself as the same person I’ve always been. There is playing guitar and then there is everything else.”
Maxwell’s presents Matt O’Ree Band with Kevin Harrison & True North on Saturday, January 30th.
Doors open at 8:00pm – 21+
$10 adv / $12 DOS
For more information, visit mattoree.com.