ABOVE: photo by Coucou Photography, via Matt O’Ree Band
by Diana Schwaeble
“I’m so glad they are back,” said Matt about Maxwell’s. “There aren’t as many live music venues as there were before.” O’Ree played at Maxwell’s this past January. He said that while Maxwell’s is smaller than some live music venues, he was amazed at how great the acoustics sound in the room.
And O’Ree should know a little about acoustics. Last year, he went on tour with Jon Bon Jovi and played larger venues. He vividly recalls playing to crowds of 50 thousand people and says that he is extremely thankful for the opportunity. He doesn’t currently have plans to go on tour with Bon Jovi, as he is preparing to tour in the new year with his own band to promote the new album. “I wish [Jon] all the best in the world. If he needs me – I’ll go,” he said.
Jon Bon Jovi isn’t the only legend Matt is familiar with—he frequently plays with David Bryan, Bon Jovi’s keyboardist. David and Matt co-wrote “My Everything is You,” a favorite of O’Ree’s that he believes will also be popular with fans. Bryan played with O’Ree at The Stone Pony last Wednesday at the sold-out show.
O’Ree seems to have hit his stride as each album gets him more notice than the last. He’s opened for many notable artists including Blues Traveler, Marshall Tucker, and others. His third album “Shelf Life” propelled him even further when he won four Asbury Park music awards in 2005 for “Best Blues Band,” “Best Guitarist,” “Best Local Release,” and “Best Song of the Year” for the song “Saints & Sinners.” On the heels of that success, he won the 2006 Guitarmageddon “King of Blues” guitar contest hosted by the great BB King and John Mayer.
The much anticipated 2016 album “Brotherhood” features the single “Black Boots.” The song just happens to feature another boot wearing Jersey native – rock legend Bruce Springsteen. The story of how Bruce came to play on the album is another of Matt’s stories about serendipity.
When Matt isn’t touring, writing music, or preparing for a show, he spends it teaching guitar to young adults. Students love him and word of mouth spread. O’Ree started getting recommended by his young friends, which is how Matt ended up teaching guitar to Bruce Springsteen’s son, who Matt taught for years. While working on the song “Black Boots,” Springsteen’s son tells him that he played it for his dad and he really liked it. The next time Bruce came to Matt’s studio to pick up his son, Matt worked up the courage and asked Bruce if he’d like to play on the album. The rest is magical music history. Matt says that Bruce agreed to perform and even offered some suggestions.
“We talked about it a couple of times,” said Matt. “It was quite some time before we were able to get it done, but it was amazing. I wasn’t there when he recorded it but it was life changing for me.”
Matt and his band will play songs from the new album at the Maxwell’s show on Saturday. He hopes that his fans will like the new material. “As a musician, you always try to outdo yourself on your latest work. I really feel like this is the best work I’ve done,” he said.