Just try to pass by the Matt O’Ree Band. Rock star David Bryan of Bon Jovi couldn’t.
“I was in Red Bank having food at Teak (Restaurant) and while walking back I was outside Jamain’s (Food and Drink) and the garage doors open up and I see this band playing their (blanks off) and it sounds great,” said Bryan, who lives in Colts Neck. “I walked up and I said I got to see who this is and I got to get up on the stage because these guys are great.”
That, to borrow a phrase from Bogart and Rains in “Casablanca,” was the beginning of the beautiful friendship. Now, Bryan will guest with the Matt O’Ree Band Saturday, June 18 in a record release party for the new M.O.B. single, “My Everything Is You.”
The song was co-written and produced by Bryan.
“I came up one day with a riff and I said ‘Hey, Matt, I think I got something, let’s write this thing and see we got,’“ Bryan said. “We wrote it in a couple of hours.”
While Bryan doesn’t have a ton of songwriting credits in Bon Jovi, he has reached the heights of songwriting acclaim on Broadway. He won Best Musical and Best Original Musical Score Tonys for the hit musical “Memphis.” Currently, his “Toxic Avenger” is drawing raves in London and “Chasing the Song,” a musical about women’s rights and the Brill Building, has a Broadway buzz.
“I write the whole gamut and it really puts you into somebody else’s shoes,” said Bryan of writing for Broadway. “So I can help Matt out in this world: what’s your voice, what do you want to say and where are you coming from?”
The stellar “My Everything is You” features a funky blues-rock sound with plenty of groove.
“David has the ability to see a song finished from the first note,” said O’Ree of Bryan’s songwriting and production technique. “For me, it’s more of a growing process to see where it can go. Even yesterday, we mixed the song and I said, ‘Wow, I didn’t see that coming.’ David has that ability and it’s amazing.”
O’Ree and Bryan have together played in Jersey clubs, private parties, on European stages where Bryan headlined and in Bon Jovi. O’Ree of Holmdel played guitar for the band during a tour of Asia and Middle East last year.
“We needed a guitar player, so why don’t we get Matt? I work with him and he’ll add so much to the band between singing and playing,” Bryan said. “I talked it over with Jon (Bon Jovi) and we went over to Jon’s house and Matt auditioned and he saw he could obviously play and he could sing and he just wanted to make sure he wasn’t bat (blank) crazy and he’s not.”
“We got on stage in front of 70,000 and (O’Ree) looked back at me and said, ‘Wow.’ It’s a fun day at the office.”
O’Ree was certainly accomplished before playing with Bon Jovi -- in 2006 he beat out 4,000 guitarists to win the prestigious Guitarmageddon “King of the Blues” guitar contest -- but he hadn’t played for 70,000.
“For me, it was a tremendous learning experience,” O’Ree said. “I’m in small bars and clubs in New Jersey and all of a sudden it’s thousands and thousands of people. How do you command that size of an audience and keep everybody interested? That was a real learning experience for me.”
O’Ree’s a natural frontman on the stage, playing incendiary blues-based rock riffs on guitar and while singing in an an old-soul style, with passion and feeling.
“I’m the biggest fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddie King, the King of Kings, and his playing is in that world,” said Bryan of O’Ree. “It’s aggressive, his attacks are unbelievable and I love that he sings his (backside) off.”
The new album will be out later this summer. Now it’s time to rock ‘n roll.
“Matt and his band deserve this,” Bryan said.