Matt ORee is 34 years old and teaches guitar in and around Red Bank, giving private lessons in homes and at the Red Bank Music Academy on Monmouth Street. Hes got the look of somebody who needs to be onstage, and in fact, he plays often locally, making frequent appearances at the Downtown Café (now closed for renovations).
If youve seen him or heard any of his three albums, you know hes got talent as a songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. He’s got a big sound reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan and his first idol, Jimi Hendrix. Understandably, he’s got ambition.
Now, suddenly, O’Ree has made the leap from somewhat-obscure local artist to certified American guitar monster. Or, to use the exact title, hes the Guitarmageddon King of the Blues.
Last month, the Holmdel resident won a national contest for blues axemen called Guitarmageddon, sponsored by a chain of instrument stores. The contest was a multi-stage event that culled 4,000 players down to seven, and ended with a blare-off at the House of Blues Chicago that was judged by John Mayer, Rick Neilson of Cheap Trick, and legendary bluesman B.B. King. ORee drove off with the top prize and a pile of swag that included a car, a rack of guitars, endorsement deals and a years supply of an energy drink. The booty was valued at $40,000.
A month later, he’s still reveling in the memory of having rubbed elbows wtih B.B. and with Hubert Sumlin, the guitarist behind another of his big influences, Howlin’ Wolf.
It was positively the biggest thing thats happened in my career, ORee said earlier this week, as he prepared for the latest in a line of photo shoots, this one at Thompson Park in Lincroft. Hes been doing lots of media lately, particularly for magazines targeted to guitar aficionados, and says that the exposure has already given his performing career a lift. Last Friday, he headlined for the first time at the Stone Pony, and this weekend hes headed to Austin, Texas to play at a music products convention. Hell be heading out to L.A. to do some recording soon.