When you say that Matt O’Ree is a talented musician, it’s not just a casual statement; he’s got the accolades to back it up.

The songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire has received massive recognition from the industry and his peers. He won a national guitar contest through Guitar Center and Guitar World Magazine hosted by B.B. King and John Mayer, beating out over 4,000 competitors to win it all. He was also asked to join Bon Jovi on tour as a guitarist and backing vocalist for the band’s 2015 stadium tour. These accolades have all been well deserved and helped propel O’Ree forward in his music.

The Matt O’Ree Band released their latest record, Hand in Glove, their most collaborative effort last November. It features more songs written collectively by the band, a true blues rock album with lots of bluesy guitars and gritty vocals. As a songwriting entity, the band has fleshed out their own sound, looking to the classic rock greats and more classic soul singers like Aretha Franklin and Etta James for inspiration. There is a powerful sense of musicianship that reinforces everything they do, making this a band that you cannot help but have much love and respect for.

As a guitar great, it couldn’t have made any more sense for us to connect with Matt O’Ree himself to chat about his favourite gear, including his Trainwreck Express Amp.

First things first: what’s your current setup?

Matt O’Ree: “Always a great place to start! It actually varies depending on the size of the stage and venue. My bigger rig would typically be starting with my 2001 Gibson Custom Shop R8, running into my pedal board. That consists of a 1967 Vox Script Clyde Wah, an Ibanez ts-808 Tube Screamer, Lehle Dual A/b switcher. One side goes to a Trainwreck Express into a 1968 Marshall Basketweave bottom cabinet. The other side goes to another Trainwreck Express to a 1959 Leslie 145 cabinet heavily modified for guitar.”

What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?

“I have to say the Trainwreck Express Amp. There truly isn’t anything else I’ve heard that does what that amp can do. I’d be the first to say it’s not for every player, but for me, it’s everything.”

How did you come to possess this amp? Vintage shop, regular shop, borrowed money, gifted? Give us the details.

“It was a long pursuit for me. I first heard one in the early ’90s. By this time, Ken (Fischer) wasn’t making them anymore due to health issues. It wasn’t until 2010 when a friend of mine, Freddie, who was a super close friend of Ken’s, hooked me up with John Mark and the Fischer family. John has been carrying on Ken’s work religiously. I wouldn’t have found the sound in my head if it wasn’t for them.”

Matt O’Ree Trainwreck Express Amp
Matt O’Ree Trainwreck Express Amp

What made you choose this particular amp, and were there any close seconds or alternatives?

“I first heard a Trainwreck being played by a New Jersey blues/rock guitar player named Bernie Brausewetter. He fronted his own band called BB and the Stingers in the ’90s in New Jersey. I quickly became friends with Bernie, and the education I got from him was worth a million dollars. Heck, just hanging with him weekly was not only a music and tone lesson, more important a lesson in life. Bernie taught me how to be a better person. After hearing his amps, that was it. I still used many amps in the meantime like Marshall, Komet, Fuchs, Vox, but my main goal was to get a Wreck.”

What about this amp makes it so important to you?

“Nothing else I’ve played through has ever responded like this amp. It’s like driving a Lamborghini; every tiny touch of the strings, to digging in hard, the amp has your back. It always delivers in any room. Thirty-six watts of pure beast will peel the paint when needed.

“Also, the use of overtones and harmonics is out of this world. The amp takes itself out of the equation and asks you, how good is the rest of the signal chain? Guitars, pickups, cables, and most importantly, how good are you? It will certainly make you want to go home and practice more.”

Matt O’Ree Guitars
Matt O’Ree Guitars

Did you use this amp during the recording of Hand in Glove?

“Yes, the entire record was recorded live and with Trainwreck amps. I used the Express model and the Trem Rocket model with an early ’70s Ampeg V4 4×12 cabinet loaded with 1968 Pre-rola Celestion greenback 30w speakers.”

Do you have a special way that you recreate your album (guitar/vocal/bass) tones in a live setting, or is it more just plug-and-play?

“Pretty much plug and play, seeing that we recorded the record live, so when the listener hears the record, that’s what they’ll hear live too. With all the polishing and editing that goes on today in modern music, we decided to take the old-school approach.”

How does the Trainwreck amp hold up with regular touring and gigging?

“Great! I’ve been all around the world, including the Bon Jovi tour I did in 2015 and not even a hiccup. There’s really isn’t a whole lot that can break with the minimal amount of parts in it.”

Matt O’Ree Band ‘Hand in Glove’ album artwork
Matt O’Ree Band ‘Hand in Glove’ album artwork

Do you have a backup for this amp?

“Yes, another Trainwreck (laughs)! That’s all I use, all I want to use. So I have two express amps just in case something happens. Let’s hope it doesn’t.”

What was your first-ever instrument?

“My first was an electric Guild import called a Madeira double-cutaway Les Paul Jr. style guitar. It served me for many years, kind of miss it. I don’t have it anymore.”

What’s your favourite piece of equipment you’ve ever owned?

“I guess that’s split between three things, my 1961 Fender Strat, my 2001 Gibson Les Paul R8, and my Trainwreck Express. Can’t live without them.”

What piece of gear gave the longest service? Are you still using it?

“Probably my first vintage 1979 Ibanez TS=808 I bought back in 1992. What a killer Tube Screamer. I don’t use pedals much in the studio. I’d rather let the amp do its thing. But that one pedal is magical, and if I needed it, it’s still raring to go.”

What brand do you usually lean toward when looking up new options?

“I’m mostly a Gibson and Martin player these days. I love what the Custom Shop has been doing at Gibson; they really are making some incredible guitars. Amps, cabinets, speakers, pedals? I got that covered.”

Which company do you think has provided the most support to you as a musician? Any sponsors who deserve a shoutout?

“Absolutely! Gibson, Martin, Trainwreck, Komet, Fuchs, Voodoo Pickups, George L’s, GHS, Celestion, Chase Tone, Keeley Electronics, Rockett Audio, Royer Labs, LR Baggs, Hercules, Peterson Tuners, Telefunken, Tone Pros, Tuki, Ultimate Ears, and Xotix Effects. Can’t say enough about all of them for the continued support of the band and for making the best gear out there.”


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