A voice comes onto the phone and says, “hello.” I am taken aback by the throaty, deep voice on the other line.
“Is this Matt Ryan?”
“Yes, this is Matt. I’m looking forward to talking to you about the show.”
It sounds like Bruce Springsteen on the other line; the iconic voice that has wooed music fans from all over the world.
Matt Ryan is the lead singer of the tribute show, Bruce in the USA. Your assumption may be that he came upon the job because he was a dedicated Boss fan, but in actuality it was because he was a musician who looked and sounded like the music legend.
“I lived in Toronto, and it was a running joke throughout school and into my early career how I looked and sounded like Bruce Springsteen,” says Ryan. “Then, 19 years ago, the producer of Legends in Concert, a long-running show in Las Vegas, contacted me because they had been looking for someone to create the character since 1984. I stumbled into this role.”
Ryan and his bandmates have now traveled the world for 18 years bringing the performance art that is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to fans everywhere. As a classic rock performer, it was natural for Ryan to embrace the character and his music.
“It has been a blessing for me,” says Ryan. “I get to tour with a great cast of performers and artists. I have gotten the chance to produce and direct, as well as create my own music.”
Ryan partnered up with saxophonist Matt Sullivan to create a tribute band and found a following among hard core Springsteen fans when they started performing on the East Coast. Then word started to get around and their gigs got bigger. The band attracted a collection of high-end session and touring artists; some of the best in the business.
“It all just took off,” says Ryan. “We didn’t have a choice, it pulled us along. It was like love; it just happens to you. It was the last thing we expected.”
Ryan explains that the music of Springsteen can be challenging with its long, orchestrated arrangements and five-part harmonies, but it keeps every member of the band engaged.
“There is so much music to learn because there is such a large catalogue,” says Ryan. “We never get bored, and we never have the same setlist.”
From large summer concert events on the Jersey shore to the closing reception for the Bruce Springsteen exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to the Netherlands and Canada, Bruce in the USA has presented its professional show in a variety of venues around the globe.
In all of that time, has he met Bruce Springsteen?
“No, I have never met him. I want it to be on his terms if I do,” says Ryan. “A friend had invited me to meet Mr. Springsteen backstage when the Rising Tour was in Las Vegas, and I was at Bally’s in the Legends show. I sent a message back saying, ‘Thank you, but no thank you. I need him to stay a fictional character for me to do what I do.’”
“His music is brilliant and deep. I think it would be embarrassing and uncomfortable to meet the person I imitate on stage,” continues Ryan.
Attendees comment to Ryan about how much he looks like Springsteen on the stage, his affectation when he is singing, how he sweats. “It isn’t an act. It is two hours of vocal athletics, and it is all part of making the music,” says Ryan.
The band is excited to be back on tour after being down for 15 months due to the pandemic. The time away has given them a deeper appreciation for what they do, the connection they create with concert-goers, and the incredible music they perform.
“We went back on the road three weeks ago and started in Michigan. The first time I walked out and saw a full theatre, it was such a thrill,” says Ryan. “The music of Bruce Springsteen triggers memories and creates a whole different level of connection with the audience. People are dancing and singing the whole time. It is a special thing to be a part of, something joyous, because I just made 1,000 people really happy.”
Bruce in the USA is coming to the CCA on Friday, October 22 – the band’s first time in Arizona! Get your tickets at the box office or online at chandlercenter.org.