Years ago, the only opportunities to meet your heroes were chance encounters and scheduled autograph signings. Nowadays, things are different thanks to companies like Runaway Tours. Founded in 1989 by Jon Bon Jovi and company president Matt Bongiovi, Runaway Tours carries the goal of “superserving the superfan.” It provides fans with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, going far beyond attending a concert. Ultimately, Runaway Tours plans customized vacation packages that offer exclusive access to artists and other entertainers through events like private shows, Q&As, meet and greets, and private parties, also inclusive of luxury hotel accommodations and detailed travel itineraries.
One example of Runaway Tours’ unique offerings is a trip running from May 6 through 8 at Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis. Hosted by Joe Walsh of The Eagles and James Gang, this weekend gathering will include a private acoustic storytellers performance, Q&A, a tour of Graceland, accommodations at the new Guest House At Graceland, and special photo opportunity with Joe. Said Joe himself of what is to be expected in May: “What you can expect is me playing music, answering almost all questions anyone would ask — except the ones that may incriminate me — a big screen PowerPoint presentation put together and narrated by me, guitar shop talk, slide guitar 101, true stories of road craziness and a discussion of how to destroy hotel rooms and of course playing more music.”
Runaway Tours also regularly partners with the NFL events and has other upcoming outings planned related to Journey, Don Henley and Florida Georgia Line, which a visit to www.runawaytours.com will offer more information on. Downtown had the pleasure of speaking with Matt about what’s coming up for Runaway Tours and also how he wound up in the travel business. The New Jersey native remains an East Coaster all these years later.
How did you first know that you had a knack for tour management?
Matt Bongiovi: Growing up in the industry, it’s what I know. Started working in the management office from when I was 16 after school to going on the road starting as a production assistant. Been blessed to work with one of the biggest bands in the world, and with that comes some of the best in the business as your mentors.
What do you wish more people knew about tour management?
MB: It’s not as glamorous as people think, but it is the best way to see the world.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
MB: Travel, without a doubt. I’ve become a bit of a history nut and the work allows me to walk through history.
Had you met Joe Walsh prior to working out this tour experience?
MB: I have not met him other then phone conversations. He instantly makes you feel like you’re an old friend. Very engaging.
How exactly is Joe involved with the tour? He hosts it?
MB: Joe will be giving an acoustic performance along with doing a Q&A and some storytelling. Hearing war stories from the road from such a legend it surely will be magical.
When was the first time you went to Graceland?
MB: First time I was at Graceland was in 2001. I was driving across country from L.A. to New Jersey and decided it was a must. How can I be in the music business and not pay homage to Elvis?
What else is coming up for your company? Any exciting tours?
MB: We have just added a Don Henley 70th Birthday Experience. We also have an event in Las Vegas with Journey. In the next few weeks we are going to be announcing some amazing events with more iconic entertainers.
Does Jon have any day to day involvement with your company?
MB: Jon is a partner. With everything he is involved in he is hands-on. Having the artist perspective also gives other artists a level of comfort knowing we have their best interest in mind.
I’d assume that your company is named after Jon’s song. Is that one of your favorites by the band? Or was it just a good pun that worked?
MB: “Sleep When I’m Dead” wouldn’t have worked.
When not busy with Runaway Tours, how do you like to spend your free time?
MB: Being a dad. Nothing in the world is more satisfying.
How often do you come to Manhattan? Are you still an East Coast guy?
MB: Through and through. I live in Jersey and have no intentions on leaving. Our corporate offices are in Manhattan so I do get in often.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?
MB: That’s like saying, “Do you have a favorite kid?” Best part of New York City is you can travel the world just in dining experiences.
Finally, Matt, any last words for the kids?
MB: Don’t underestimate the importance of your studies. EVERY aspect of my high school days I can use in my day to day on a tour.