Mary Cutrufello rocks "The Tonight Show"

Tonight Jay Leno hosts the debut network performance of Mary Cutrufello, the singer-guitarist whose thoughtful story songs and blistering live performances generated an industry bidding war, won her a six-album deal from Mercury Records, and caused some rock critics to compare the 27-year-old to Bruce Springsteen. (Cutrufello’s first release, “When the Night Is Through,” hit stores two days ago.)

While the dreadlocked Yale grad downplays comparisons to The Boss (“There’s only one Bruce”), Cutrufello tells EW Online that his influence is clear in her music: “Springsteen is very much who I am and where I’m from. I grew up in Connecticut and listened to New York City rock and roll radio in the ’70s. I make straight ahead rock and roll like you heard when you were a kid, the kind that made you fall in love with it in the first place.”

A few years ago, the Telecaster-slinging Cutrufello left the Northeast for Texas and began scraping out a living in bars and honky tonks, which is where she honed her live act. “One of the things I learned is that people respond to the vibe coming off of the stage as much as they do to what you’re singing or how the band sounds,” she says. “A lot of it is subconscious and visceral. If you’re sincere and honest on stage, people pick up on that right away and join in.” You can too: Cutrufello kicks off a 15-city tour in Nashville on Saturday, with other stops including Atlanta (Sunday), Baltimore (Sept. 6), New York City (Sept. 15), and Los Angeles (Sept. 17).