At 24 years old, Orianthi has already experienced what most aspiring musicians only dream of. She’s opened for her hero (Steve Vai), backed an Idol (Carrie Underwood), traded solos with a legend (Carlos Santana) and shared the stage with the King of Pop (Michael Jackson). What’s left to conquer? The world stage, for one, and this guitar wunderkind has her sights clearly set on the road ahead.
After a performance with Carrie Underwood on stage at the 2009 Grammy Awards the blogosphere was buzzing with news of this little-known guitar prodigy. It prompted Michael Jackson to call with an offer for her to be his guitarist for his dates at the O2 Arena in London. When offered the gig in Michael Jackson’s live band, Orianthi joined a prestigious line of guitar players including Eddie Van Halen, Santana, Slash, Steve Stevens, Jennifer Batten and Larry Carlton. Sadly the tour was not to be and music lost an icon. “Working with Michael was a life-changing experience,” Orianthi reflects, “One I will never forget.”
Her story starts in Adelaide on the southern tip of Australia where, at the age of six, Orianthi began taking an interest in her dad’s record collection. “Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Cream, Santana… he was into guitar players that are real songwriters,” she boasts. Growing up in the 80s, a decade remembered for its many guitar greats, Orianthi also listened to a lot of Whitesnake, Van Halen and Def Leppard. Her father, who used to be a player in a Greek band, also kept plenty of instruments around the house, and it didn’t take long before Orianthi strummed her first chord. Mastering the six-string came naturally.
“When I was 11, Carlos Santana came to play Adelaide and that show really affected me,” she recounts. “I begged my dad to get me a second hand electric guitar so I could be like Carlos, and that was it, no more acoustic. After that, I would buy all of Carlos’ videos — on VHS! — which I kept rewinding to try and learn his solos. I totally wore out the tapes.”
Some seven years later when Carlos Santana passed through Adelaide again
Carlos’ brother arranged a sound-check meeting between the guitar god and his young disciple after hearing some of her music. A sound check jam evolved into an invitation to join him on stage where Orianthi played for about 35 minutes and took a solo in front of a hometown crowd. Performances, tours and guest appearances with Steve Vai, ZZ Top and Prince have kept Orianthi busy up to this point.
But guitar is far from Orianthi’s only means of expression. Before she received the call from the King of Pop, Orianthi had already been hard at work on her upcoming album, Believe, on which she sings, writes and leads her own band. Working with Geffen Records Chairman and A&R veteran Ron Fair and producer Howard Benson (All American Rejects, Daughtry, My Chemical Romance, Three Days Grace) her fierceness of character has made its way to songs that will simply knock the socks off of any boy in the rock star schoolyard.
Orianthi packs modern girl-power punch into every turn of phrase, but it’s the shredding that takes her brand of rock to an entirely new level. Songs like “Suffocated” and “Think Like A Man” are anthemic rock tracks recalling at time Evanescence, Avril Lavigne, Paramore and even a less-music row more-sunset strip Taylor Swift. First single “According To You” is a catchy tale of an ungrateful boyfriend with a killer guitar solo. The result: a thunderous, hook and riff driven debut that sounds larger than life. If, for a moment, you’ve thought the music world could use another taste of The Runaways’ Joan Jett, let us introduce you to Orianthi.