Greek -Australian guitar goddess Orianthi released her new album, ‘O’ on November 6, 2020 via Frontiers Music Srl.
Orianthi is a platinum selling singer, songwriter and world class guitarist who has famously collaborated with rock royalty and global superstars like Carlos Santana, Michael Jackson, Alice Cooper, Prince, Steve Vai, Michael Bolton, Carrie Underwood, John Mayer, ZZ Top, Dave Stewart, Adam Lambert, Richie Sambora and more.
Orianthi’s first major solo artist success was the 2009 Geffen Records release of ‘According To You’ which is now RIAA-Certified Platinum® and has over 17 million streams on Spotify.
That same year, Orianthi was named by Elle magazine as one of the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists.
In 2010, she was awarded as the “Breakthrough Guitarist of the Year” by Guitar International magazine.
‘O’ will be Orianthi’s first new studio album in seven years and her first new music as a solo artist in six years.
“Before making my new record O, I was working with hip-hop producers, experimenting with beats,” Orianthi tells Guitar World in a recent interview.
“Then I met up with producer Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith, The Struts, Ozzy). I was like, ‘That’s the kind of record I wanna make, something raw and rough.’
“The album O is a very inspired album….kept things pretty raw and didn’t overthink it. Marti and I wanted to create a unique sound and vibe with every track and we experimented a lot with synths and different guitar tones.
“We did the whole record in 28 days. I was really happy with the way everything sounds really inspired. It makes you wanna hear it live. That’s the whole vibe of the album.”
Orianthi Penny Panagaris
Born Orianthi Penny Panagaris on 22 January 1985, Orianthi’s father played in a Greek band and had filled their house with guitars and other musical instruments.
She started playing piano at the age of three, moving to acoustic guitar at six, and soon after started studying classical guitar.
By age 11 Orianthi was already a competent guitarist.
In her own words Orianthi says she became, “so obsessed with Santana – I studied all of his records and I learned every song and every solo.”
Her parents took her to see Carlos Santana play live after which she begged them to buy her a PRS (Paul Reed Smith) guitar of her own, just like the one Santana was playing.
All of these years later, it’s this guitar that remains one of Orianthi’s prized possessions.
“The guitar I’d save in a fire is my first PRS that I got when I was 11; a brown Custom 24,” she says.
“I use PRS guitars because they’re just so versatile, and Paul Reed Smith is a great artist. On this album, I used an Orange Rockerverb Mk III, which is just a beast of an amp.”
At the age of 14, Orianthi sent her first demo of mostly Santana covers to Santana’s management office, along with a biography and some classical guitar pieces.
She received an email from Santana’s brother saying they had been playing her demo in their office.
To Orianthi’s surprise, when Santana was next in Adelaide she received a personal invitation asking her to come down to soundcheck and to bring her guitar.
“So that was fantastic and I just thought maybe he could sign my guitar,” Orianthi remembers in a 2005 interview with Australian Musician.
But instead she ended up playing on stage with Santana in front of an audience of 10,000 people.
“He said, ‘Would you join me onstage tonight?’ I got up for 45 minutes, cos I knew every song in his set,” recalls Orianthi.
“I started jamming with his band, which was very surreal because it was the same line up from the ‘Sacred Fire’ video which I practised to. So I was looking over at Carlos to see where he was playing and at the bass player and trying to see what key they were playing in.
“He’d say, ‘Take the solo!’ It was crazy.”
As she matured as a player Orianthi remained a firm favourite of the legendary Santana who had noted to press after their original 45 minute jam session in Adelaide; “It’s not cute any more. It’s seriously ass-whipping. If I was going to pass the baton to somebody, she would be my first choice.”
“That’s wild,” laughs Orianthi when asked about how she felt hearing such accolades from her long-time idol.
“Honestly, I can’t even put into words what it means to me, because Carlos is the reason I play.”
Orianthi’s breakthrough came after she appeared as American country artist Carrie Underwood’s lead guitarist at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards in February 2009 and was asked by Carrie to join her band.
Following that performance Michael Jackson’s management invited Orianthi to audition for his ill-fated ‘This Is It’ concerts.
Orianthi thus secured the coveted lead guitarist gig with Michael Jackson and was present on all rehearsals for his ‘This Is It’ concerts before his death.
“I don’t know exactly why he picked me, but he watched my YouTube videos and loved them,” Orianthi tells the Boston Herald about how she came to be chosen as lead guitarist by Michael Jackson.
“He had his choice of guitar players, but I came in and played the ‘Beat It’ solo for him. Afterward he was so happy he got up and grabbed my arm and started walking up and down the stage area with me. He said, ‘Can you play once for me?’ and hired me that night.
“It was a surreal part of my life and I am so honoured I got the chance to do that.
“I am so grateful I got to work with him. We were building something that would have been incredible.”
“I wish he was still around. He made me believe in myself more, and I learned so much,” says Orianthi about her experience with Jackson, the artist dubbed as the ‘King of Pop”.
“Michael Jackson definitely taught me to do what’s best for the song,” she continues.
“It’s not about crowding it with guitars and instruments that don’t make sense. It’s about surrounding the music and the melody with something that makes you feel something.
“You don’t want to get in the way of the lyrics. I used to put guitar in between everything. It sometimes doesn’t call for that. As a guitar player, I want guitar in everything. But being a pop music fan and a music fan in general, I listen with different ears.”
Orianthi played and sang at Jackson’s memorial, globally televised live on 7 July 2009.
In 2011, at the age of 26, the guitar virtuoso was asked to tour with famed rocker Alice Cooper as his lead guitarist, becoming the first female member of the band Alice.
“To play with such an icon is a huge honour for me,” Orianthi said at the time and went on to play two world tours with Alice Cooper before leaving in June 2014 to join a project called RSO with her then boyfriend, the classic Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora.
According to Orianthi’s former employer, it was tough to keep the coveted musician, with Cooper revealing that even Prince wanted her for his own projects.
Alice Cooper told Billboard that whilst he had never physically met Prince, “The only real relationship we ever had was he kept trying to steal Orianthi out of my band. Every time I talked to Orianthi she’d be on the phone and say, ‘It’s Prince again.’
“Prince was a friend of mine too, I had known him since 2007,” says Orianthi. “He was going to produce my first album actually.”
“We stayed in contact over a couple of years. Prince actually called me two months before he died and he wanted to play table tennis with me.
“He wanted to play table tennis and come over and just chat and hangout. He called and he says ‘Do you have a basketball ring?’, I said yeah.
“He said ‘Do you have a table tennis table?’ I said ‘umm, no’.
“He said ‘well can you get one? I want to come over in the next month and I’m going to win!’ (she laughs). It was really funny.
“It was so sad when he passed on. He was a legend and a friend.”
Orianthi on being a woman and being (playing) yourself
Orianthi speaks about being a high-profile female guitarist saying she would like to be able to encourage more girls to play guitar.
“I think with a girl playing electric guitar, sometimes it’s seen a bit like a guy doing ballet.
“All the people I learned guitar from have been guys. There are some great female players like Bonnie Raitt and Jennifer Batten but very few,” she says.
“Being promoted as a bubble-gum type artist that has one hit and it’s all over is not something I want to do. I want a long career. I want to continue to play guitar and have as much guitar in there as possible in a commercial song without being too indulgent.”
The ability of Orianthi’s music to remain relevant and timeless has been proven with its recent resurgence on TikTok.
There are over 83 million views on the ‘According to You’ hashtag making it a viral trend that is introducing Orianthi to Gen Z in a huge way.
A major part of this success Orianthi puts down to being herself.
“Alice Cooper really hired me as an artist. He didn’t give me a particular brief. He just said, ‘I want you to go to town and play the way you play.’ I guess he dug the way that I phrased things.
“When I got the Michael Jackson gig, I wasn’t into studying Eddie Van Halen and shredding. I’m more of a blues-based rock player.
“You can’t try to walk in there and fill Eddie Van Halen or Jennifer Batten’s shoes. Some people were like, ‘Oh you didn’t play the Beat It solo just like it was on the record.’ I played it the way that I would play it, and I guess Michael liked it. I just do what I do. I can’t try to be anybody else. That’s the way I look at it.”
She also attributes longevity in the music industry to being able to figure out who your real friends are and to keep them close.
“It’s hard to find really good people in this industry. When you do, keep them close because they keep you sane and centred. I’ve got a bunch of people I call on for advice.
“When you first pick up guitar in your room, the joy that it brings, and the simple feeling that you get from creating a song, that’s what it’s all about.
“Everything else, the craziness, the music business can really do your head in if you’re not surrounded by the right people.”
Orianthi’s new album ‘O’
With elements of rock and pop, blues and electronic music, Orianthi speaks about what she hopes fans will think of her new album.
“I hope they will want to put it on in their cars and just not turn it off! Listen to it from beginning to end and not get bored.”
Orianthi agrees that the forced self-reflection period brought on by COVID this year has resulted in some extraordinary creativity by artists this year.
“It is a perfect time for reflection and writing and I think people are definitely digging in,” she says.
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And with the release of her long awaited album, it’s definitely nothing but onwards and upwards from here on in for the now Los Angeles based Orianthi who says how much she is going to enjoy performing again.
“Lyrically, a lot of this record comes from life experience and other people’s stories. It’s going to be so fun to play these songs live!” says Orianthi of ‘O’.
“Well, once the world is better again, I cannot wait to be back playing shows. I cannot wait to go everywhere.”
In addition to her album release with Frontiers, Orianthi will also be releasing a signature acoustic guitar in partnership with Gibson Guitars with first-of-its-kind engineering, details of which are to be revealed later this year.
Orianthi’s new album ‘O’ is out now.
Watch the song IMPULSIVE below.
Official Website: https://iamorianthi.com
Official Instagram: @iamorianthi