Best known as the blonde guitarist on Michael Jackson’s concert documentary This Is It, the Australian rocker, Orianthi, has already made quite a name for herself in the U.S.
Have you guys heard of Orianthi? Well, if you have, you may know she learned to play the guitar at age 6. At age 18, she met Carlos Santana at a sound check for his concert, and he invited her to jam with him on stage at his concert that night! She’s played with Prince, at the Grammy Awards, with Carrie Underwood, and was hand picked by Michael Jackson as his lead guitarist after he saw her youtube videos! And you may know her hit song “According to You” or her album Believe.
Want to know more? Then check out our interview!
Q: When did you know that music was going to be your career?
Orianthi: When I was six. The second I got my guitar and I knew that I just wanted to play it the rest of my life, and write. I wrote my first song when I was six or seven, and I knew at that point I didn’t want to do anything else. It was called “Spin Your Jackets Around.”
Q: What was it about?
Orianthi: It was just about having a good time like spinning your jackets around. There wasn’t very much meaning to it apart from just having fun. I remember performing it at assembly in front of the entire school and my friends were the backup dancers!
[Ratha: Gotta love those grade school talent shows.]
Q: Who are your musical influences?
Orianthi: When I was six or seven I used to listen to Elvis and Roy Orbison, the Beatles. Then I used to listen to a lot of top forty stuff and country. And on the radio, Savage Garden, INXS, Nickelback. And then I listened to a lot of Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Eric Clapton. So I think my record has sort of all those different influences that have been fused into commercial tracks in a way.
Q: If you could share the stage with any performer, alive or dead, who would it be?
Orianthi: Stevie Ray Vaughan. If he was still alive I would love to play with him. That would be amazing. I’m a big fan.
Q: Guitar is known as being a man’s instrument. Was it hard being accepted as a female guitarist? Orianthi: Totally. Some people say, “Oh you’re getting attention because you’re a girl.” You have to work twice as hard in a way to be accepted. I guess like being a male ballet dancer.
[Ratha: Good comparison!]
Orianthi: I’d get picked on at school. Definitely. Definitely bullied and it was pretty hard for me, but I just stuck at it because I love it so much, and I have this passion for it. And I encourage every kid out there who is going through any bullying with whatever they’re doing, to just continue on. And try to shut it out. Those kids [bullies], if they were truly happy they would leave you alone. So something must be going up with them, for them to be unhappy and wanting to pick on you for doing something you love.
Q: So you handled it by just doing what you wanted and not interacting with them.
Orianthi: Yeah for me I was kind of in my own little world of just watching Santana videos or reading guitar magazines. And I had my really good friends. It was definitely very hard. I hope to inspire a lot more girls to play the guitar and keep at it. And guys too, to keep at it.
Q: What will you remember most about being on stage with Michael Jackson?
Orianthi: He didn’t want us to hold back. He always wanted me to reach higher, the highest note and just entertain and have fun. He made me step up as a musician and performer. Everyone that was part of the tour had an amazing time. It was like a family, with so great memories.
[Ratha: Orianthi was Michael Jackson's lead guitarist and present on all rehearsals for his This is It concerts before his death.]
Orianthi: He just wanted us all to do our best. We’re gonna carry on with the message of wanting to inspire people with music. Bringing people together.
Q: Do you have a particular writing process? Do you first do the lyrics or the melody?
Orianthi: I usually come up with a main guitar riff and then we sort of go from there. I love collaborating with different people as well and writing stuff.
[Ratha: I always wondered how that worked!]
Q: What artist are you listening to now mostly?
Orianthi: I’m listening to a lot of Prince lately. I’ve got his greatest hits and I’m always jamming out covers during rehearsals. Like “Raspberry Beret” we played the other day at rehearsals. And then actually during our last set, we ended with “Let’s Go Crazy.”
Q: What books did you read when you were younger?
Orianthi: When I was eight, I would be reading Goosebumps books. I was obsessed by them! I loved them. I had every single one and yeah. It’s pretty crazy. I have them all still at home in Adelaide, Australia.
[Ratha: You heard it here – even rock stars are obsessed with Goosebumps! She should check out Horrorland the next time she is looking for something to do on the tour bus!]
Q: What advice would you give to a kid about pursuing their dream?
Orianthi: To never give up on what you love to do. And if you have a passion for something just go with it, and work hard. Put your ALL into everything that you do, whether it’s playing music, or serving coffee, or working in a library. It’s all about being happy at the end of the day. That when everything’s done, you did your best job.
Such good advice! Let us know what you think. Drop a Comment below!
—Ratha, Stacks Writer
Interview by Marie Morreale
Photo Courtesy Lauren Dukoff