She is a singer, a songwriter, and an amazing guitar player. Not only that, she has already shared the stage with worldwide renowned music icons such as Steve Vai, Alice Cooper, Richie Sambora, Carrie Underwood and even with the King of Pop, the unparalleled star Michael Jackson (R.I.P.). But if you think I’m talking about some old or classic guitarist, you’re absolutely wrong: our “Metal Chick” this month is the Australian beauty Orianthi Panagaris, or simply Orianthi.
Born in Adelaide, Australia on January 22, 1985 and of Greek and Australian descent (which explains her name), Orianthi started really early in the world of music at the age of three, when she began playing the piano, then moving to her true passion, the guitar, when she was around six. Besides the piano and the guitar, she can also sing and play bass and drums, showcasing her unquestionable talent as a multi-instrumentalist and already explaining why she reached success so early in her life.
Orianthi attended the Cabra Dominican College in Adelaide, Australia, and when she was about six or seven years old she wrote her first song and played it in front of the whole school. Thanks to her father, she grew up listening to many Rock N’ Roll classics like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana, most of them from North America, which then became her biggest motivation to move to the United States to build her career there. Besides all those artists, she also mentions Darren Hayes and Keith Urban as two of her biggest influences in music.
She started playing with different bands when she was around 14 or 15 years old, which was when she left school, and kept playing with cover bands until she was 21, when she finally moved to America to pursue her dream as a musician. Since then, as a solo artist, Orianthi has already released three full-length albums and one EP (although none of her albums are really Heavy Metal or Hard Rock): Violet Journey, Believe, Fire EP, and Heaven in This Hell; her debut single According to You went to No. 3 in Japan, No. 8 in Australia and No. 17 in the US; in 2009 she was named one of the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists by Elle magazine; and in 2010 she won the award as “Breakthrough Guitarist of the Year” by Guitar International magazine. Do I need to say that her dreams came true?
Furthermore, as already mentioned, her involvement with some music giants has just elevated her status as a successful artist. For example, Orianthi appeared at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, which took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in February 2009, as the lead guitarist for American country music singer Carrie Underwood, and more recently toured the world as the lead guitarist for American Hard Rock master Alice Cooper. I had the pleasure to see Orianthi live three times in 2012 with Alice Cooper, as the opening act for Iron Maiden during their Maiden England North American Tour here in Canada in the cities of Toronto, Ottawa and Sarnia, and it was amazing to witness how she managed to fit in his band so smoothly and professionally, especially considering the abysmal difference of their years on the road. You can check lots of cool videos from Orianthi performing with different bands and artists at her official YouTube channel, like this live version of her 2013 single Frozen.
However, being the lead guitarist for Michael Jackson’s This Is It concert series, which later became a documentary, was probably the most outstanding moment of her music career. In one of her interviews, Orianthi tried to explain how she was chosen by the King of Pop, and the impact that had on her life. “I don’t know exactly why he picked me, but he watched my YouTube videos and loved them. 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. I wish he was still around. He made me believe in myself more, and I learned so much. Going into it, I thought it would be all about playing guitar solos. But the majority of it was playing chords and funky rhythms.”, she said. After Michael’s death, she played and sang at his memorial, globally televised live on July 7, 2009.
Finally, being an artist always provides the person some good stories to tell the others, and it hasn’t been different with Orianthi. For example, the blonde guitarist said that during one of her concerts she got up on one of the speakers, and didn’t realize that right behind her there was a confetti canon that could shoot probably 20 feet right across the audience, which would have sent her to the hospital that night with a pretty bad injury in the butt. Fortunately for Orianthi (and for all of us), one of the sound guys warned her and she jumped off just a few seconds before the canon went off. I’m pretty sure Orianthi herself would agree with me that, although she has a great onstage performance and Rock N’ Roll actually demands some crazy stunts to be perfect, being blasted in the ass might not be the best way to please her fans.
PRS Custom 22 (Manos)
PRS Custom 24 (Pepper)
PRS SE Custom 24
PRS SE Singlecut
SE signature model (SE Orianthi)
“You know just go and find your own voice, whether its playing guitar, singing, song writing, working hard, I love what I do, I love playing guitar, I love performing, you have to love it, there’s just so many hours you have to put into it, you can’t be in this industry if you don’t love it.” – Orianthi