As one of the hottest female guitarists out there right now, Orianthi is blazing her way through the rock world and leaving a trail of mesmerised and stunned fans behind her. Still only young she has achieved a career that most people can only dream of, and she isn’t stopping there.
I’m backstage at Wembley on the London leg of Alice Cooper’s Night of Fear to catch up with Orianthi and see what’s been going on.
At the moment you are on tour with Alice, what is your favourite thing about touring with Alice?
He’s just such an amazing entertainer; he is such a cool person, one of my favourite people for sure. Getting up there on stage with him every night and just seeing that he gives 110%. He’s always in the same mood and has a great energy. I love it; it’s very inspiring, and looking down at the set list all the songs are so cool to play and the fans are great. Each show has a great energy and every night is different, because it depends on the venue amongst other aspects. We’re at the 5th show in tonight I think, so obviously it’s a brand new set, with some classics. We’re switching it up! It’s like The Rocky Horror Show, there is so much going on, and I love it.
Do you have any crazy tour stories?
Yeah, the last tour I got stuck in the elevator and I thought I was gonna die because it fell a few stories. They had to put oxygen in there and everything to get me out. That was really scary. Another time I almost electrocuted myself because one of the pipes burst and there was flooding while I was blow drying my hair so I was standing the water.
What else happened? Oh yeah, one show I got up on one of the speakers, and I didn’t realise that right behind me was a confetti canon, but it was right in front of my butt (laughs). It shoots right across the audience, probably about 20 feet, so I would have ended up in hospital that night with confetti up my arse if it wasn’t for the sound guy. I thought the speaker was gonna collapse so I just jumped off 5 seconds before I heard it go off (laughs) It would have been a very awkward injury.
Sounds like a close call, very lucky to say the least. Let’s talk more about your music. You collaborated with Dave Stewart and released your EP ‘Fire’ in 2011. You have a new album coming out?
‘Heaven In This Hell’ coming out in January/February next year.
Cool, can you tell me a little more about what your fans can expect?
Yeah it’s rock, voodoo, blues, super commercial, just big guitar riffs. Very 60’s, 70’s inspired, lots of raw energy. We recorded it in a big room in Nashville with amazing players and we just had a blast doing it. I love Dave, we had so much fun making this album, writing all the songs and recording it. He’s very inspiring and a great guitar player. I just can’t wait for everyone to hear this record. The EP’s already out so that’s 5 tracks already, but we’ve added onto that so there’s about 11 tracks.
As an Australian artist did you find it hard to break out of Australia? It can be hard for bands there to break out.
Yeah, I grew up listening to Elvis and Roy Orbison, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana. I was 6 or 7 years old and looking through all my Dad’s records and seeing ‘Made in America’ on them all. Nothing was really made in Australia apart from Tommy Emmanuel who I love. So I always wanted to go over. It was just set in my mind from that age “I’m going to go over to America, I’m going to make my album over there, and I’m going to live over there.” It was this belief that I had that it’s just gonna happen. It was very matter of fact.
So I quit school at 15, I played in a cover band until I was about 20, then I came over to the NAMM show and kept on playing at the show for about 3 or 4 years. I got a record deal and made my album. It took a few years to make the album as I’ve also been touring. It’s definitely been a journey and doesn’t happen overnight.
A lot of people think that it does, and even when you get a record deal, that’s when the work starts. You gotta find the right songs, find your voice, because when you get with a label and you don’t have a clear idea as to who you are as an artist, they tend to put you with this person and you’re like “Who am I?” You have to break away and find your own voice.
You’ve collaborated with Steve Vai and other musicians?
Yeah, I love Steve. He was actually my first support gig when I was 15 in Australia, I opened for him. I was nervous because it was my first support, let alone opening for a guitar god like him. That’s, well you know, pretty insane as was writing the song ‘Highly Strung’ with him and just getting to jam with him. He’s like an uncle to me, I love him, he gives me a lot of advice, or if I have a new track or demo I go over to his place and show him the song and he’ll be like “maybe this part you can change” or something. He listens, and it’s not like “It’s a great song” or whatever, he pays attention and that means so much.
PRS released a signature edition for you didn’t they?
Yes I had two.
How did that feel for you?
That was pretty crazy actually, and very surreal because I was playing/demonstrating in Paul’s booth for a couple of years, about 3 years. Actually quite a few, so yeah, so I was looking around at all the beautiful guitars and then to actually walk into the booth and see your own model was pretty emotional actually. It’s like “Bloody hell, is this real?”
What kind of features does your model include and what features did you think were important for a guitar to have?
Well it’s a custom 24, basically modelled after my first custom 24 which I love; it’s called Pepper and I play that guitar a lot. It’s got a wide thin neck, HFS pick-ups, Korina body and back, everything. It’s red and has sparkles. That was the first one. So it’s sorta been upgraded with everything. It’s scarlet red, same sorta feel for a guitar and it’s affordable for kids as well. A lot of Paul’s guitars are quite up there and this is a quality guitar, but for kids to save up $600, it’s not out of their range.
How do you find it being a female guitarist in the industry, how do you think it’s worked against you or how do you feel you’ve benefited from that?
Well you get judged, you gotta prove yourself, and I hear people say “She’s a girl that’s why she got….” Na, that’s bullcrap. You get the initial; “she’s a girl holding a guitar”, then the “can you play?” Then you gotta sort of prove yourself. It’s like “No!”
People just assume…
Yeah, that you’re not gonna be as good, even if it does sound good people still question it because it’s a girl playing. I see that all the time. Initially it used to bug me, but now I just don’t care because if I’ve played a crappy show, then I know I’ve played a crappy show. Also I don’t think of myself as a girl when I am playing with the guys. I just think I’m one of them.
Well you are, but people don’t see that?
No, they are “Oh it’s that blonde chick guitar player; it’s that blonde chick guitar player.” Sometimes I wish, well, not that I do wish I was a guy player, but you just want to get past that. I hope there are more girls out there that take it seriously and I am seeing more and more girls come out, which I think is great. But yeah it’s a weird thing; I don’t have a chip on my shoulder about it. Some do, I think I used to, because I used to think OK well don’t judge me or whatever, but now I don’t care. I just want to play a good show and be a better musician.
Who would you pick to be in your dream band?
Mmmm, well I don’t know, can they be dead?
Yeah, why not!
Well I don’t know because I would love to be in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band, but then he’d still be taking my leads. Actually I probably wouldn’t even want to play; I’d just want to hear him play.
Jimi Hendrix and Elvis, I don’t know, there are so many great musicians out there and I have been really fortunate to have played with a lot. One of my favourite bass players at the moment is Tal Wilkenfeld who plays with Jeff Beck. We were thinking about forming a band together, and you know we jam with each other and have written quite a few songs. I don’t know I’m just trying to think. It’s such a hard question.
I wouldn’t wanna be in the band; just listen to them and it would be Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and John Lee Hooker. On bass, let’s just go for Jimi Hendrix’s bass player Billy Cox probably because I’ve played with him once and he’s awesome, also, I can’t remember his name, the drummer for Double Trouble. Basically it would be this travelling blues band.
You’re quite blues influenced aren’t you?
Yeah, I grew up listening to them all so I would just put them all together in this super band.
So which living guitarist would you collaborate with that you haven’t already?
Eric Clapton. That would be awesome. I love him he’s great. Also Keith Urban who I’m a fan of. Who else is there? BB King too…
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