Orianthi has performed live on the Grammy stage with Carrie Underwood and was rehearsing with Michael Jackson for what would have been his This Is It tour. Now the Australian electric guitarist is ready to break out on her own with her debut album, Believe -- it drops today, October 27! You can also see her in Michael Jackson's tribute movie, This Is It, which opens tomorrow, October 28. "I think his fans are going to be upset watching it but at the same time excited for what could have been and seeing his vision for it," Orianthi says. "It's a celebration, not a sad movie." Orianthi told us even more about Michael and her own music when she stopped by the J-14 offices.
J-14: What are your favorite songs off Believe?
Orianthi: I have so many -- I'm super proud of the whole record. I love playing "What's It Gonna Be" -- it's a real sort of rock, high energy song. "Bad News," "Suffocating," and "Highly Strung," -- which is the instrumental song on the record -- all those songs are a lot of fun to play. I love high energy tracks, and there's a lot on there. And "Feels Like Home" was written about coming over to L.A. [from Australia]. It's really a personal song. There's a guitar solo on every song, and it's a really empowering record.
J-14: How did you become part of Michael Jackson's This Is It tour?
Orianthi: I actually got an e-mail through MySpace from the musical director, Mike Bearden. I thought it was a joke first! I played the "Beat It" solo for Michael, and he really loved it and came over to me and grabbed my arm. He started walking up and down on stage -- he wanted me to walk around with him while still playing the solo. He was like, 'That's really cool,' and he hired us all that night! I've never been that nervous in my life ever. He not only brought amazing music into the world, but he's donated to so many charities and brought so many people together. I've never seen any other artist that has affected that many people in the world. It would be horrible if I auditioned and didn't get the part. I just prayed that I'd get it!
J-14: What was it like to work for Michael?
Orianthi:: Working with him was incredible. I had an amazing time. He was the nicest person, so supportive and encouraging. He just wanted us to do our best, don't be nervous, and just project your energy out to the crowd. He said anything I tell you, anything I want fixed, I say it with love. He was putting together one of the biggest shows on Earth. It would have been so amazing to see. I'm such a huge fan, so I would light up watching him dance and sing right in front of us. Every time he came in the room, everyone got so excited. We wanted to see all his fans faces light up when he got on the stage. First song of the set, opening night, just watching all his fans freak out -- I would have loved it.
J-14: How does it feel to be supported by music legends like Santana?
Orianthi: Santana is my idol. I actually picked the electric guitar because of him after watching one his shows when I was 11 in Australia. I went with my dad and saw his show. I was just blown away by the way he played -- the amount of soul he put into his playing. It really affected me. I turned to Mom and Dad and begged them to get me an electric guitar. They got me this bad secondhand one but I never put it down -- I just wanted to learn all his solos. To have his support means so much to me and to hang out with him is so surreal. It's humbling. I got to jam with him a couple of times!
J-14: What was it like to be on stage with Carrie Underwood at the Grammys?
Orianthi: She's awesome -- really nice, really sweet. I'm a big country fan! She's got a great voice. It was really cool of her to invite me up to jam with the band. It's a pretty surreal experience playing at the Grammy awards. I turned to her on the stage and was like, 'I'm nervous'. She's like, 'This is what we're born to do. Just do it'. It was really cool to embrace their vibes about it. She's done it so many times -- playing in front of a live audience and dealing with how many people watch it. I try not to think of the enormity but when you look out from stage and you see Paul McCartney and Bono and a bunch of people, it's like yeah! I actually went to a couple of Grammy parties with Carrie afterwards and that was typical. We got to chat and hang out. It was really chill and cool.
J-14: What are your fave radio songs right now?
Orianthi: I love Kings of Leon. I think they're awesome. It's real sort of Earthy music. It's cool - [lead singer Caleb Followill] sings really differently. I think it's very unusual and people just take to it. It's just a little more offbeat. It's just cool -- I dig the record a lot.
Photo: Courtesy of J-14