Look Who’s Crawling Out of the Dark:
O – It’s Orianthi!
Celebrated guitarist and vocalist Orianthi released her fourth studio album, O, on November 6 (via Frontiers Music Srl). It’s her first new music as a solo artist in six years, and she says personal reasons inspired her to create these songs. “I made this record because it helped me through a time in my life, and it was a journey [and] a fun experience,” she says, calling from her Los Angeles home.
She declines to go into specifics, but does say, “These past few years have been kind of crazy. All the songs are written off basically a few different relationships I was in and different situations. And my friends’ relationships – just observations.” (Though she does not mention it, one of those relationships she’s referring to might have been her high profile personal and professional partnership with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, with whom she released the album Radio Free America under the name RSO in 2018; they split that same year.)
“I hope people dig it,” Orianthi says of O, though she adds that she’s at peace with whatever way the album is received. “When I make art, I put it out there and then I want to make something else. I let it go like a bird. You let it free.
“There’s so many different moving parts and things that have to happen for a success to happen,” she continues. “Someone in their basement right now could have the number one song in the world that no one’s ever heard. It could be the biggest hit ever. But they haven’t got the right label, the right push, they don’t know what to do. And that’s the thing: you just never know. So it’s all about timing, having the right people around you, the universe in alignment. You never know when something’s going to take off. You just have to be prepared.”
She says she learned this approach after being in the music business for twenty years, since she first began performing with bands in her native Australia when she was fifteen years old. “It’s fun, I love it. I love playing, I love creating,” she says, “but it is a strange existence. Mentally, being in this business, it’s not healthy by any means. I wouldn’t say to anyone, ‘Go into the entertainment business – it’s really good for your self-esteem and your mental state.’ It takes great strength and I still at work on it daily. I meditate, I run, I eat healthy. I’ve surrounded myself now with the right people, and it’s taken a long time.”
Orianthi first rose to fame playing guitar for a wide range of artists – including Michael Jackson, Carrie Underwood, and Alice Cooper – before finding fame as a solo artist with her 2009 breakthrough album, Believe. Her single from that album, “According to You,” became a hit in several countries (including achieving platinum sales status in the U.S.), securing her position as one of the most recognizable guitarists in the world.
It’s a career that Orianthi felt destined to do for as long as she can remember. She describes a childhood consumed with wanting to emulate artists such as Elvis Presley, Carlos Santana, Roy Orbison, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix: “I literally was just like, ‘That looks fun!’”
She began playing the acoustic guitar when she was six years old. At that same age, she wrote her first song. “It was called, “Spin Your Jackets Around.” At school they made us wear these blazers, and I hated wearing these blazers. Horrible material – they were awful. I just wanted everyone to take them off. So I wrote this song so everyone would take their jackets off and spin them around and piss off the teachers. I did it at a school assembly, and everyone was dancing around me. It was really funny,” she says.
Orianthi’s other school days memories aren’t all so fond. “I don’t think the teachers liked me much. A couple did, but not many,” she says. “It was fine with me because I saw the way they put you into a box.” She chafed under this system “because imagination is a very important thing. That’s what created things around us: TVs, airplanes, phones, things that we couldn’t live without. That’s imagination. That’s not going to school and sitting behind a desk. That’s dreaming things up and making it happen. Of course, you’ve got people that have constructed these things who have gone to schools to learn how to do it. But it takes great minds to think outside the box, and I think that should be encouraged more in schools.”
When she was eleven years old, Orianthi began playing the electric guitar, and this was when she truly felt she hit upon what she was meant to do. “I just studied for hours and hours,” she says. “If you’re obsessed with something and you love it that much, I think that’s your path. When you know what you want to do for the rest of your life and then you’re stuck in a situation like school, it was really hard for me. So I left when I was sixteen.”
Four years later, Orianthi left Australia and relocated to Los Angeles, where she has lived ever since. Given all the success she’s had, that clearly was the right move for her. “I’m very grateful,” she says of her career – but she also adds, “I don’t like to reflect that much. I like to dream up what I want to do next.”
With the pandemic preventing her from touring now, Orianthi has been doing livestreamed shows in order to stay connected with her fans. She believes she has an unusually tight bond with them because she’s “just being authentic and being present with every word I sing or every note I play. And also, I try to stay in contact with my fans as much as possible and meet them after shows, so they become more like friends to me than fans.”
Orianthi’s goal with O – and with everything she creates – is “to make music that I hope connects with people for the rest of my life. That’s what I plan on doing. Making art is what I’m on this Earth to do.”
Photo by Chris Ace.