Spotlight on Orianthi--A Star of Greek Heritage

by Markos Papadatos

Former baseball player Sam Ewing once said: "Success has a simple formula: do your best, and people may like it." An individual who best exemplifies this quotation is Geffen Records artist Orianthi. On July 26, 2010, I was afforded the privilege to speak with Orianthi, a multi-talented singer, guitarist and songwriter of Greek origin. Orianthi spoke about her musical career, biggest influences, future plans, and offered advice for Greek-Americans hopeful to find success in the music industry.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Orianthi picked up the guitar at the age of six, and began to perform in public at age seven, thus marking her path into music.

Orianthi's father, who is of Greek descent, has been a major influence in her life. He played guitar in a Greek band, and inspired Orianthi to pick up the guitar at an early age, and taught her how to play chords. "I would play out with him when I was younger at Greek christenings and weddings, and I would jam with him sometimes," Orianthi recalls. Orianthi is named after her Greek grandmother who is yet another inspiration to her, since she used to live next door to her and taught her how to cook Greek dishes, including baklava. Her father and grandmother taught Orianthi the importance of being family-oriented and attending family functions, and just sitting down and eating dinner together.

Orianthi's biggest musical influences consist of a wide-range of artists, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, the Beatles, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, ACDC, as well as artists in the country music genre.

On being hand-picked by the "King of Pop" Michael Jackson as his lead guitarist for his "This Is It" tour, Orianthi remarks that it was "pretty crazy. I got an email through MySpace to come and audition for him. I did not think it was for real. I went in to play 'Beat It' for him and then he loved it. It was definitely a highlight of my life working with him."

On her latest album, "Believe," Orianthi performs as guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, either writing or co-writing eight of the eleven tracks on the record. She remarks that this experience was "great," especially since it took awhile to make this record, because she had moved to the United States three to four years ago, and only then started writing it. Her record’s intent was "to reach out to the younger audience and try to inspire kids, especially girls, to become electric guitarists."

Her debut single "According to You" was a smash hit, where it peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and reached #3 in Japan and #8 in the Australian charts respectively. Orianthi is proud of the success of "According to You" since it "connected with so many people and it is a great song to play live, since people can sing along to it and have a good time." Her personal favorite tunes off the "Believe" record include "Highly Strung," which she co-wrote with her musical hero, Steve Vai, as well as "What's It Gonna Be."

Orianthi notes that there is a difference between recording in the studio and singing live-- "I love to perform live since having the audience in front of you gives off a higher level of energy. You are being much more creative and people are singing along and having a good time. I love it."

Orianthi remarks that it was a "blast" opening for Adam Lambert on his Glam Nation tour, and worked with Lambert on his debut album "For Your Entertainment," where she performed a guitar solo on a tune called "Sleepwalker." Orianthi has collaborated with other American Idol alums including Carrie Underwood, with whom she performed in the 2009 Grammy Award ceremony last year, as well as Allison Iraheta, with whom she collaborated on her latest single "Don't Waste The Pretty" from Iraheta's debut record, "Just Like You".

In the future Orianthi would like to collaborate with "Keith Urban [who she is a big fan of], as well as U2, B.B. King and I would also love to do a song with a rapper."

Her favorite cover songs to perform live include "Voodoo Child" by Jimi Hendrix and Prince's "Let's Go Crazy."

Orianthi is already envisioning her next record, which she describes as "commercial" with a "rock-blues" vibe to it, but a little less "pop," even though she loves pop music. Orianthi stresses the importance to evolve. Orianthi's plans for the future include making a new record as well as embarking on a world tour. Someday, Orianthi would love to tour in Greece, since she hasn't been there yet, and because it looks "amazing."

According to Orianthi, the next single off the record is expected to be "Courage," which is a lyrically uplifting tune.

Her proudest professional moment includes "jamming up" at the age of eighteen with yet another musical hero of hers, Carlos Santana.

The hardest aspect of Orianthi's job is "losing a lot of sleep," which requires her to drink a lot of coffee, as well as working out to bring her energy level back up.

In her spare time, Orianthi enjoys cooking whenever she has a kitchen available to her, working out, hanging out with her friends, and hanging out with her dogs. Her grandmother taught her how to prepare several traditional Greek delicacies such as "lentils, koulouria, as well as baklava and avgolemono."

For the Greek-American youth who wish to pursue careers in the music industry, Orianthi recommends they "keep on going and to never give up; write as many songs as possible, and play as much as you can. If you have a passion for it, go for it!" For Orianthi, "success" means being happy in life.

For her Greek-American fans, Orianthi concludes "I cannot wait to do some more touring and see everybody, and I cannot wait to go over to Greece!"

(Posting date 02 August 2010)

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