Carrie Underwood Official News
Monday, October 26, 2009
Guitarist Orianthi Panagaris gets screen time in ‘This is It’
Girl-power guitar goddess Orianthi Panagaris has a lot in common with Michael Jackson.
Yes, that seems odd - Orianthi is a 24-year-old, Aussie cutie whose career is just taking off; Michael was known around the world as the King of Pop - but it’s true.
Like Michael, Orianthi was a child prodigy. As a teenager, she was trading licks with guitar heavies Carlos Santana and Steve Vai.
And, like Michael, this young lady is not afraid to blend hard rock and pure pop in perfect “Beat It” style: Orianthi’s debut, “Believe,” which arrives in stores Tuesday, mixes guitar shredding with radio-ready hooks.
Maybe that is why MJ personally chose Orianthi to play lead guitar in his band for his planned “This Is It” comeback shows.
“I don’t know exactly why he picked me, but he watched my YouTube videos and loved them,” Orianthi said from her adopted hometown of Los Angeles. “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?’ ”
So Orianthi ripped out Eddie Van Halen’s wicked whammy and finger-tapping solo again. Jackson was just as impressed on the second take.
“He hired me that night,” Orianthi said. “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.”
Already a virtuoso, she was challenged in new ways by Jackson and his band. But it was the connections she made - with Michael, his musicians and his admirers - that made the experience so worthwhile.
“His fans have been wonderful to me, just amazing,” she gushed.
To pay back Michael and his millions of mourners, Orianthi added a last-minute song to “Believe” called “God Only Knows,” a hopeful tune intended as catharsis after the shock of the icon’s death.
But Jackson wasn’t the first star the young six-string whiz impressed. There were the aforementioned Australian gigs with Santana and Vai (who does a duet with Orianthi on “Believe”). But it was her solo backing Carrie Underwood at the 2009 Grammy Awards that had people asking “Who was that girl?” the next day.
Virtually unknown before the Underwood gig, Orianthi’s flame-throwing, face-melting guitar work on “Last Name” sent YouTube into a tizzy. Hey, even MJ streamed the clip.
“I don’t consider these opportunities steppingstones, I consider them honors,” Orianthi said of the growing list of A-listers she’s rocked. “I’m a big fan of country music, so it was an honor to have Carrie ask me to play with her band. Carlos Santana is the reason I picked up the electric guitar, so getting to play with him was amazing. And Steve Vai was my first ever (opening slot). I’ve always been a huge fan of his and can now actually call him a friend after writing a song with him for my debut record.”
As big as the Grammy moment was for Orianthi, she’s about to top it. Next week “This Is It” - the Jackson documentary filmed at the rehearsals for his London shows - opens. Orianthi hasn’t seen the movie, but has heard she gets a lot of screen time. And no doubt filmgoers will exit once again asking “Who was that girl?”
“It’s going to be very hard to sit through and watch,” Orianthi said. “It was an incredible time in my life, and I’m just so grateful Michael chose me to be part of all of it.
Source: The Boston Herald