With a new album ‘Rock Candy’ on the way, recorded in whirlwind time the first thing that ran through my mind was the Montrose classic track from their 1973 debut album. Did I mention that Ori knows Sammy? and Billy? and Carlos? not to mention all of my other guitar heroes! It’s brilliant! The Rockpit has spoken to Orianthi many times over the years but I have never had the pleasure, and I must say it was great to talk to a fellow Aussie who just might have put out the best album of her career so far. The real magic though is that there’s another on the way soon so read on!
There was so much to talk about and so little time – we cover everything from what Ori is up to next month (Like saving Theaters and playing with Alice and Billy Gibbons) to the jump from Adelaide to L.A. all those years ago! Did I mention the album is out on October 14th? Stick it in the diary!
Orianthi: Hi Mark how are you?
Mark: I’m great thank you, I just got the album last night and I’ve played it through three or four times now it’s fantastic. I’m guessing you must hear this a lot, but it is the best thing you’ve ever done.
Orianthi: Oh thank you, I did it in 13 days!
Mark: Wow that makes it all the more incredible!
Orianthi: My dear friend Jacob Bunton who produced it, we write a lot of songs together, we hang out, he’s a guitar player – he plays guitar, violin, piano – he composes music for films, he’s amazing. Working with your friends is always fun, so I said let’s do a whole record in 13 days – we write a song a day and record it that day. So I threw down the challenge and we did it. So every song was down in a day – every day we came in – sometimes with an idea and sometimes with no idea, and we just came up with something a recorded it. So that’s the vibe of the record. It was a great experience and very inspired by how I was feeling at that moment in time. Instead of taking songs from ages ago, and sometimes we do that, it’s not how you’re feeling in the present, so I kind of thought, let’s just put everything down right now. That’s what this was all about. And thank you!
Mark: That’s so cool. I remember Jacob was one of our very first interviews when he was doing Lynam and singing with Steven Adler. It’s great to hear he’s part of this wonderful album.
Mark: I’m still blown away by the fact that you recorded a song a day and got these results!
Mark: What was the recording process like? Did you come in each day with absolutely nothing?
Orianthi: Yeah, pretty much. For the beginning of the record I pretty much had ‘Illuminate’ the instrumental, and Jacob and I had started ‘Where Did You Heart Go’, so we had that going, and the odd one out was ‘Fire Together’ that we started with another writer, but for the rest it was pretty much just on the day. All the other songs were very inspired, I’d go down every day to Jacob’s studio in Hollywood, I live in Calabasas so I’m about an hour away, so every day I’d drive down there and hang out with my guitar and we’d just plug into some amps and get some sounds. He’d get his guitar out and I’d start a riff, or with a melody that I had, that I’d been humming on the way down there, or we’d start with a title that I had. Jacob’s so creative and so easy to work with, and when you work with friends you kind of let your guard down so it’s easier to write songs, as opposed to working with a producer you’ve never worked with before: that vibe can sometimes be a bit cold. But we really had a great time recording it all and he’s so fast and so talented it seemed easy.
Mark: The self-imposed pressure you put on yourself has worked really well. There’s so much great stuff, at the moment for me ‘Living is Like Dying Without You’ is the one I’ve got on repeat, that and ‘Fire Together’.
Orianthi: Oh thank you. ‘Living is Like Dying Without You’ is a very dramatic title (laughs), but I wrote that song in like ten minutes! Seriously! I got my acoustic guitar and I just started strumming it, all I had was the title, and Jacob recorded me with a mic in front in the middle of the room. The he said “OK you get on the lyrics for a minute” and I just wrote how I was feeling, and then we recorded it with one microphone and me and Jacob just plying acoustic guitars! And that’s just what you hear in the recording with one or two vocal takes. Then all I did was put a solo on it, and really that’s the recording.
Orianthi: Yeah. We kept it pretty organic you know. Sometimes, well actually most of the time for me, it takes a year or more to make a record because you record it and then the mixes go back and forth, and there’s a whole process and everything. But with this the thought was ‘let’s just make it inspired and not over-think it’ you know. And calling it ‘Rock Candy’ like the Sammy Hagar, Montrose song – Sammy’s actually a friend of mine – it was funny I sent him the video the other day and Carrie and Sammy came back and said “What’s this Rock Candy?” And I tried to tell them that the title just summed up the record because it’s ‘Rock’ and it’s also ‘Pop.’ Because the last few records have been more sort of ‘Blues guitar based, singer-songwriter, Country Pop Rock’ records whilst this one is just Rock and Pop so I wanted a name that represented that.
Mark: I was going to ask about that as the Montrose classic is one of my favourite records of all time.
Orianthi: Such a bad assed song! (laughs)
Mark: It is, the whole album is fantastic, a bit like this one. I loved the video to ‘Light It Up’ as well, that was great.
Mark: I actually imagined based on how good the album sounds that you’d have been spending most of Covid writing it! What was that period like for you when L.A. was pretty well locked down?
Orianthi: It was wild, friends were dropping off things like Lysol to each other, you’re cleaning everything, you’re ordering in food then washing that down. I’m pretty much a hypochondriac, but I haven’t got Covid yet, touch wood, and I’ve been everywhere and met so many people, I just did a ‘meet and greet’ the other day, and there’s parties I go to, and flying and I still haven’t got it, so let’s hope I don’t. Buy friends have, my drummer got it. But all during that time I was actually promoting my last record and I had a Radio Show on Monsters of Rock so I was doing that and just kind of staying away from everybody except having a few selected friends coming over when we could. But it was pretty tough not playing shows, that was pretty messed up for all musicians, just not being able to get out there and play, and also just interact, you know. It wasn’t right, Face-timing everybody was just like ‘No!’ (laughs)
Mark: I can imagine. Is playing live what it’s all about for you? It always seems like you give it all when you’re on stage, and I’ve seen you a few times over the years playing with a number of different people and you always seem so happy up there?
Orianthi: Yes definitely, I’ve been performing since I was like six years old. I was a real attention whore as a kid! (laughs) It was all about my guitar and Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and The Beatles growing up watching them, but I also started writing songs at six years old and so I was always wanting to show everyone the song I wrote! And at school at Assemblies I would be asking the teachers if I could open the School Assembly! And in the classroom, I’d just bring my amplifier in there and start strumming! (laughs) That’s been in me since I was a kid. I just loved to entertain people and play songs for them. (laughs) So I found it very difficult when I couldn’t do that in lockdown. I’d end up singing to a screen which is weird! Or my cat! (laughs)
Mark: (laughs) How big a move was it to the U.S? I was in Adelaide last week, I love Adelaide but it’s not a huge hotbed of Rock and Roll, well certainly no Los Angeles/ Was that a difficult move or did you fit right in?
Orianthi: Oh no, I definitely did not fit straight in! It’s kind of crazy because you come all of the way from, you know, such a small town, where I sort of learnt so much: growing up in Adelaide playing in the Pubs because I quit school when I was like 14, 15 so all that time I was playing pubs and clubs until 18 or 19 when I came over to the U.S. But it was a big change, it’s totally different, Adelaide is a great place to grow up, but coming to L.A., and learning the industry too – that’s the toughest part.
Mark: You’ve played with some great players over the years and if people haven’t caught those shows I know most of our readers will know you from playing with Alice, but it must be great to be getting out there and playing your own music on your own terms now? How do you plan to promote the album? And I guess in a roundabout way I’m asking if you’re coming to see us?
Orianthi: I am coming to Australia yes! There is a date booked in April. I’m coming out to do an event with ‘Women in Music’ with Vanessa Amorosi, she’s a dear friend of mine, she lives around the corner here in L.A. And after that we’re planning to do a bunch of shows out there – so we’re putting that together right now. So I’m very excited.
Mark: You mentioned listening to Elvis growing up, but who was your first guitar hero? You’ve played with most of mine over the years!
Orianthi: The first electric guitar player that I heard was B.B. King – my dada would put this black and white VHS on all the time. My Dad actually had a 335 (Gibson ES-335) like B.B.’s – a brown one, B.B.’s was black and I used to watch him all the time. I was always trying to get the vibrato down that B.B. had, I’d sit there for hours with Dad’s 335 just trying to get the vibrato. So he was my first guitar player. I got to meet B.B,. he was very sweet and I wish he was still with us.
Mark: A great loss. I got to photograph him a few times, I know how you feel, I love ‘Live at the Regal’ which I think was his first live record.
Orianthi: He was a happy guy too, he played the Blues but he was kinda happy about it! (laughs) Some Blues guys are all miserable and shit but he was always so happy, dancing, in his chair – I loved that about him he was so inspiring. Then it was Santana, and Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. When my Dad put on Santana I thought it was crazy and had to know what it was, it was such a fusion of different sounds, and then Hendrix that just blew my mind, so I was obsessed with Carlos and Jimi, but also Stevie Ray and all the greats. I would sit in the living room for hours just listening or watching them on VHS. I loved the sounds they could create with a guitar, I was completely obsessed.
Mark: Is that the advice you would give to a young guitarist these days? To listen and find something you love and practice, practice, practice?
Orianthi: Yeah, definitely and everything is so accessible these days you don’t have to work it all out for yourself! There’s YouTube that has so much – kids tell me they go on there and there’s all this ‘how to play the riffs’ videos. I had to put on a vinyl and rewind it or put on a VHS and wear it out to learn a riff! Now you have all these instructional videos. I think it’s kinda funny really, it’s much easier for kids to learn things these days which is great. But I think listening to a vinyl record, there’s something about that experience that you can’t get from your i-phone, or TV or anything like that. It’s that old sound that kind resonates with my spirit and my soul that made me wanna really play. I think there’s something super inspiring about that. So my advice would be to go back to when phones and computers didn’t exist and listen to it organically – that’s very inspiring.
Mark: Did you find playing guitar came to you naturally? I was speaking to a rather famous guitarist teh other day and he told me that when he was young he was a very lazy person and never really stuck at things that he found difficult and that he only picked up the guitar and stayed without because there was that instant connection, and that he found it easy almost right away to pick it up and play OK. Did it come easily to you?
Orianthi: I think because I had such a passion for it and I was really excited about it… I don’t know how to explain it, but there was a sense of ease because of that, because I don’t think if I hadn’t been so excited about it I would have put the time in, do you know what I’m saying? I can’t say that playing the guitar was the easiest thing but I do play differently every day, I really do and it’s a challenge that I love. I love learning new things, I’m learning from different players all the time, that’s why I love jamming, listening to records or attending shows. But what I like most about the guitar is that I play it differently and so can express myself differently every time I pick it up. I have a healthy collection of guitars!
Mark: (laughs) I can imagine!
Orianthi: But to justify that Mark, that’s because each one has a different personality, so I’ll pick it up and play to that personality. You now my Flying V, next to my PRS or my Strat, or my Les Paul – they’re all different you know, and they speak to you differently so I write different songs with them, or play different solos. They’re all kind of tools for expression. But to answer your question I think it came easier to me that it might have to someone who didn’t have the passion I did. I think if you have the passion, the enthusiasm and want to learn, I think like anything in life right? It comes a bit easier.
Mark: It’s been great to speak to you today, and thank you for such a great album. Before we go we’ve just two quick questions to ask. If you could have been a ‘fly on the wall’ for the creation of any great album from the history of Rock and Roll, what would you like to have witnessed being created?
Orianthi: Oh, hmmm. I think it might have to be The Rolling Stones – ‘Exile’, or really any of The Beatles – they were such incredible writers – Paul McCartney and George Harrison, yeah probably The Beatles because that whole process is pretty magical.
Mark: And in those days it was a lot harder to get those sounds, no sampling, just tape and limited channels.
Orianthi: And it was amazing how they actually remembered everything too, I put all my things down on Voice memo – they just wrote it down. But I guess their songs were so catchy that you couldn’t forget! It’s so easy to forget ideas, I was watching the documentary not too long ago and it was pretty incredible.
Mark: It’s always so great to get those insights and see that side of things rather than just enjoy the results. Just an easy one to close – ‘what is the meaning of life?’
Orianthi: I think honestly for me, it’s to spread light, positivity, togetherness and as a person, as a human being on this planet – just to give as much love as possible while I’m here.
Mark: That’s a wonderful answer and one that reminds me so much of the answer that Carlos Santana gave me a few years ago, I think you’re spiritually in tune there.
Mark: Thank you so much for your time, it’s been great to chat. I’m looking forward to seeing you next year when you come over.
Orianthi: Absolutely, look forward to seeing you! Where are you based Mark?
Mark: We’re out in Perth, way out West, so even quieter than Adelaide!
Orianthi: I went there a couple of times with Alice Cooper and Michael Bolton.
Mark: I was just looking through the old photos last week backing them up, as i shoot concerts too, and I found the Alice Cooper ones then next thing you know Chris called about teh interview. It was spooky!
Orianthi: I’ll be playing with Alice Cooper next month here in Palm Springs, it will be so cool. There’s Alice, Paul Rodgers and Queens of the Stone Age and Paul McCartney’s band. We’re going out and playing this Theater that Frank Sinatra used to own and we’re trying to save it. So Brian Ray is organizing it, Nancy’s going to be there and I get to do a set as well. It’s going to be fun and for a great cause. And then I get to pay a show with Billy Gibbons next months too! That will be fun.
Mark: It never stops, it must have been an incredible ride ever since you got to L.A. but listening to the album it sounds like the best thigs are still ahead of you.
Orianthi: Thank you so much. I’m actually making another record right now. This one is going to be Blues. I’ve always wanted to make a Blues record so that’s next on the list!
Mark: All originals?
Orianthi: There might be a couple of covers on there but right now it’s all originals. I’ve written a lot so that’s kind of where I’m going. I stated as a Blues player with B.B. and I kind of want to end as a Blues player (laughs) That’s teh way I look at it, but ultimately it’s about bringing people together. We played a Festival the other night ark in Ohio and that was so much fun, everyone was dancing when you looked out, it was a big show and when you looked out everyone was dancing and having so much fun. We played some Blues songs and I didn’t know whey but everyone took to them so much more than the others.
Mark: That sounds great, I loved what Billy did with his solo albums too. You’ve played with him before haven’t you?
Orianthi: Yeah, one of my first supports in Australia was opening for Z.Z. Top – I was 16 years old, so I’ve known Billy since then, and we jam a lot, we’ve jammed so many times. We’ve played Guitar Hero events together for the troops, he’s shown up at rehearsals, we’ve had dinners with friends in Nashville, he’s a friend and its crazy to call him a friend because he’s a legend. And what an incredible player! We actually did a Duet on CMT – we sang ‘Sharp Dressed Man.’
Mark: I’ll have to check that out.
Orianthi: And next month we’re playing that show where I’ll play my set then Billy will do his and then at the end we’ll play together at this club in Oklahoma, with Matt Sorum, and Carmine from David Bowies band, we’ll have a good time.
Mark: Thank you so much for the extended time! I do appreciate it.
Orianthi: Thank you so much Mark, that means a lot. You take care.