Miss Riff

22 February 2013 | 9:47 am | Greg Phillips

“When I was six, I said to my mum, as I was strumming away to Elvis, I am going to America.”

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"One day you go into the Paul Reed Smith guitars booth at NAMM and you demonstrate for them, then you come back and walk into that booth again a few years later and you look up and there's your own signature guitar on the wall. You just think, bloody hell, is this real?” says Australian-born guitarist Orianthi at this year's NAMM show as she reflects on the honour PRS bestowed on her. A few hours earlier she had collected another accolade when honoured with the 'Inspire' award at the first ever She Rocks Awards, an event created by the Women's International Music Network to pay tribute to women who display leadership in the music industry. For the very few Australians scattered around the room at the awards breakfast, it was with some pride that Orianthi rocked the house with an early morning version of Back In Black. Needless to say, the girl's done good! She has jammed with and since befriended both Carlos Santana and Steve Vai, swapped licks with Prince  and is currently lead guitarist in Alice Cooper's band, having completed two world tours with the prince of darkness. On 12 March Orianthi will release Heaven In This Hell a new solo album produced by Eurythmics' Dave Stewart.

There was never any doubt in Orianthi's mind what she wanted to do as a career path. “When I was six, I said to my mum, as I was strumming away to Elvis, I am going to America,” she says. “I am going to make a record in America and tour the world… and my mum believed me. Then when I was 15 I told my parents I was leaving school. They were like… Ok! I guess because I am very stubborn and I just love playing guitar. They were very supportive. My dad is a guitar player and mum is awesome. That's why I say to a lot of people who come up to me… never give up because there are so many highs and lows in this industry. The lows can be lower than low and it's the same with the highs. You have got to live in the moment and be persistent. It is not easy. People have different ideas about what it must be like to be a musician or be up on stage in front of a crowd, it's a lot of fun but it's also learning 25 songs in a week.”

However, one of Orianthi's greatest achievements was being asked by Michael Jackson to take on lead guitar responsibilities for his never-to-be This Is It tour. As the movie footage shows, Orianthi enjoyed the rehearsal experience immensely and was looking forward to the massive shows in London, Paris, New York City and Mumbai. “I have seen the movie probably once, one and a half times maybe,” she says. “I can't really watch it because it is so real. Being there, being in his presence and working with him, was such an amazing part of my life. I hold the memories and I am so honoured to have had that time. I am working with Alice Cooper now. I have to say Alice is very similar to Michael. He's such a showman and he loves his fans. He is so personable and sweet and I feel like I have so much fun on tour with Alice. I say to him, until he gets sick of me I'll continue on with him.”

Orianthi is super excited about the release of her new album. It's her third, but first real full-on production which faithfully showcases her skills not only as a guitar player but also as an accomplished songwriter. The material ranges from big rock ballads through to smokin' blues rock outs. Heaven In This Hell reveals a wide array of guitar tones, highlighting a versatility we may not have expected yet shouldn't really be surprised by. It's no secret that her licks feature great fluidity and touch, perhaps it's the maturity of her playing which has snuck up on us. Orianthi wrote all of the 11 songs and describes the vibe herself as a “voodoo rock blues sound”.

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On the album Orianthi used her signature Paul Reed Smith guitars through Fender and EVH amps. She also busted out a few Fender guitars for rhythm parts as well as a couple of Duesenberg guitars. As we catch up with Orianthi at the TC booth at NAMM, it would be remiss not to ask what her association is with the Danish gear company? “I use their Flashback delay pedal,” she says. “On my tour in 2010 I used their Tone Print effects too. I've got their Chorus and Flanger which I use as well. It really depends on the show. I always switch up my effects but TC have been so supportive and I love the quality of their effects.”

There will be a Grammy Museum release party for Heaven In This Hell on Monday 11 March in America where Orianthi will be playing an acoustic set. Then it's back on the road with Alice Cooper. “There are a lot of different things happening, different projects which I am really excited about but I can't talk about right now,” says Orianthi. For her own headlining gigs, she's tossing up whether to hit the road in trio mode, which worked so well at this morning's She Rocks Awards or to opt for a larger band. Whatever form the band take, Orianthi is keen to bring her show back home to Australia. “We're talking to someone about doing some festivals out there. I don't know if that will happen but who knows. I hope so.”

Heaven In This Hell is out Tuesday 12 March through Robo Records/Universal.