“It’s just really a lot of fun touring with Alice. Being on this tour with Maiden, too, and watching them play just metal and Alice is so theatrical, I love it,” says Orianthi. The 27 year old guitarist has been all over the world, playing with some of the world’s greatest musicians, and is now the first ever female member of Alice Cooper’s live band. Luckily for us, we were given the opportunity to sit down with her and discuss her experiences playing with the King of Shock Rock, being a girl in the music industry, her solo career and even her time spent with Michael Jackson before his passing.
What’s it like being the first girl ever to play in the Alice Cooper band?
You know, it’s pretty crazy. I love being just a guitar player, but being onstage with Alice onstage every night, just rocking out. His songs are amazing and I had to learn 25 songs in a week and that was pretty daunting, every song is like a guitar instrumental – there’s so many parts to it. And not even just the guitar – drums, everything. Especially “Halo of Flies” which goes on for 11 minutes – that was a crazy song to learn. Once you throw yourself into the Alice Cooper world, you start getting it all and it’s a lot of fun to play for him every night.
If there’s one thing you’ve learned from him, professionally or personally, what would it be?
He’s such a showman that every night, he just gives it all onstage and is so entertaining. He doesn’t freak out over anything. He’s pretty just calm and confident about it all, just very professional, and a very cool guy – one of my favorite people for sure. But what I’ve learned from him, since he’s such a great entertainer to have fun every night.
You’ve played with so many amazing musicians (Steve Vai, Lacey Mosely-Strum from Flyleaf, Santana, for example). Is there anyone you haven’t worked with that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I toured with John Mayer, but I never got to jam with him. And Eric Clapton! I played his Crossroads festival, but never got to jam with him, so definitely those two.
When you go into writing your own music, what is your writing process like?
It’s different every time. It also depends on if I’m co-writing or writing my own song. One of my favorite writing partners is Dave Stewart, who I co-write the EP with, and you can be in a room with him and he just has this great energy where you want to write a song because he’s so creative, very cool and very talented guitar player. We could be in the studio and just pick up a guitar and be like “Here, just listen to this idea.” and I’ll start jamming. It’s always very different with different people. I would love to go to Nashville to write, though. It seems like such a great place.
Your debut album did very well here in the States, and now your EP is out. What can we expect from your solo career?
The EP is actually kind of an unfinished thing because I started it, and then I went on tour with Alice. I wanted to put that out because it’s been quite a while. I definitely want to finish that off very soon. There’s been quite a few songs I’ve written, and of course I’m going to write some more on the road and in the studio. I wanna go into the studio with some amazing musicians and kind of have an idea right there to finish it off – the pressure’s on to finish it! You get to Nashville or wherever you’re recording - you pay for studio time and you just want to get it done. I would say, this year, it’ll be out, definitely, and there will be some guests on there too, which I’m very excited about.
What do you think you prefer, playing as a guitarist, or having your solo career?
I love both! I’m having a blast right now and I’ve learned just to be in the moment to just enjoy what I’m doing right now. I enjoy being on tour with my band and playing my songs, but at this point, I love being a part of this whole Alice Cooper crazy world and being part zombie. Actually, I’m “Gory-anthi” now [laughs]. There’s a lot of comedy parts, and being the new guitar player with Ryan Roxie, who is a great player, it’s just a lot of fun jamming out with everybody.
Do you think it was harder to break into the pop world where everyone’s trying to be the next big thing, or into the hard rock/heavy metal world, where it’s such a male dominated genre? Which genre do you feel most accepted in?
I don’t know where I fit in, to be honest. I don’t really care because I have so many different musical influences from blues to rock. I love metal, I love pop music. It’s kind of like being in school where you don’t fit into just one set group, and you have all these friends that do all sorts of different things, and I feel like that’s where I’m at. I’m a real blues fan, I really love listening to Robert Johnson but at the same time I would go and listen to Kings of Leon and Steve Vai, and even country music too. It’s weird.
I don’t know if I’m accepted, either. Being a singer, being a female guitar player is not an easy thing to do. I have a lot of people that write to me that feel inspired – especially young girls that want to play guitar, and that’s what I want to do – inspire more. Coming into Alice’s band, I didn’t really want to think too much about what people would think about it, because you would get completely mad – and I used to, a lot. But now, I’m just going to play and do my thing and try to be a better musician, better guitar player, a better performer. That’s what you gotta focus on. I’ll never be completely content with a performance or a recording or something, but you just have to keep striving to do more and better your craft.
It’s been three years since the passing of Michael Jackson (Orianthi was his lead guitarist on the This Is It tour). If there was anything you learned from your time spent with him, what would it be?
Michael was incredible. Working with him, even though it was only three months, was definitely life changing. He taught me a lot of things and he was such an incredible entertainer. But now that I think about it, he had so many similarities to Alice, in the fact that they’re all about giving their all when putting on a show and pleasing the fans – it’s all about the fans, and being super humble. With all the moments I had with Michael, sometimes I revisit them, even though I’ve only seen the movie twice, I had made friends with everyone else on the tour as well, it was a pretty intense time, and there will never be another Michael Jackson.
Orianthi is currently touring with Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden on the “Maiden England/No More Mr. Nice Guy” tour. Her debut album “Believe” and her latest release, “The Fire EP” are out now.