At just 25 years old, Australian guitarist Orianthi Panagaris has an impressive list of credentials, having already shared a stage with many-a-superstar, including Michael Jackson, Prince, and Carlos Santana.
“Santana is the reason I play guitar,” Orianthi tells RadarOnline.com about her hero, who she got to perform with at just 18 years old. “We ended up jamming, and he asked me to get up on stage and play at his show and that was surreal.”
There’s quite a bit about Orianthi’s rise to fame that’s surreal, like the fact that she was hired by Michael Jackson to play guitar for his London run of the “This Is It” shows. She was rehearsing with him around the clock — right up until the tragic end. Still, she’ll always remember her time with the King of Pop fondly.
“Watching him dance for the first time was just incredible,” she recalls. “I think it was “Human Nature”.”
Orianthi says she was nervous about auditioning for Michael initially. “He was just staring at me, sitting on the couch,” she says of her audition, where she had to play three of his songs. “Afterwards, he smiled and hugged me and said ‘can you play that while walking at a fast pace across the stage?’ I said yes even though I didn’t know if I could!”
Orianthi’s U.S. major-label debut, Believe — which features the catchy girl-power single “According To You”— has found Orianthi now in the role of pop idol herself, with legions of young female fans who aspire to be just like her.
“They bring their little guitars for me to sign and that’s awesome,” she says of inspiring her fans. “They tell me, ‘we see your videos and we rush to pick up our guitars and strum along’ and that’s so cool.”
Up next for Orianthi is her new single “Shut Up And Kiss Me,” a more rocking song with a guitar solo on it, and an Australian tour with John Mayer, which she says will be a “real guitar fest.”
And being that this Aussie girl now lives in Los Angeles she’s excited to get back to her homeland and see her family. “I have four ducks that I had to leave at home,” she says. “My parents look after them for me. But I miss them.”
Orianthi plans to tour the U.S. this summer and hopes to be making music for a long time — with goals for both an instrumental and country album in the future. “I hope to just evolve as an artist and kind of change it up, experimenting and collaborating with different artists, and hopefully inspire more girls to pick up the guitar.”