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“Guitar playing to me is like endless possibilities.”

This is Orianthi


This week we delve into the world of an incredible player whose fairytale path has seen her mark firmly stamped on the guitar world.  Founded on years of hard work, dedication, and belief she has thoroughly earned the recognition she deserves.

There really is nothing better than looking into a player’s history and the journey they took to be where they are now only to discover that they are very much the everyday person.  It’s both humbling and a tantalising example that rock stardom and guitar heroism is always just around the corner for any given person, at any given time. 🤘

A really explosive, yet organised player with great charisma and stage presence, this week's icon has shared stages with the very best.  She even rehearsed with Michael Jackson for the would-be legendary “This is it” concerts.

Growing up on rockstar principles and leaning into it, here is a player that has lived and breathed rock ’n’ roll from a very young age and shows no signs of slowing down or packing up.  Ambition is everything and achievements are welcome but at the end of the day getting down and rocking out is what makes this week’s player exquisite.

“Orianthi” Penny Panagaris

Image by Chris Ace


The story begins far across the pond in Australia, Adelaide known as the “City of Churches”.

Born on 22nd January 1985 Orianthi Penny Panagaris was only six when she fell in love with the electric guitar thanks to her dad's record collection.  Legendary names like Clapton, Hendrix, and Santana influenced her decision to take lessons. She spent five years learning the acoustic guitar before switching to the electric at the age 11.  Playing in bands since she was 14, she performed in her first stage show opening for Steve Vai at the age 15!!

At 18, she met and played with Carlos Santana in Adelaide. After jamming with him at soundcheck, he asked if she would join him on-stage that evening. Their half-hour collaborative jam netted a press quote from the elder musician: "It's not cute any more, it's seriously ass-whipping. If I was going to pass the baton to somebody, she would be my first choice."

Excerpt - Allmusic.com - (David Jeffries)

This whirlwind of a career at such a young age led to her first LP “Violet Journey” which in turn saw the young and exciting musician sign a deal with Geffen.

In her own words she describes her musical upbringing perfectly and conveys in prolific detail what music really meant to her growing up and having to move away and out of state education whilst envisioning her destiny.

“I grew up in a time warp, there's no question about it. My dad had an incredible vinyl collection, so I would just go through all the vinyl records and sit there and just put them all on and get sort of carried away by them and be taken into this different sort of realm and comforted by them.

Guitar playing to me, is endless possibilities. When I first picked up the guitar, when I was six years old, it just felt like it was magical. You could create any sound out of it. It was really healing for me at a really young age, because I was pretty shy as a kid so holding a guitar gave me a lot of confidence and it made me feel like, I don't have to express myself a certain way.

When I first picked up the guitar, my dad taught me three chords. So, it was A, E and D and you can write so many songs with those core progression. And, so I would just start writing songs. It was kind of a journey of just discovering where I wanted to go with the guitar.”

Quote(s) via Ernie Ball String Theory

Orianthi and her PRS Custom 24. Image from Guitar.com


The whirlpoolof rock stardomcontinued its momentum at an incredible pace and Orianthi would push yourself to become a true A-list guitarist after a full commitment to move to the home of rock 'n' roll Los Angeles.

Coming through the ranks in the right way Orianthi developed a thick skin and solid composure from playing in cover bands once she had left school to devote herself to music.  Playing three nights a week in cover and wedding bands this young rockstar had seen it all by a young age.

“Three nights a week. Sometimes you play weddings and people get drunk out in the country. We used to sleep out in barns and get drunk on red wine afterwards. You’re finishing about 3 or 4am, loading your gear, having interesting encounters with different people, a lot of drunks… But that’s part of it.” 

Quote via - classicrock.com

A significant moment in her career was that slot she had with Carlos Santana at a young age in Adelaide; the legendary guitarist began to really champion Orianthi and get the word out.  The message travelled far and wide, incredibly Orianthi found herself sharing stages with the likes of Prince and ZZ Top (to name just a few), but it was a series of events that led to something quite spectacular…

The power of MySpace and a good recommendation was about to land Orianthi a phenomenal gig! 🤘

“Well, he asked around and apparently he asked Carlos Santana and a few other people and threw my name back, and then he came to the Grammy Awards and I was playing with Carrie Underwood at the Grammys, and then I got a message through MySpace…”

“I got a MySpace message that said, ‘Hi, I’m Michael Jackson’s musical director, and you’re exactly what Michael wants in his band.’ I’m like, ‘Is this for real?’ I thought it was a joke actually, so I sent it to my manager at the time, going, ‘Is this real?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, it is, Michael’s calling you tonight. I got a call, ‘Hey, here’s Michael Jackson. Would you do ‘[Dirty] Diana’ and ‘Beat It’ for tomorrow afternoon? We’re coming to play at rehearsals for the staging.’ And I’m like, ‘Sure…' ”

“It was crazy. It was Michael, it was crazy, I was like, ‘Oh my god, is this for real? This is crazy.’ So I learned the songs and ran to the staging the next morning and Michael Jackson walked in and he sat down on the couch in front of me and cranked the amp, ‘I want to hear it really loud.'”

“And I was like, ‘How do I play guitar again?’ [Laughs] It was literally Michael Jackson on the couch, me in front of him, standing and playing, and I was like, ‘Shit, this is crazy.’ I do remember that very vividly that moment, I was like, ‘Oh my god!’ So yeah, crazy times. I’m very grateful that I got to work with him for the time I did.”

Quote via Rockandrollgarage.com


Having encountered a number of incredible artists along the journey Orianthi was no stranger to rockstars and icons, having met and worked with a large number of household names she always appeared ready for the next challenge and high-profile invitation.


“Holding a guitar gave me a lot of confidence and it made me feel like I could express myself a certain way. And when you find your own fingerprint, right, after listening to tons of records and then you step away from, and just sit with a guitar by yourself, you kind of feel like you find your own sound, and then you’re able to express yourself that way.”

Quote from Ernie Ball String Theory

Orianthi plays Ernie Ball Super Slinky and Paradigm Super Slinky electric guitar strings

Naturally, it seems the planet's top guitarists gravitate towards Ernie Ball. We knew that Orianthi has been playing Ernie Ball strings forever, but watching String Theory we noticed that the PARADIGM Super Slinky set has also made its way into her guitar case. A player of Orianthi's calibre, playing on the biggest stages in demanding shows with the likes of (the late) Michael Jackson, Santana, and Alice Cooper is going to need some serious strings. Ernie Ball PARADIGM strings provide an unprecedented level of strength and longer life with characteristic Slinky feel and brightness.

Ernie Ball String Theory with Orianthi

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