Orianthi: Michael Jacksons guitarist gets LA times coverage

The guitarist (full name: Orianthi Panagaris) expected to be well into the "This Is It" concerts by now, while preparing to release her debut solo album, "Believe," which hit retailers this week.

She began writing and recording the album for Geffen Records after arriving in Los Angeles from Adelaide, Australia, three years ago. Its release was supposed to happen during a break in the O2 schedule, but now coincides with the theatrical opening of the posthumous “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” documentary, drawn from 120 hours of rehearsal footage.

"He was a big kid who wanted to have fun, but he was so serious about his music," Orianthi said. "He was a perfectionist and wanted to make sure it came across really well for his fans. He wanted to put on the ultimate show for them."

She auditioned for Jackson in late April on a Burbank soundstage. "I was so nervous and he was staring right at me," she said, still excited by the memory. "Afterwards, he was really happy and he grabbed my arm. We started walking up and down the stage area, and he asked me if I could play the solo while walking with a real fast pace with him."

Orianthi got the job -- as guitarist and sometime vocalist -- and joined a band of veteran R&B and pop players, picking up funky instrumental bits she hadn't known before. Jackson and director Kenny Ortega also had her stretch beyond the recorded songs, she says.

"They actually wanted me to add my own flavor to it," Orianthi said. "So I added some extra stuff . . . I use my tremolo bar a lot, so I incorporated that. It's hard to solo when you're walking around, especially when you're in Michael Jackson's presence. There are easier things in life to do."
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