While most of the hubbub over Sunday's Grammy Awards has subsided--well, except for that ugly alleged pre-Grammy Chris Brown incident--there's one new artist that is still being buzzed about. No, it's not best new artist winner Adele, who will certainly receive a sales bump, but another singularly named artist who wasn't showcased as a headliner, but nearly stole the spotlight from the artist she was supporting. Her name is Orianthi. That was her, looking like a young Nancy Wilson or Lita Ford, blazing through a guitar solo during Carrie Underwood's performance of "Last Name," which strangely enough, is something Orianthi doesn't use.
Although she might be new to you, the 24-year-old Australian guitar goddess isn't unknown. How do we know this? Leave it to some trusty Internet research. First, we searched "Carrie Underwood guitarist" and were kind of shocked and dismayed to come up with a mere 189 results, but those results did include Entertainment Weekly, Yahoo! Answers, and The Phoenix. Disappointed but not beaten, we decided to give it another whirl. This time we simply searched Orianthi and what do you know? Jackpot, 106,000 results.
Clicking through those pages so you don't have to, we discovered that Orianthi and guitar legend Carlos Santana have a mutual admiration society. In fact, Orianthi's MySpace page includes the following quote from Santana: "If I was going to pass the baton to somebody, she would be my first choice." We found this quote amusing on two counts. First, we were wondering if "pass the baton" was some sort of a euphemism, but perhaps we were just--to paraphrase the title of one of Orianthi's songs--thinking like a man. Secondly, we once interviewed Santana about playing the legendary Woodstock Festival and asked him if he sensed any competition between acts. "It wasn't like the NFL," he said. "Woodstock was basically peace, love, and music." That was a fine answer, but it puzzles us that it's OK for Carlos to get all track-and-field like over Orianthi, although he dismissed our notion of Woodstock competition with an NFL analogy. But whatever, Carlos, we still love you, and this really isn't about you, although you're apparently pretty close to Orianthi.
"Carlos came to Adelaide when I was 18, and my CD was delivered to him," Orianthi once said. "He invited me to a soundcheck. We wound up jamming, and then he invited me to join him onstage that night. It was pretty surreal. I showed up, he called me to the stage and I plugged in--in front of 15,000 people--and he started a song I hadn't heard before. I had learned all his songs. But that night he decided to play classic covers and a new instrumental! That really got my heart pumping. At some point, Carlos turns to me and says, 'OK, you take a solo now.' It was great; he kept me up there for 45 minutes. We've been in contact ever since. I was invited to his home to meet his family on a trip to San Francisco in 2005."
Check out this video montage with Santana uttering the immortal passing the baton line, plus footage of Orianthi performing live on stage.
Her connection with Santana led to an invitation to play the NAMM convention in Anaheim, California, which subsequently led to her signing to Geffen Records by Ron Fair, the label president/producer whose credits include work with Christina Aguilera, Black Eyed Peas and the Pussycat Dolls. Check out Orianthi performing at NAMM in the clip below.
Orianthi has released two albums. Her first, Under The Influence, was issued when she was a mere 14. Her second, Violet Journey, came out in 2005. Her song, "Now Or Never" was featured on the 2007 soundtrack of Bratz. You can hear that track below.
Now she is reportedly at work on her debut album for Geffen Records with producer Howard Benson, whose credits include Hoobastank, P.O.D., and-- wouldn't you know it--Santana. It appears that Orianthi is set to be this generation's new guitar goddess. After watching her perform on the Grammys and in the clips above, what do you think? Is she worthy of Santana's baton?