Orianthi Steps Out Of Michael Jackson's Shadow
Orianthi

Word of the prodigious-and eye-catching-guitarist found its way to Fair, who went on to sign her to a worldwide deal. In 2006, at the age of 21, Orianthi relocated to Los Angeles, where she worked on her album with producer Howard Benson (the All-American Rejects, Daughtry, My Chemical Romance, Three Days Grace).

Orianthi soon grabbed the attention of manager Stirling McIlwaine, who had guided the careers of Daughtry and Jordin Sparks in the United States for Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment. McIlwaine says he was "blow away" by his first glimpse of Orianthi. In early 2008, he and Fuller made her the first signing to 19 outside the "American Idol" franchise. "Our plan was always to position her as a guitar player. A female Slash, if you will," McIlwaine says. "In America, there are so many female pop singers who drop a guitar around their neck and strum a few chords to look cooler or better than they actually are. Ori is a totally different thing. She's the real deal, and she happens to sing. We decided early on to look at tasty moments where we could position her as a guitar player and use our clout as a management company to create opportunities for her."

The breakthrough presented itself in February, through a fortuitous onstage collaboration with Carrie Underwood at the Grammy Awards. In the days after the performance, Orianthi received a message through her MySpace page from Jackson's musical director Michael Bearden, inviting her to audition for the lead guitarist spot for the "This Is It" concerts.

"I've never been so nervous in my life, auditioning for Michael," she recalls. After Orianthi tore her way through a rendition of "Beat It"-whose guitar solo was originally performed by Eddie Van Halen-Jackson gave the nod and she spent the next three months rehearsing with the icon, six hours each day.

But for all Orianthi's guitar credentials, "Believe" is essentially a conventional pop album with an utterly unconventional guitar solo on each track. Jackson fans no doubt will tune in to the album closer, "God Only Knows," a late entry to the album that deals with loss.

Fair also wants to build a merch business around Orianthi and says he hasn't ruled out the likelihood of a "Guitar Hero" game in her image. "From a merch standpoint, there's so much you could do with a female guitar hero which has never been done before," he says. "I'm sure we can start extrapolating with pink Strats or nail polish with USB drives shaped in the shape of guitars."

The first single, "According to You," has been serviced to U.S. top 40 radio. A hectic U.S. promotional schedule in recent weeks has led to Orianthi appearing on "Good Morning America," "So You Think You Can Dance" and "On-Air With Ryan Seacrest" and in a feature in "USA Today." She will appear as a guest on Adam Lambert's solo album, while her own album will be released Down Under Nov. 6 through Universal Music Australia. In 2010, she plans to mount a worldwide tour.

"In a world full of gatekeepers and haters, you can't hate Ori because she's a legitimate and incredible talent, and nothing like that has come along ever," Fair says. "When everyone sees this movie, they're going to say, 'Holy cow, she's a genius.' "

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