In most neighborhoods, you might head next-door to borrow a pinch of sugar. But on a certain block in Calabasas, Calif., you’re more likely to get a knock from Bon Jovi guitar virtuoso Richie Sambora and his fellow shredding partner, Orianthi, asking for a spare guitar pick or mic.
The veteran guitarists have what they call an “open-door” policy at the recording studio they built in their kitchen — as Sambora cracks, “we’re kind of barbecuing music over here.” But the home studio turned out to be a fitting place for the real-life couple to record their upcoming joint EP, Rise (out Sept. 29), as the duo RSO.
“People think we’re just the guitar players — that’s what we do,” Sambora says of the collaborative five-song EP, the second track of which, “Masterpiece,” is premiering today (Sept. 28) on Billboard. “Hopefully this will change people’s minds.”
It’s been a long time coming. While Sambora, a Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, boasts a 30-year run as the lead guitarist and co-songwriter of Bon Jovi, Orianthi, who is from Australia, is known as the first female member to join Alice Cooper‘s touring band, and was hand-picked by Michael Jackson to join what would have been his This Is It tour after performing at the 2009 Grammy Awards with Carrie Underwood. “You absorb a lot of things — everything is a learning experience,” Orianthi says of her expansive career, while Sambora adds, “for a musician, [performing with these artists] is like going to the library and reading books.”
By 2013, Sambora and Orianthi had released three solo albums each. And when they met that same year while performing in Hawaii, sparks flew, both creative and romantic — “it was instantaneous,” Sambora recalls. After moving in to their current home in Calabasas, the duo would often turn over lyrics in their kitchen while cooking dinner, Orianthi tinkering on Garageband, but it was Bon Jovi producer Bob Rock’s idea to build the home studio where he would eventually help the duo create Rise as RSO.
“[We’re] always coming up with different ideas, whether it could be four o’clock in the morning,” Orianthi says of the home studio. “When we first wake up, if we have an idea, it’s great to have it where you feel comfortable.”
And that “open-door policy” is no joke. Sambora says the list of musicians who have stopped by and ended up recording music with the duo includes The Doors‘ Robby Krieger (who appears on one Rise track) and Paul McCartney drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. “You never know who is going to wander through,” Sambora adds. (Cooper also appears on the EP, though — and perhaps more fittingly — Orianthi says he recorded his vocals from what’s known as “Dracula’s castle” in Transylvania.)
Out of the 25 or so tracks Sambora and Orianthi say they have recorded, the duo chose a genre-spanning selection of five for the EP. The authenticity throughout is palpable, which is no surprise — for the most part, the duo wrote every lyric about the trials and tribulations of their own romance. “It was our relationship that we were exploring [with the EP], and now it goes out to humanity,” Sambora adds. “Hopefully people are going to go, ‘yeah, I get that.'”
The EP includes title track “Rise,” an uplifting classic rock anthem about “not taking shit from anybody,” Orianthi says; the ambitious, emotive piano ballad “Truth”; the bluesy “Take Me”; and twangy “Good Times.” Then there’s the smoldering, whole-hearted love ode “Masterpiece,” premiering below, a track Sambora says he originally had the idea for 20 years ago. “It’s a very cool way to say ‘I love you,'” Sambora says of the song, adding with a laugh, “as songwriters, we’re [always] trying to say ‘fuck you,’ or ‘I love you,’ either one.”
And the duo promises more in store, with a full album to come. “I have like, 1,000 voice memos on my iPhone,” Orianthi says, adding that she and Sambora came up with two brand new tracks while sitting on the couch the night before our interview.
“This is certainly a house of music,” Sambora says, “that’s for sure.”
Take a peek at Sambora and Orianthi’s first effort as RSO with “Masterpiece,” below. Rise is out Sept. 29.