One day, Orianthi was a relatively little-known guitarist on MySpace; the next, she was in a room playing Michael Jackson songs in front of Michael Jackson.
Orianthi, a 31-year-old Australian musician who just wrapped a tour with Richie Sambora, tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” that her jump from MySpace to Michael literally happened overnight. “I was contacted through MySpace to come and jam out for Michael Jackson. I thought it was a joke,” she says. “I forwarded it to my manager and it actually was legitimate, so I went the next day.”
Orianthi had been told to learn three of Jackson’s hits to play for him. She arrived prepared, but was still incredibly nervous to perform in front of the music legend.
“When Michael came in, I was like, ‘How do I play guitar again?’” Orianthi says. “He said, ‘I want to hear it loud. Play “Beat It.”’ Oh my gosh, OK. So, I walked out there and played the ‘Beat It’ solo for him. He was sitting on the couch and he came up and he shook my hand. He was like, ‘You’re hired.’”
At that moment, Orianthi became Jackson’s lead guitarist for his ill-fated “This Is It” tour. But she still had to keep her new gig under wraps due to a confidentiality agreement.
You go to rehearsal at 12 o’clock in the afternoon, you’re playing with Michael. You come home, I’m cleaning up dog crap.
“It was the hardest kind of secret to keep,” Orianthi says. “You go to rehearsal at 12 o’clock in the afternoon, you’re playing with Michael. You come home, I’m cleaning up dog crap and talking to my friends like, ‘Oh, yes, it was just a normal day today. Nothing happened.’ It’s madness. Complete madness.”
The sold-out tour was scheduled to begin in July of 2009. However, Jackson died less than three weeks before the first tour date. Orianthi was one of the musicians who performed at the King of Pop’s memorial service, which she opens up about in the video below.
“Playing Michael Jackson’s memorial service was one of the hardest things to do because it was literally a few days after he had passed,” she says. “I didn’t know how I was going to get through it.”
Though difficult, Orianthi says she and the other musicians who performed that day did so from their hearts, for Jackson.
“It was a special night, but at the same time, it was very, very sad,” she says. “Wish he was still around today, that’s for sure.”
Another musical match: