Orianthi breaks down 10 standout guitar tracks from across her repertoire

Orianthi
(Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Last year, Australian electric guitar star Orianthi released Rock Candy – her fifth studio album and the latest addition to a discography that has cemented her reputation as one of today's standout blues rock players.

With an enviable catalog of guitar-heavy hits to choose from, the PRS player sat down with Guitar World to discuss the best of the bunch, dissecting five tracks from Rock Candy and five further songs from across her wider repertoire, detailing her writing, recording and soloing philosophies along the way.

1. Light It Up

From: Rock Candy (2022)

Rock Candy was made with my good friend Jacob Bunton. We’re both real rockers at heart – we love anything riff-based and heavy. I wanted something where the riffs sounded like a bass and guitar playing at once. We jammed on the riff and came up with the stomping line that opens this song. We work really quickly; we did the whole album – at the rate of a song a day – in 12 days. 

"Light It Up is about living your own life and stepping into your own power and feeling comfortable with that, as a lot of people don’t do that. People will run away from taking control, but that’s where the real power is. Negativity can be real loud, but when you step into your own power, that’s when you see things differently, you know?”

2. How Do You Sleep?

From: Heaven in This Hell (2013)

“This seems to be one of the favorite songs for my fans. I always get a lot of requests for it. I wrote it with Dave Stewart, and I actually wrote it on the piano. I was going through a break-up and it was a song that just came out of me organically. Every time I play it, it takes me right back to where I was. 

"I played a classical guitar for the acoustic solo, which was Dave’s idea. He wanted to take it somewhere unexpected from where that sort of song would usually go. It really opened up the song at the end and made it very different. It added a real spark to it. I love jamming out with this song when we play it live – it’s a lot of fun.”

3. Where Did Your Heart Go

From: Rock Candy (2022)

“I’m a blues-based player – that’s how I started with my dad’s record collection – but I also love a really good pop song. If I can fuse those things together in a song, that’s something I really enjoy pulling off. This track started as a diary entry; that’s where my lyrics came from. 

"When you’re going with a feeling on a track, as I was here, you can just kind of add whatever is on your mind as you’re laying it down and really get carried away with the spirit of what you’re doing. With the guitar sound, I wanted to go for something spacey but very melodic, so I’ve got a really nice delay on the solo and fills that really seems to add to the emotion of what I’m playing.”

4. Contagious

From: O (2020)

“There is a lot going on in this song for sure. I wanted it to be massive and heavy, and I was listening to a lot of Muse, AC/DC and Nine Inch Nails at the time, funnily enough, which may have influenced the track a little. I just had all this different music on my playlist when I was hiking, and I was coming up with ideas that seemed to reflect what I was listening to. 

"There are so many parts to this song, and it really transports you to a different place. I like mixing up big riffs with lighter-sounding parts in a song. There’s only so many riffs, though; sometimes you’ll come up with something and someone will say it sounds like this or that – but there’s only so many combinations that sound right.”

5. Fire Together

From: Rock Candy (2022)

“This is a really fun song. I just wanted an upbeat, punchy song that wasn’t particularly deep lyrically, but that would act to lift the spirits of someone listening to it. It’s a lot of fun to play – I came up with that riff a long time ago in Nashville, and then we finished it up in L.A. by the time we were ready to put the album together. 

"I approached the solo as a live solo rather than thinking about preparing it and punching it in. It certainly wasn’t overthought or anything. I like to have melodies in my solos, I like them to be memorable so that they can almost be sung. When I’m working out solos, I usually do it when I’m in the car driving, listening to demos and humming something that I’ll try to work out how to play on the guitar.”

6. Illuminate

From: Rock Candy (2022)

“I split this instrumental into two parts to open and close the album, to bookend everything else on the record. I wanted it to sound like something you’d open a show with; that’s how I wrote it when I came up with the idea in my studio in L.A. I put it together with Jacob, and that’s him playing violin at the end – he’s a great violin player. 

"I think we’re going to open our shows with this one going forward. It’s quite a composed piece, and I think I am happiest when the solo is structured; when I listen back to something where there’s a lot of free-form noodling and playing, it can just annoy me. I’ve certainly done a lot of that, but as I’ve gotten older and made more records, I’ve found that I really like to completely structure things.”

7. Heaven in This Hell

From: Heaven in This Hell (2013)

“There’s a lot of wah on this one – I really love using a wah pedal. It started life as a kind of Delta blues riff, but then I put an octave fuzz on it and made it into a heavy blues-rock vibe. We used to open our shows with this one as it is such a strong live track; it always gets a really strong reaction and it’s a great song to stretch out on. 

"I don’t generally leave the wah on for tone – I usually use it for extra attack, which comes from growing up listening to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, where they use it as a kind of beat pedal. I love that effect, though. It seems to really help the guitar to speak when you’re digging in for some emotional impact.”

8. Sinners Hymn

From: O (2020)

“More wah on this one! This actually also started life as a Delta blues song, and the lyrics reflect that. It’s kind of a dark song and the producer, Marti Frederiksen, suggested we make it super heavy on the chorus, so it takes it in a different direction. The song is pretty fiery, and the solo at the end was an idea I added afterwards. 

"Listening back, I realized it needed an extra kick to it at the end, which I knew was how I’d do it live, so we went back in to do that last solo. Marti and I really experimented with this whole album; it was such fun to do.”

9. Living Is Like Dying Without You

From: Rock Candy (2022)

“I actually wrote this in about 10 minutes. I had written the lyrics; I walked into the studio and there was an acoustic guitar there and I just started strumming it. It was just very simple and direct. Jacob and I played acoustic guitar live in the room. It was completed really quickly – then I put down the vocal tracks just about as fast. It was all very organic. 

"This is another track that started life as a diary entry where I started to think about what I’d written in terms of it being a song. The solo is deliberately simple, where I just really focus on the melody. This song is very different from what I’ve done before. It’s always really fun to move out of your comfort zone into other areas.”

10. Blues Won't Leave Me Alone

From: Radio Free America (2018)

“I recorded this album with Richie [Sambora]. It was a lot of fun, but it was a very different kind of sound – almost like a new-age blues. This is one that people love to hear live. I think it resonates for people and it certainly does for me; ever since I was a kid I’ve had this feeling that the blues won’t leave me alone. I guess I listened to way too many Robert Johnson records! 

"My father had such an amazing record collection, which was predominantly blues – B.B., Freddie and Albert King, Gary Moore, Eric Clapton, Howlin’ Wolf – growing up listening to that, it’s always going to be the foundation of my playing.”

  • Rock Candy (opens in new tab) is out now via Frontiers Music.

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Mark McStea

Mark is a freelance writer with particular expertise in the fields of ‘70s glam, punk, rockabilly and classic ‘50s rock and roll. He sings and plays guitar in his own musical project, Star Studded Sham, which has been described as sounding like the hits of T. Rex and Slade as played by Johnny Thunders. He had several indie hits with his band, Private Sector and has worked with a host of UK punk luminaries. Mark also presents themed radio shows for Generating Steam Heat. He has just completed his first novel, The Bulletproof Truth, and is currently working on the sequel.