Orianthi Recalls What Michael Jackson Was Really Like Before His Death, Reveals What Legendary Singer Told Her About Guitar Tone

One of the things that we often tend to overlook is how incredibly versed and detail-oriented mainstream pop singers can be. However, rarely any pop stars today could even compare to how professional and meticulous Michael Jackson was when it came to his music and live performances. One of the musicians who remember that well is guitarist Orianthi, famously hired for Jackson’s live band for the ill-fated “This Is It” concert residency that, unfortunately, never happened.

Orianthi - "Impulsive" - Official Music Video

During her recent chat with Mitch Lafon and Jeremy White, Orianthi recalled the rehearsals for this concert run. She spent a few months practicing with the band and Jackson which was later shown in the “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” documentary. Asked whether the singer was involved in her guitar tone and playing, she said (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar):

“Yeah, totally. I mean, I changed my amps a few times. I called up Paul [Reed Smith], I’m like, ‘Paul, we’ve got to get a guitar that sounds like a Strat… So there were a lot of things – attention to detail. And [Michael Jackson] heard everything. And when it came down to the dancing, the outfits ­– just everything. I mean, it was a full-on insane show, epic proportions.”

“And he does, you know, Swarovski crystals and everything as well, with giant spiders. And there’s a lot of stuff going on, and it was incredible, just to be able to work with him for – I think it was two or three months, something like that. So pretty wild, and being able to just… [watch] him work with the musicians, and giving me guidance. And just he was very supportive…of everybody, he wanted everyone to step up and do their thing.”

Michael Jackson's This Is It (EXTRAS - Staging The Return) (FULL)

Regarding his detail-oriented approach, she said:

“He heard everything from me – just ‘Oh, could you change the settings on your amp,’ he said at one time, and I was like, ‘Absolutely;’ he said, ‘I want it to be a little thinner, I want it to cut through a little more when you play this part.’ And so yeah, it was great. And working with [music director Michael] Bearden and everybody, Jonathan Moffett [drums], what an incredible drummer – I just did a session with him the other day on his album. So that’s pretty wild. But he’s, yeah, he’s awesome”.

Jackson also famously played with Jennifer Batten, who later revealed she auditoned for Ozzy’s band and was ultimately rejected due to being a woman.

Photo: Tilly Antoine (Orianthi Panagaris avec Alice Cooper, Rennes en 2011.), Daniele Dalledonne (Michael Jackson (20589951783) (cropped))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.