Richie Sambora can't wait to play at Soundwave Festival
RICHIE Sambora's passion for playing charity gigs set the stage for a serendipitous meeting with a rising Aussie talent.
The Bon Jovi guitarist and founding member, currently on hiatus from the American rock band's gruelling tour schedule, is teaming up with guitar prodigy Orianthi Panagaris for his recently announced Soundwave shows.
South Australian native Orianthi rose to international fame as the young guitar player hand-picked to support Michael Jackson on his ill-fated This Is It tour.
Jackson's management invited her to audition after seeing her perform with Carrie Underwood at the 2009 Grammy Awards.
Speaking to APN from his home in Los Angeles, Sambora was bubbling over with excitement about the 28-year-old.
Orianthi has been the guitarist for Alice Cooper's live band for more than two years and it was through Cooper, an old friend of Sambora, that the pair met just last monthDecember 2013 as performers at a New Year's Eve charity gig in Hawaii.
"I walked into the rehearsal and Orianthi is playing and I'm like 'oh my God, she is the best guitar player maybe ever, better than me for sure'," he said.
Sambora knows a thing or two about talent and songwriting.
As well as being the long-time guitarist for Bon Jovi, he is responsible for many of the band's biggest hits.
He penned It's My Life, Wanted Dead or Alive and Lost Highway and co-wrote Livin' on a Prayer and You Give Love A Bad Name with Jon Bon Jovi.
"We've got such chemistry; it happened automatically," he said.
"She has astounding talent. I knew it right off the bat."
Sambora then asked Orianthi to fill in for his regular guitarist David Ryan Harris for The Midnight Mission's 100th anniversary benefit concert.
He has been a supporter of the LA charity, which helps the homeless get back on their feet, for the past decade.
"I just called Ori and said 'Hey, I don't know what you're doing but if you feel like coming down and jamming it would be fun'," he said.
"She was very gracious about it and so willing to give her time. She has a beautiful soul and we kicked it man. It was amazing."
The show, which happened just last weekendJan 11, was the first time the two had played together as a duo.
It inspired Sambora to ask Orianthi - whom he affectionately calls "Ori" - to join him in Australia.
"I said 'Hey look I've got these gigs in Australia you feel like going' and she said 'yeah'," he said.
"I can't wait. We've got a great energy."
Orianthi isn't the only young female talent Sambora is backing with his rock 'n' roll credentials.
He also recently attended a Lady Gaga listening party and met the Monster singer afterwards.
"I've always admired her," he said.
"Lady G wanted to see me and I went 'cool man'. We ended up being fast friends too."
A collaboration could be on the cards, although Sambora and Gaga haven't booked any studio time just yet.
"Why not try it? That's what I say," he said.
"There are so many brilliant musicians and everybody has their own style and thing. What's interesting is when you actually mesh those styles together and see what comes out.
"The music business in general is in the toilet unfortunately from a business standpoint, but I'm lucky to have the opportunity to be free and collaborate with everybody. It's a beautiful thing."
A Richie Sambora/Lady Gaga collaboration may sound strange, but the guitarist has teamed up with a variety of
artists over the years, from LL Cool J to Pink to Australia's own Shannon Noll.
"I've always been a guy who loves to find new talent," he said.
But another recent Christmas charity gig had Sambora sweating bullets at the thought of sharing the stage with one of his idols.
"I just did a thing for Toys For Tots and played with Stevie Wonder," he said.
"You don't understand, that guy was my idol as a singer and a writer. I don't really get nervous, but I was pretty nervous. He made it really great for me. Honestly, we jammed and it was killer.
"It was a chance to play with one of my heroes that I grew up listening to and emulating."
Sambora's support of close to a dozen charities keeps him busy as he criss-crosses the US to donate his time for gigs.
He often finds himself at home in his native New Jersey in support of the victims recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
He founded the charity You Can Go Home in his hometown of Woodbridge Township, where there's a street named after him.
"I've been going back and forth from the east coast to the west coast in between the 9 million charity gigs I've been doing," he laughed.
"(When I'm on the east coast) I live in the basement on a blow-up bed at my mom's house, how funny is that?"
Sambora's most recent, third solo album Aftermath of the Lowdown was released in 2012 and featured his candid lyrics about his two stints in rehab, the most recent of which was in 2011.
The 54-year-old, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009, said he might play some new, unrecorded material for fans at Soundwave.
"I've got like two albums worth of stuff in my pocket, but I haven't had a chance to record it yet," he said.
"I would love to lay a new song on you guys. It might happen. I'm not joking; I am thinking about it but with Orianthi in the band, people don't know she can really sing well. She's a really good writer too. It depends on the time frame but I'm gunning for it. I would love that."
Soundwave plays Brisbane's RNA Showgrounds on February 22 and Sydney's Olympic Park on February 23.
Tickets are available through OzTix and Soundwavefestival.com.