Under the RSO banner, Sambora pairs up with legendary guitar slayer and singer Orianthi Panagaris (AKA Ori) for a duo in the mould of Sonny and Cher, but with serious rock chops. The pair have been playing together since they met courtesy of Alice Cooper, in whose band Ori was playing at the time following her stint with Michael Jackson as his lead guitarist. Sambora unabashedly describes this rock ’n’ roll meet-cute as musical love at first sight. “I happened to be in Maui that year and Alice was doing a show,” he says. “I hadn’t seen him in a few years and he found out I was on the island and gave me a call, and goes, ‘Do you want to play this gig?’. Of course I said, ‘Yeah, man.'
“I went to rehearsal and saw Ori. Alice and I were sitting down and catching up and I go, ‘Who the hell is that?’ and he said, ‘Oh, that’s Orianthi, she used to play with Michael Jackson. She plays with me now’, and I went, ‘No, she plays with me now’. Yeah, I stole her. We knew there was something there immediately. There was definitely kinetic energy happening, but then when we played together, we knew something was going to happen at some point.”
Something sure as hell did happen, because since teaming up in 2014 Sambora estimates that they’ve written easily over 70 songs. Hell, they’ve written another five in this last week on vacation. “That’s what we do for fun,” he explains. Notwithstanding their prodigious output, RSO have decided to drip feed fans with five track EPs, the first being Rise and the second Making History, both of which were released this year. “That’s the way people are doing it nowadays, it’s a different business,” Sambora explains of the decision. “I guess it gives people a bit more time to digest not so many things at one time.”
RSO have also installed a home studio to make the process even easier. “Yeah, RSO Kitchen Studios,” Sambora notes. “It happened by accident. We’d sit down in the morning with a cup of coffee and a couple of guitars and start writing, and then when we got Bob [Rock, Bon Jovi producer] involved, he said, ‘I could set up a really amazing studio for you right here’. The advantage of being right there was really working for us. So, I said, ‘Alright, let’s do it’. So, we’ve got really great equipment and I have a door-open policy in my house. I have a lot of musician friends: people walk in and out and we have a lot of fun doing it that way. You wake up in the morning, whether it’s seven o’clock or four am and you have an idea, you throw it down. It expedites the process and it’s fun, because you can do it in your drawers.”
You get a real sense of glee and wonder from Sambora when he talks about how his life has panned out. That this kid from Jersey has come a long way is not something Sambora takes for granted. “I’d be an arse if I wasn’t grateful,” he says. He swings back to his musical mates, by way of example. When RSO were recording their latest single, the pre-Christmas anti-war fable ‘One Night of Peace’, he just happened to bump into Beatle pal Paul McCartney.
“I said, ‘Hey Paul, man, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say come down to the studio and check out some of our new stuff’, and he said, ‘Alright buddy, I’ll be there about 1.30’. I say to myself, ‘He ain’t coming,’ so I didn’t tell anybody else, and then he walked in. He rode his bike by the way. He walked into the studio and everybody was freaking out. We sit down and I played him a couple of things, ‘Magic’ and ‘One Night of Peace’, and he goes, ‘Mate, you have to put a guitar solo in the middle of that’, and I said, ‘Yes, sir,’ and I did it right there and then. I used Paul McCartney as a consultant: that’s how good my life is. How does that happen?”
You can see Richie Sambora and Orianthi’s RSO live as a part of the Under The Southern Stars tour kicking off Saturday January 6 in Tuncurry. Rise and Making History are out now via BMG.