Orianthi’s father put a Gibson Cherry Red ES-125 in her hands when she was 6. Playing left-handed at first, the young Orianthi later switched to the right, consuming Elvis Presley and jamming to his ’68 Comeback Special.
“I tried to learn everything I could,” says Orianthi, “all the chords, and the guitar was cherry red, just like now.”
Soon, the young virtuoso switched to electric, and now 30 years later, her journey has come full circle with a customized Gibson Orianthi SJ-200 Acoustic guitar in the same cherry red finish.
“Having my signature Gibson made has been incredible,” says Orianthi. “I keep looking at it like, ‘Wow, this is real.’ It’s finally here, from going to the factory, discussing what I wanted, and with such a great team of people. Gibson is like family. The whole process was really wonderful, but when it was brought to life, it was like, ‘Wow.’ It’s really beautiful.”
Working closely with luthiers at the Gibson Acoustic factory in Bozeman, Montana in late 2019, Orianthi customized the guitar of her dreams. Basing the neck on an ES-345, the Gibson Orianthi SJ-200 Acoustic guitar in Cherry nitrocellulose lacquer features a slightly different SJ-200 body with adjustable saturation and soundhole-mounted controls, an AAA Sitka spruce top with a flamed maple back, and some of Orianthi’s personal customizations, including the lotus neck inlays, a mother-of-pearl “O” symbol (for Orianthi), an ebony fingerboard, Grover Keystone tuners, and a custom LR Baggs Orianthi pickup system.
At first, Robi Johns of Gibson told Orianthi to sit with all of the guitars and find the one that felt right. “Sitting with them at the factory and just going through everything was great,” says Orianthi. “We also modified the pickup to make sure that it was going to pick up the entire body sound because I think a lot of acoustic guitars sound very good, playing with a band or whatever. So we wanted to make sure that this guitar really had that extra push with the pickups, so when you play a lead sound, it doesn’t hurt your ears.”
Putting the 345 neck on the piece was a last-minute modification that Orianthi wanted to make the guitar more manageable as a hybrid acoustic-electric, and she intentionally chose the lotus flower and red color to attract younger customers, specifically women, and everyone, regardless of gender or age.
“This is my dream acoustic,” says Orianthi. “I wanted to make sure that I brought the kid out of everybody. The color is like candy, so when you see it, you want to pick it up.”
She adds, “I wanted to basically appeal to the kid in me. As an artist, I wanted to bring some of that because that’s light energy. That’s inspirational energy. Keeping that childlike enthusiasm alive forever as an artist is really important to me, and just having a guitar that makes you excited to play it.”