Nita Strauss has just finished signing the preorders of her new album, Controlled Chaos, when she talks to AP on the eve of its release via Sumerian Records. The guitar virtuoso, who is most known for serving as Alice Cooper’s touring guitarist, is about to launch her own career as a headlining act—a personal, professional and cultural feat.
“I’ve been touring since my teens,” Strauss says, “and to finally see my own name on the marquee and see my own name on the tickets, it’s really an amazing feeling.”
But while she feels a great sense of accomplishment, it wasn’t totally unanticipated. “I almost never expected it to not be like this because I’ve worked so hard,” she asserts. “I always had this mindset of if I try hard enough, there’s no way I could fail.”
Ever since she began teaching herself guitar at age 13, Strauss toured and played shows with any type of musical act she could get her hands on. A metalhead from the start (she loves Megadeth, In Flames and At The Gates), she would consistently take the stage with rock and even funk bands to further her knowledge and skill as much as possible.
Now, she has earned herself a column in Guitar World and has even been on the cover of the magazine, and publications and metal fans across the globe have taken notice of her.
Josh disappeared for about an hour before my clinic yesterday and I could not figure out where he went… imagine my utter surprise when he walked into the dressing room holding this ???????? On newsstands now… the holiday issue of @guitarworldmagazine!!!! I grew up reading Guitar World religiously just like many of you guys reading this now… and to be on the cover myself is a dream come true. Thank you so much to Damien Fanelli and all at Guitar World, @bradtolinski for the incredibly insightful interview and my @thejoshv for making this a reality. This article is also the first time I have ever gone into depth explaining the meaning of one of my songs.. normally I always leave my music up to the listener’s interpretation, but I did give the inspiration for Our Most Desperate Hour in this article. Super grateful for the chance to talk about my story with the Guitar World audience!! Pick up the magazine and check it out for yourself ???????????????????????? #guitarworld #guitarworldmagazine #nitastrauss #egokillstalent
Despite her growing fame, she stays humble, a quality you can even hear in her voice, which always takes the tone of appreciation. When she’s not playing shows with Cooper or laying down tracks, she is hosting all-ages guitar clinics where she meets kids who yearn to become the next big pro.
“One of the questions I get asked a lot is, ‘How do you know when you’re good enough?’” Strauss relates. “And I say, ‘If you’re really supposed to be doing this then you’ll know that you’re never good enough. There is no good enough. Once you’ve mastered something, there is always something more to learn. Take a guy like Yngwie Malmsteen, who has completely mastered the neoclassical craft—he made a blues album.’”
This intense sense of dedication and work ethic came not from music, however, but from athletics. Strauss, who prides herself on her commitment to fitness, says that youth sports was her greatest disciplinarian.
“There’s going to be someone that wins and someone that doesn’t win,” she explains. “If you want to win, you have to try harder. That’s the attitude that saw me through my guitar playing. No one can run the track for you. No one can do your pushups for you. It’s just sheer stubbornness.”
To make it in the music industry as an independent female guitarist requires that kind of stubbornness. Growing up, she looked to players such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai as musical role models, both because they were supremely talented and because the industry was so male-dominated.
“When I was growing up,” Strauss reflects, “I didn’t have a lot of female heroes. Later on, I found Jennifer Batten and Michelle Meldrum, but when I was growing up, it wasn’t normal to be a female guitar player. Now when I walk into a Guitar Center, people don’t ask me who I’m shopping for,” she says, laughing. “I’d like to tour on this record a lot to show that it can be done.”
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of female heroes. Later on, I found Jennifer Batten and Michelle Meldrum, but when I was growing up, it wasn’t normal to be a female guitar player. Now when I walk into a Guitar Center, people don’t ask me who I’m shopping for.”
Thanks to female leaders such as herself, music culture has begun to change. Not only is she doing a full U.S. tour in support of Controlled Chaos, but she is also the first-ever female player to have her own Ibanez Signature Series.
“It’s a really beautiful and classy color combination,” she says of her model, “which I think stands out anywhere. Beyond that, it also has a lot of features on it that aren’t found in other guitars. It’s got my signature pickups in it. It’s also got a combination of woods that not a lot of guitars use (quilted maple, mahogany and ebony), and to have those three woods together makes a really unique, well-rounded sound.”
In addition to custom designing her own line of Ibanez guitars, Strauss was also featured on WWE’s yearly WrestleMania event when she played the entrance theme for Shinsuke Nakamura. While there, she had the opportunity to meet and play alongside Halestorm vocalist/guitarist Lzzy Hale.
“It’s shifting like that across a lot of industries,” Strauss notes of the increasing female presence. “You look at UFC, WWE with the Women’s Evolution, NASCAR; you see women completely killing it in what was previously a man’s world. It’s amazing to be a part of on some level.
“You see people who are sexist if you go the bank or the car wash or wherever it is, so I don’t think it’s a music industry specific thing,” she continues. “The nice thing about the music industry is if you’re good at what you do, you can shut those people down really quickly. They might have that attitude with me before they see me play, but they usually don’t afterward.”
“You see people who are sexist if you go the bank or the car wash or wherever it is, so I don’t think it’s a music industry specific thing. The nice thing about the music industry is if you’re good at what you do, you can shut those people down really quickly.”
And if there is still any doubt regarding her shredding abilities, listening to her entirely instrumental record should clear things up.
“I’ve always found that I communicate better through playing the guitar,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words to say. Music is the most honest form of communication; the way you can express yourself most truly.”