Nita Strauss Is Proof Ladies Can Wail Hard Rock Guitar
36 Year Old Has Been Touring With Alice Cooper For Nearly a Decade
Jeff Walker / Entertainment Interview
Guitarist Nita Strauss has toured all over the world, performed before millions, spent 2022 on stage with Demi Lovato, and spent the better part of a decade slinging her axe alongside legendary rocker Alice Cooper. Just 36 years old she's built quite a resume and reputation as an exceptional guitar player.
Strauss admits music was embraced in her early years. "My dad was a touring musician. I always had music and instruments around me. I was used to the lifestyle. I was 13 when I first picked up the guitar. I tried a few different instruments, but the guitar just felt right. You can usually tell when something becomes a part of you."
Like a small group of musicians, Strauss learned by applying herself. "For the most part I was self taught. My dad was a bass player so he showed me a few chords and got me around the fret board." Her father James Gartland Strauss was a member or the 1970's rock group Jiva, signed to George Harrison's vanity label Dark Horse Records. "They had a run at stardom, opening for Fleetwood Mac back in the day."
No doubt music is in the family bloodstream. Through her father's ancestry Nita is related to legendary classical 19th century composer Johann Strauss. She admits to being raised on a variety of genres, including classical music while listening to harder metal bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden.
Strauss' career path took an unorthodox path. "I was in my first band at 15. At 17 I dropped out of school and just started to pursue music." She doesn't advocate forgoing education. "Not at all. If you drop out with no clear vision, that's crazy. However, I knew my calling and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I had my parents blessing." She adds, "20 years later my gut instinct proved right."
Unlike many young teenage girls coming of age in the late 1990's, Strauss didn't lean toward boy bands or contemporary radio, rather finding her place in a specific genre. "I didn't have a lot of friends my age growing up. And the friends I did have were much older. They turned me on to harder edged music, especially bands from Scandinavia and England. I was drawn to the hard rocking sound. Music presented a lot of opportunities for me." She adds, "Metal and hard rock are cool."
The 20th century unleashed a bevy of talented female guitar players, most notably in the blues era, with a host of hard rocking women (Joan Jett, Nancy Wilson, Suzi Quattro, Joan Armatrading & Lita Ford) paving the way for newer artists such as Strauss. However Strauss admits she's drawn to a more singular influence.
"I gravitate more towards technique. Admittedly there are a ton of great guitar players out today but I appreciate skill and artistry over recognition. I think cats like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani bring a lot to the table. As for the ladies, I really admire Jennifer Batten." A revered session musician Batten toured with Michael Jackson and recorded with the late Jeff Beck. "Many of the best female guitar players often fly under the radar. However we are getting more credibility lately."
Notwithstanding, Guitar World recently named Strauss Number #1 among the '10 Female Guitar Players You Should Know', an accolade she takes in stride. "Lists such as those are crazy. Come on, who's better at a particular art form than another. I don't take it too seriously. At the end of the day I'm just happy to be part of the conversation. Who's the best or who's number one, it's all subjective."
One honor she's rightfully earned is being named the first female signature artist with Ibanez Guitars. "I dreamed about that from the very start. To have my name among shredders such as Vai and Satriani is awesome." Currently Ibanez has signature guitars for three female artists on its books: Yvette Young’s two Talman models, Lari Basilio’s LB1 and Strauss’s JIVA10 and newly unveiled JIVAX2-GH. "We've paid our dues, hopefully that's just the beginning."
Strauss put out her first solo album 'Controlled Chaos' (2018) which appears to be appropriately titled for her brand of guitar wizardry. "It's interesting hearing people talk about my style. My style is my music. I'm not trying to emulate anyone, just be myself." The album is currently available worldwide through Sumerian Records. Her 2022 single 'Dead Inside', featuring David Draiman of Disturbed, became the first song by a female solo artist to go to #1 at rock radio.
Strauss has been touring steadily with the king of shock rock Alice Cooper since 2014. At 36, most of the songs she provides guitar licks to became Cooper standards literally prior to her popping on the scene. "It is a little surreal to think about it. Songs like 'I'm Eighteen' and 'Halo of Flies' came out 15 years before I was born."
She's out again this year with Cooper on his 'Too Close For Comfort' tour. Although she agrees Cooper's shows may be visually stunning, the road is more subdued. "Behind the scenes it's not as shocking in 2023. Alice has a very loving camp. He's an awesome entertainer and very loyal to those around him. He keeps the same band. Touring and performing alongside him is incredible, and it's really helped me improve my skills as a guitar player."
Prior to coming on board with Cooper, Strauss did a short stint in Iron Maidens, an all girl Iron Maiden tribute band. "I filled in for about a year and a half. They put on a great stage show. Again it made me a better player." Strauss played the part of Mega Murray (a salute to guitarist Dave Murray). "I had a lot of fun doing that."
More recently she's released the single 'Winner Takes All' with Alice providing the vocals. "I co-wrote the song with Tommy Henriksen, who is in Alice's band. I'm not really a singer. I sing a little when I'm out on tour with Alice, as does his wife Sheryl, so it's incredibly cool to have Alice's voice on the track."
Regarding the new single, "I've been with him (Alice) for nearly a decade now and it's been great to lend my sound to his legendary songs on stage. But this time around it's really cool to have his iconic voice on a heavy metal rock song of mine. Alice gets me on an organic level." Strauss' second full length album is due to be released later this year.
2023 will be very busy for Nita Strauss. "We have Alice's solo shows through the spring. Then I'll be going out on a solo tour in early summer. Doing 18 shows in June and July." She re-connects with Cooper when he is a special guest on the Motley Crue and Def Leppard summer tour. "When I first came on with Alice in 2014 we toured with Motley Crue, so I know a lot of the guys."
She wraps up the year on the 'Freaks on Parade Tour' with Cooper co-headlining with Rob Zombie. "It's a crazy schedule, but one that will ultimately keep me on top of my game." Strauss does enjoy the pace and treasures her own gigs. "When I'm out with someone like Demi (Lovato) or touring with Alice, I'm a hired gun. I'm playing their music. When it's my show I get to do my songs. It's a nice balance."
Lowcountry guitar fans will get to witness Strauss' expertise up close when Alice Cooper brings his 'Too Close For Comfort' tour to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center on Monday May 15th. It's not her first visit to Charleston. "I've been with Alice almost 10 years now, so I've played in Charleston."
Unfortunately she's not had time to play tourist in the Holy City. "Sadly no. Usually we're in and out in a day, and the day is super busy. Hopefully I'll come back to see the sites. I hear good things about Charleston. Maybe I'll bring my solo tour there in the future.
To discover more on this incredible hard rocking guitar slinger including tour dates and her physical fitness regiment Body Shred visit her website at https://www.nitastrauss.com/