As a member of Alice Cooper’s band since 2014, Nita Strauss has solidified herself as a bonafide guitar superstar. Honing her skills for years as a member of The Iron Maidens, Strauss’ talent, combined with an amazing stage presence, made her an obvious choice to replace former Cooper guitarist Orianthi when that guitarist quit the band to pursue other interests.
Now Strauss’ presence and onstage talents are considered second only to Cooper himself, catapulting her into the mainstream as one of the top female guitarists in the world, as well as one of the top guitarists in the world, period.
Practice makes Perfect
The songs on her first solo album, Controlled Chaos, are diverse but have one thing in common: Strauss’ passion and dedication for the guitar. Her playing is comparable to some of the great shredders out there today, but it’s clear she has her own style and a lot to say.
But it hasn’t come easily for Strauss as some might think. She readily admits it took hundreds of hours of practice, countless hours in vans touring the nation, and a lot of meals served by less than five-star restaurants to get to where she is now. She also isn’t shy about admitting that it will likely take many, many more hours of practice to get to where she wants to be.
Strauss told The Associated Press in a recent article that her work ethic comes from fierce competitive spirit, a spirit that won’t let her think that being good enough is ever really going to be good enough.
In any competition, “There’s going to be someone that wins and someone that doesn’t win,” she said. “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.”
Controlled Chaos is a stunning debut for the budding superstar, offering a diverse collection of tunes that just about every type of music fan can enjoy.
“This is my first album and first chance to show my personality,” she told AXS, “so I didn’t want to make a strictly rock or a strictly metal album. I wanted to make an album that encompasses all the different styles and emotions I’ve gone through as a person. On Controlled Chaos you’ll hear the dark and aggressive side, but you’ll also hear a bright and fun side and a calm and peaceful side. It’s a snapshot of me as a guitar player.”
Touring a big part of life
Touring has become a huge part of life for Strauss as Cooper, it seems, is constantly on the road. But she is taking advantage of a brief break in his schedule to stage a few shows of her own, like the one she will present in the intimate confines of The Club Room at The Clyde Theatre on May 25.
These types of shows are special for her, not because she doesn’t still like what she does while touring with Cooper, but because she can finally see the fruit of all her hard work.
“I’ve been touring since my teens,” Strauss told Ultimate Classic Rock, “and to finally see my own name on the marquee and see my own name on the tickets, it’s really an amazing feeling.”
That she is a female in a male-dominated field is not lost on Strauss. Guitar World recently put her on the cover of their magazine and named her the best female guitarist in the world, lifting her up into the ranks of great guitar players who have appeared on the prestigious magazines cover, including some she idolized growing up, like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai.
“When I was growing up,” Strauss told AXS, “my heroes were all guys, because it wasn’t normal to be a female guitar player.”
She does see the industry slowly shifting, with strong female personalities like Lzzy Hale of Halestorm and her predecessor Orianthi becoming talents that demand to be heard.
“I’m not usually one to get too hung up on the male-vs.-female side of things, but it is interesting to see the dynamic shifting and it’s happening across the board,” she said. “It’s cool to be a part of that.”
Whether she gets hung up on it or not, being a female in a male-dominated genre still has its drawbacks. Strauss still regularly gets the “because she’s a pretty face” comments when she appears on magazine covers and in promotional ads, but she tries not to feed the negativity by commenting on it. Strauss simply lets the music do the talking, confident in the knowledge that she can “walk the talk” and has paid her dues.
“Well, when all of those guys spend their entire lives in vans, hungry, cold and tired, driving through the night, hoping to sell enough T-shirts at the next show to get you to the show after that, taking time away from their families and studies and their friends to pursue their dreams, then they can be on the cover of all of those magazines, too. 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.”
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