TMR: Hi Nita! I just want to thank you for taking time on your day off to talk with us.
NS: Thank you for having me.
TMR: To let you know what inspired me to want to do a feature on the band was that I saw the guys back in 2012 when Alice opened up for Maiden, and then again when you all opened for Motley Crue. I was blown away by the band’s performance on both occasions. You all are definitely much more than a backing band. I wanted to do a feature on the band members, and not just focus on Alice.
NS: Thank you. There was actually a different guitar player with them in 2012.
TMR: Right, Orianthi was playing at that time. When I heard she wasn’t going to be on be on this tour, I was very curious to see who would step in to take her place as she is a big name to replace. You certainly stepped up to the challenge and have done an awesome job.
NS: Thank you, that’s very kind.
TMR: When you joined the band you were stepping into a group of musicians who have been playing together for quite a while, and very much a boys club. How hard was it for you to find your place in the mix of things?
NS: It was actually really easy. The guys are really great and a real professional band. I was really well rehearsed before I came in so it was an easy transition. We all get along really well personality-wise and musically our styles just mesh really well. So it was a quick and painless transition I think.
TMR: Alice obviously has an extensive catalog of music to pick from. Obviously with the Motley tour you guys are playing a greatest hits type set, but you are also playing headlining sets that draw more on that catalog. How long did it take and how tough was it to learn all of those songs?
NS: Umm, I had about three weeks, a little over three weeks to learn twenty-nine or thirty songs. We started out with the headline set, so I had to get the two hour long set down first then we moved down to the fifty minute set for Motley Crue, which was like you said a greatest hits blitz of amazing, well known songs. On the headline set we go into the deeper tracks more for the hardcore fans. We also do some covers in the headline set, and those are always fun to do.
TMR: You guys played some headlining sets this weekend, how do you like those compared to the Crue one.
NS: The headline sets are so much fun. The Crue set is amazing. We love doing the big rooms and it’s kind of nice to be off stage by 8:30pm to catch some football. But with the headline set we’re on stage for a couple of hours and really have a chance to get warmed up and really sink our teeth into the show. You know forty-five or fifty minutes…it goes by so fast you don’t really get a chance to get warmed up and really into it. It’s nice to be on stage for that long where we get to interact with the people and give them a full evening of a show.
TMR: You are very well versed with Iron Maiden tunes, which is a three guitar band, did that help you coming into a three guitar band with Alice Cooper?
NS: It did. The Iron Maidens actually only have two guitar players, but your absolutely right it definitely did help. Just with the arranging of the parts, and also the Iron Maidens is a band that has a lot going on the stage visually. There’s a lot of props, C2 cannons, and monsters coming out. It was nice being prepared doing shows with these distractions on stage. It wasn’t such a huge transition going from a ten foot tall Eddie to a twenty foot Frankenstein.
TMR: You’ve already kind of touched on this, but when it comes to the band there really seems to be a sense of camaraderie. Not only on stage, but you’re great about sharing things on your social media that shows you guys hanging out off the stage as well. Like the other night you guys went and saw Paul McCartney.
NS: Oh yeah, we go out together all of the time. It’s like a family. I feel like I’m out on tour with four big brothers. It’s so much fun. We all went to a football game in Jacksonville yesterday and watched the Jag’s get their first win this season. That was cool. We all watch sports together and go out and have dinner together on days off. It really is a great atmosphere.
TMR: You are really cool about reaching out to the fans with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and bringing them into not just the Alice Cooper world, but your world, like your love of the Seahawks, your dogs, and everything going on with you. Is that something that comes naturally to you, or something you have to work at to do?
NS: That’s a great question. I think it’s a little bit of both really. I’m a pretty open person with my life so if people seem to be interested in what’s going on I don’t mind doing a post or two a day. I’m actually working on a tour blog for my website, so that’s going to be up hopefully in the next couple of days and it’s going to have some photos and stuff of more behind the scenes stuff. I think about when I was starting to play guitar and when I would read magazines and think how cool it would be anytime I found out anything cool about a musician that I liked and didn’t know before. So if I can give that to young guitar players or other musicians, or anybody out there I think that’s a cool thing.
TMR: You’re awesome because you keep seguing into topics that I have down to talk about.
NS: Thanks. I hope you can understand me by the way. I just realize how raspy my voice was from screaming at football all day yesterday. (Laughs).
TMR: Are you doing okay after your Seahawks lost?
NS: Let’s not talk about it…
TMR: It could be worse. You could be living in Cincinnati and have the Bengals.
NS: It’s true. This is true.
TMR: One thing I have noticed about the Social Medial stuff, and it even gets kind of old to read, is that you will post something about the Seahawks, or a gig, or maybe a video showing a guitar part and it never fails that you get a bunch of posts saying “you’re so hot….you’re so hot.” Obviously that is not a bad thing to hear, but does it get old after a while?
NS: Nope. (laughing)
TMR: Well, that’s just something I don’t have to deal with so…
NS: Not at all! I don’t mind it at all. There are also times when I post a video of me playing guitar when people post on technique and stuff which is great and I really appreciate those comments more than anything. I would be lying though if I said I wasn’t flattered when someone goes “oh, you’re beautiful or whatever.” I mean, I go to the gym a lot and take care of myself. I don’t like the really vulgar ones. When some people say stuff it makes me look at my computer or phone screen and go, do people say that stuff to other people? That’s kind of unreal. But one of the other things, since we’re talking about football and social media, it kind of blows my mind when people… a big part of sports culture I know is ragging on fans of other teams and stuff, but I think it’s such a weird thing. It would never occur to me to go on Steve Via’s Instagram or a guitar player who I really admire and look up to and trash talk their team. What a weird thing? Go trash talk on the team’s page! People are like, “you lost, you lost the game.” I’m like what game did I lose. Was I out there? Did I miss a touchdown? I must have missed that. I know it’s all in fun, but social media is a double edged sword. You just have to go with it.
TMR: You had mentioned music magazines before. You have been named number one on Guitar World’s “Top Ten Female Guitarist That You Need to Know” list. How does that make you feel?
NS: Absolutely honored…beyond thankful and honored. Again, with social media there’s so many people saying, “Why do you have to be on a list of female guitarists? Why can’t you just be on a list of guitar players?” And my answer is I don’t know, but I’m happy I’m on it. Just the fact that somebody like Guitar World noticed me and thought highly enough of me to put me anywhere on any list of theirs is a great honor. When they contacted me about putting me on that list they asked, “Would you want to appear on this list?” I said yeah, I thought I was going to be number ten. I was just happy being in there and being included. And then when it came out and I saw my picture up at the top I was just stunned and so thankful. Guitar World has been awesome, especially these last few months posting some stuff from the road and video guitar lessons I did. So, it’s really amazing….really gratifying.
TMR: I can really tell that. One of the neatest things I remember is when that issue came out you posted something on Facebook when you actually went and bought your copy. I could tell that you were really happy at that moment.
NS: Oh yeah! My parents went and bought it. My dad’s a musician too. He bought me my first guitar so for him being able to go to the grocery store and grab a Guitar World and see me in there….that was a great moment. A really really neat moment.
TMR: Your only twenty-six years old, so you have been playing half of your life now. Because you were thirteen when you started, right?
NS: That’s right, exactly half.
TMR: And you already have a heck of a career behind you. What I would like to do is touch on a few of the things you have done and get your thoughts on them.
TMR: You played stadiums with Jermaine Jackson in Africa. How did that come about, and what was it like being in the Jackson circus?
NS: It’s intense. (laughs) It’s really intense. It was a very long show. This was in 2010, and if I remember correctly I think we played three and a half hours. It was a long set. Those were my first stadium shows, so that was really amazing. It’s a good way to get your bearings being on that big stage in front of 30,000 people for three and a half hours. (laughs). And now we’re doing these 25,000 seat arenas and amphitheaters and I’m like okay, we’ve done this before. You got to look at your fingers and say we know how to do this, we’ve done this before so let’s just do it again.
TMR: And that was well before you were with Alice Cooper, how did you land that gig?
NS: I was recommended to Jermaine by an engineer that I had done some sessions for who worked with Michael…the great Michael Jackson. He had actually recommended me to do the “This is It” tour, but before I got to audition they found another guitar player who I ended up replacing in this band funny enough. So I didn’t have a chance to audition for that, which was a bummer. When the Jermaine gig came up and they were looking for a female guitar player I got recommended again and this time I did get to audition and I got the gig. It was so awesome. The whole family is great. I learned so much from Randy (Jackson) who is a great player. It was, overall, and awesome experience.
TMR: Now let’s move on to the Iron Maidens, which is an all-female tribute band to Iron Maiden. I believe you are Mega-Murray in the band.
NS: That’s right. The world’s only all-female tribute to Iron maiden….as far as I know.
TMR: We’re you a big Maiden fan growing up?
NS: Absolutely. I am a big duel guitar fan in general, which is great. And when you get three guitars it’s even better. As the guitar player I am a big, big Maiden fan…a big fan of Dave and Adrian’s harmonized leads. It was a blast being able to play those songs on stage.
TMR: Have you ever got to meet Dave Murray, or to play with him?
NS: I haven’t met Dave, but I have met Adrian. I met Adrian and Nicko. Nicko is a blast. He was actually at our show in Tampa a couple of months ago. I didn’t think he remembered me because we just met at the NAMM show in California a couple of years ago. But we were walking backstage and he looked at me and said, “There’s my Iron Maiden!”
TMR: That’s got to make your day.
NS: Oh, it made my whole year. I ‘m still happy about it.
TMR: Is that something you will go back to, or is that something in the past?
NS: You know, I’m not sure. I’ve been on tour for so long. As soon as I got the Alice Cooper call I have been just completely single-mindedly focused on this tour and this gig. We’re doing eighty some odd shows with Motley Crue and these headline shows. There wasn’t really more hard drive space for anything else in my head. I think never say never, but they’ve got Nikki St. Joe playing guitar permanently now. So, maybe I’ll jump in for a song or tow, or maybe I’ll do a show or two during one of our breaks, but for right now I’m just focused on this.
TMR: Okay, just a couple more and I am going to let you go. I know today is your day off.
NS: What’s a day off? (laugh)
TMR: How about being the house guitar player for the L.A. Kiss?
NS: Well, as I am sure your readers can tell now, I am a huge sports fan so it was so much fun! It was soooo much fun. To get to be picked by the guys and get to stand up there in front of a stadium full of people and play The National Anthem. First of all, just to honor America in that way…I think every musician secretly wants to play The National Anthem at the game. I did not secretly want to do it. I was already going to be playing at the games. When they didn’t have someone to do the anthem I called Harlan, Harlan Hendrickson the director of media. He’s basically the one who puts the whole show together. I said please let me do it! Please, please, please! Just let me do it for the first one and if you don’t like it I’ll never do it again. So he was like okay do it, it’s all yours. I did it and they loved it and I got to do it at every game until I left for this tour. It was a blast. It was really amazing. Gene and Paul were really great to work with. Paul actually took me aside on my last day and said congratulations and that Eric Singer of course used to be in Alice’s band. He said, “We decided that if we have to lose you to anybody, I ‘m glad it’s to these guys because you’re going to a great group of people and we’re really happy for you.”
TMR: Wow, what a cool honor to have Paul Stanley pull you aside and say that?
NS: Absolutely. I get chills just thinking about it.
TMR: We’ve talked about so many things that you have done. You play in Alice Cooper, you have endorsement deals, you work out, you have your dogs at home….how do you do it all? How do you balance everything in your life?
NS: You know, it’s all fun. There’s no work in my life. All of those things you described, the dogs, the guitar playing, the working out, it’s all stuff I love doing. So I’m just so thankful that I get to….I mean yeah, it’s a really busy life. I’m busy all of the time. I wish I could take some more time to see friends, watch movies, or do stuff, but I’m just so thankful that I’ve been able to build this life for myself where I’m busy doing things I like to do all of the time.
TMR: How’s your little Motley dog doing?
NS: She’s so great. I miss her like crazy. The organization that I adopted her from, Motley Zoo, is a great program. I love it. Everybody reading this should check them out. The organization adopts animals and when they can they go to shows and they bring the animals to the concert and let the artist who’s performing take pictures with the animals that are adoptable. And that really helps with their social media push. And hopefully the artist will tweet pictures or Instagram a picture. It really creates awareness and helps these animals find a home. When I saw them doing that at our show I fell in love with that dog. I had to have her flown out. Ironically, she’s the most expensive rescue dog. She had to get a plane ticket at every state (laughs). But the heart wants what the heart wants. I absolutely fell in love with her and knew I needed to have her in my life. So I’m very, very happy.
TMR: Let’s talk about www.nitastrauss.com. You have your own website with things like video lessons, pictures, and a blog. What made you decide to open your own site?
NS: I’m really excited to finally have it. It’s nice to have an official home on the web. With Facebook, Instagram and Twitter it’s so easy to get cluttered and to get lost. People are always like, where are you playing next? Why are you going there? When are you going to be playing here? It’s nice to have a one shop stop for all of that stuff. And actually, I’m going to announce this today, my merch store is opening tomorrow (10/21/14). People have asked about getting guitar picks or signed photos….anything like that. Finally I’m going to be able to have that stuff available. So starting tomorrow (it’s open now!!!) it will be available on nitastrauss.com
TMR: We will be sure to check it out and pick up some stuff!
TMR: Last question. Through social media you have developed a reputation for your taste in music. Tell us what your listening to that we should be as well.
NS: This isn’t anything really new, but if any guitar players out there don’t have Shawn Lane’s “Power of Ten” I HIGHLY recommend it. I’ve been listening to it for years but I’ve just started listening to it again because they are making a documentary about Shawn Lane….the great Shawn Lane and his wife. It made me go back and revisit that album. So I’ve been listening to “Power of Ten” non-stop and its truly a great guitar masterpiece and very under-rated. I definitely recommend that one.
Catch Nita with Alice Cooper on Wednesday, August 19th at U.S. Bank Arena !