Nita Strauss talks touring with Alice Cooper and Demi Lovato, plus the 2023 release of ‘The Call of the Void’

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOUB) – Nita Strauss is a guitar player who has made a name for herself with both her solo work as well as her many high-profile collaborations.

In 2014 she was hired to be the touring guitarist for rock legend Alice Cooper. She was made the official guitar player for the LA Rams, even receiving a Super Bowl ring after their victory in the Super Bowl in LVI 2022. In 2022 she became the touring guitarist for Demi Lovato and featured on her 2023 record REVAMPED on La La Land.

Strauss has also had a very successful solo career. 2018’s Controlled Chaos is a fully instrumental record that puts Strauss’ guitar work front and center. She followed that up with 2023’s The Call of the Void, a record that not only evolves Strauss’ guitar work but features vocal performances from a wide array of collaborators including Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), David Dramian (Disturbed), and Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy).

Strauss will perform at Sonic Temple 2024 at the Historic Crew Stadium on May 16, alongside acts such as Disturbed, Evanescence, and Judas Priest. Her interview is a part of WOUB Culture’s preview coverage of the festival.

WOUB’s Nicholas Kobe interviewed Strauss, and you can find a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity, below. 

A press image of image of guitarist Nita Strauss posing in front of stacks of amps with a guitar in her hand.
Nita Strauss []
Nicholas Kobe: If you had to describe your music in one sentence, what would you say?

Nita Strauss: I play high-energy, guitar-driven rock music.

You released your most recent solo album, The Call of the Void, last summer. Now that you have a little bit of time between you and the release, how are you feeling about it?

Strauss: I’m really proud of it. It was a record five years in the making and it was a huge step for me stylistically to step outside of only doing instrumental guitar music and work with these different vocalists and collaborators. So yeah, I’m immensely proud of it, and I’m having fun touring on it.

Can you explain why you chose to make this your second record to include more than just instrumental music? 

Strauss: It’s just kind of time. I think I’ve worked with a lot of different artists. I’ve expanded myself musically in a lot of different ways and it was just time for me to expand myself, and my style even more, take some risks, and step outside my comfort zone a little bit.

You have a pretty diverse cast of artists together for this record. What was it like bringing all those people into one project?

Strauss: I think the main thing was just to make it feel like a cohesive record while still being obviously respectful of each artist’s style, their type of music. I think we got there stylistically and the whole record makes sense altogether, but it’s not like, “Wow, here’s Alice Cooper on a song that doesn’t sound like anything that he would ever do, or Lzzy Hale or Chris Motionless on songs that don’t sound like anything they would ever do.” Everybody stayed true to their own style and we were able to mesh well rather than just saying like, “Hey, here’s this song that has nothing to do with you, go sing on it.”

Yeah, fair enough. There are still some instrumental pieces. What did you want to do with those and change your guitar work?

Strauss: I wanted to step it up. I want to take it up a notch. I’ve developed a lot as a guitar player since 2018, so I wanted to push my own limits and test my boundaries and I did that too. Relearning that stuff for tour. It’s like, “What was I thinking?”

As an instrumentalist, I’m just curious, how do you pick what you want to practice?

Strauss: I really just practice what I have coming up on tour. I wish I had some secret sauce, “if you want to get fast, do this,” besides just use a metronome and keep doing it. My practice routine is 100 percent devoted to whatever I’m playing on stage next. So I don’t really have a lot of, it’s a weird way to say it, luxury practice time where I’m like “today I think I’ll work on this,” or “today I think I’ll try this new technique.” I would like to have more time for that, but, the next thing I have coming up is my solo band is going back on tour with Mammoth WVH, so I’m going to be working up that set and making sure that I have all those songs dialed in.

From that, I go to Australia with Alice Cooper and I have to make sure that I’m brushed up on the Alice Cooper set. I haven’t played those songs since October, so it’ll be a five-month break, which is a long time to not play even the songs I’ve been playing for almost 10 years. I’m Eighteen, School’s Out, and Poison, I still got to practice them. I’m not going to step on stage for the first time in five months and play ’em for the first time. Again, you have to work it up. So just whatever’s coming up next is what I’ve put my time and energy into.

Yeah. Just kind of wider talking about these different tours, touring with your solo band, touring with Demi Lovato, touring with Alice Cooper, what kind of makes all those different besides just the music?

Strauss: I think it’s also the people that you surround yourself with. I’m really lucky that every tour that I’ve done lately, Alice and Demi and my solo stuff and working with the LA Rams – it’s great teams of people. We always joke that it’s not the 90 minutes on stage you get paid for. It’s the other 22 and a half hours in the day  – that’s what you’re getting paid for.

The music’s fun. Being on stage in front of people, that’s not work. The real time that you put in is the time that you’re away from your family, that you’re on tour buses, planes, trains, and automobiles, spending time in very close quarters with these other people. But every camp I get to work with is awesome. There is no gig that I have that I’m like, “man, I don’t really want to do that.” I get excited about everything I’ve been doing.

That’s good to hear. So your tour recently with Demi Lovato was the first tour you did with her?

Strauss: It was.

How was that experience? What’s something you learned from doing that tour with her that was kind of something you had never really encountered before with Alice Cooper or solo?

Strauss: It wasn’t all that different, to be honest. Demi’s a rockstar. We did a rock show. I think a lot of people expected that I was going to go into this very well-oiled pop machine and it wasn’t like that. She wanted to do a rock tour. We did a rock tour and we had a blast. We had a grand time. It wasn’t so different from any other tour I’ve ever done.

That’s interesting to hear. Considering how much she shifted her style, it seemed less like you were going to have to change to meet her versus she was already going in the direction to where you guys made sense.

Strauss: Totally. She made a much heavier album than anything she’d done before. They were looking for musicians to execute that style, and I think if they had wanted that more polished pop style, they could have gotten a lot better players than me. So I think that they grabbed me because they wanted what I brought to the table and it was fun. We had a blast. I adored working with Demi and everybody in the band and I hope that our schedules line up to do some more.

Awesome, that’s great to hear. You briefly mentioned it, but your involvement with the LA Rams as a football team, obviously being a part of a football organization is very different than being a part of a rock band. How has that kind of experience shaken out for you over the years?

Strauss: That one is different. I’ll say that. It’s really exciting as I was born five miles from SoFi Stadium where the Rams play. So this is as hometown as it gets for me, I am a huge football fan, so to get to not only go to all the home games, but be there and play guitar through one of the biggest PAs in the world and hype up my team, hype up our fans, it’s a unique adrenaline pumping, exciting experience. I’m sad the season’s over, but excited for next year.

How has the relationship built between you and the members of that organization who aren’t musicians?

Strauss: I don’t know that it has built a whole lot except for the fact that I’ve been working with them full-time during the season since 2020. So now it’s been a few years. We have a lot of trust in each other, but it’s also kind of always been like. I feel very lucky that the Rams Entertainment Organization hired me because they like what I do. So even from the beginning, they weren’t micromanaging me too much. My assignment for the game is basically, “Here’s a Metallica song, just play this and do some shredding and hype up the fans.” It’s a no-brainer. So it’s fun, it’s easy, we have a great time together. The fans are incredible. The team’s awesome. I know I’ve just been gushing throughout our whole interview, but I’m just really happy.

I mean, it’s fair. Considering it’s your hometown and you are a football fan, I get it. So what’s something that you’re looking forward to with now, going out and touring with your solo band?

Strauss: Touring with my solo band is an almost cathartic experience because I have spent a long part of my career playing other people’s music. I’ve been touring as a solo artist since 2018, so this is not that long, six years now. But every time I get to do it, it’s a different feeling because it’s something that we built ourselves. It’s not going out and playing songs that other people wrote that they have that connection to. This is my music that I have that connection to.

When I play these songs that I wrote from this emotional place, I feel it like that on stage. I love playing Schools Out. I love playing Poison and Billion Dollar Babies, but I don’t have any personal connection to those songs. So going out there and playing my music, sink or swim, fail or succeed, it’s on our terms and we built it ourselves and it’s a special thing to do.

Absolutely. What’s something you’re looking forward so far as playing a big festival like Sonic Temple?

Strauss: I’m so excited to come to Sonic Temple. I performed there several years ago in its previous incarnation, and it was one of the craziest experiences of my entire life because I was there to do the national anthem in 2017. Monster Energy brought me out to play the national anthem, and I was standing on stage, line checked, ready to go, waiting for the signal, and then the sirens hit and the evacuation orders came down. There was going to be a storm, but it was like a clear blue sky, with nothing around. And I was like, “Are you kidding me? My song’s a minute and a half long, can I play it real quick and then you can evacuate and then I’ll go back to the hotel and be safe there?” And they’re like, “No, everybody out right now.” I took cover in one of the tunnels for about four hours while the storm just absolutely hammered the entire stadium.

Once it dried out and then we got all clear to come back, I went back out on stage, played the national anthem for a minute and a half, and then went back to my hotel.

Well, I’m hoping that this year that doesn’t happen for you.

Strauss: No, that’s not going to happen. I will just add to that, I’m so glad actually that it happened the way that it did because coming back after the storm and getting to sort of open the festival back up, being the first music that people heard before the next band went on was a crazy experience. I have chills just thinking about it right now, how cool that was. We had the Dying to Live Foundation out there and the color guard and it was so special. While obviously I would not wish the rain on any festival, and that sucks, it turned out to be such a special experience to be able to bring the rock back, turn the volume back up, and set the stage for the rest of the bands and artists that were performing.

Yeah, you got that extra four hours of just bottled-up excitement from the fans.

Strauss: Exactly. Everyone was all wet. They’re all excited to hear music and appreciate it a little bit more. So yeah, it was cool.

Absolutely. I guess my last question is what, looking into the future, what’s next for you in terms of your involvement with other artists or artists you might want to collaborate with in the future, but also your solo work and where you’re going from here?

Strauss: I’m definitely going to have a busy year ahead. I have my schedule pretty mapped out until the end of the year already and it’s only January 22. I have my dates up until pretty much the end of the year, close to the end of the year. I’m going to be busy on the road, which is how I like it. So I’m going to enjoy every second, soak it all in, and then we’ll see where the year after that takes me.