Interview by Andrew Daly
They call her ‘Hurricane Nita.’ And it’s with good reason—the shredding guitarist has barnstormed the heavy metal scene with the likes of Alice Cooper, all the while inserting herself into the popular zeitgeist alongside the now pro-rock pop goodness Demi Lovato.
But that can’t be easy—especially given that Strauss does her work as a guitarist, not a vocalist. And so, it’s a thing that Strauss solicited the services of many of the genre’s biggest and brightest to help take her latest solo offering, The Call of the Void, to the masses.
“Doing these vocal tracks definitely lets us reach a bigger audience,” Strauss tells Classic Rock History. “First, we put out ‘Dead Inside,’ which went to number one on rock radio and was the most added song on most streaming sites all over the country. What Dorothy brought to that track was incredible. She’s such a stunning vocalist. Who knows what that track would have looked like without her?”
She continues, “But I’m happy about that; it’s part of the mission. It’s helping me bring the type of statement I want to make to a larger audience. I’m talking about people from all walks of life, not just guitar players. I want to reach people who listen to all different types of music and are into all different styles.”
When Strauss talks about the type of statement she wants to make, it’s obvious that she’s not the sort of artist that is fine with being pigeonholed. If anything, she’s as eclectic and versatile as they come. And that’s a good thing, as audiences are as fickle as ever and have a seemingly lessened ability to keep their attention fixated on any one thing for too long.
But if that bothers Strauss, you’d never know it, “There’s no denying that we’re in a more singles-driven environment as far as new music is concerned, Strauss admits. “It’s often about instant gratification; with that, music has become more disposable. But that doesn’t factor into my thinking, and it’s still very important for me to make full albums. I want to tell full, narrative stories; you can’t do that if you only release singles.”
Still, there’s no denying that being a champion of full albums is a difficult cross to bear. And with that pressure, surely, nervousness ensues. At least… that’s what you’d think. But for Strauss, any and all of that is simply part of her creative process.
“I try to let it all go,” she quips. “If I focus on that stuff too much, it would definitely ass a lot of stress and anxiety. If I’m honest, there’s already enough stress and anxiety that comes with being in this industry, so I try to avoid that. When I’m engaged in the creative process, I try not to think about anything other than the story I’m telling. I worry about the rest later.”
To that end, Strauss had a lot of time to sit within the creative process, as she recorded many of her guitar parts featured across The Call of the Void during the COVID-19 pandemic. But if you’re thinking that Strauss used the elongated period to poke and prod at her work, think again.
“I’m a classic overthinker,” Strauss laughs. “I lay awake at night thinking about what I could have done differently with almost everything. It’s always, ‘What could I have done better,’ or, ‘I need to change this,’ or, ‘How can I improve that,’ which can be exhausting.”
“So, I’m always overthinking nearly every aspect of my life,” she continues, “But I didn’t have the chance to do that with this album. I went in, did my tracks, and was off to the next thing. And because of how busy I was, I didn’t really have the chance to make changes, even if I did want to. But the interesting thing about this record is that because it took so long to get out, I had really lost the fire for a lot of the songs. But once we got going and knew it would finally be out, I was like, ‘Wow… these are really great songs.’ I’m super proud of it, and I feel reignited.”
That reignition is readily apparent as Strauss hit the road in support of The Call of the Void. And if the response on tour has been any indication, the six-stringer’s latest music is going off without a hitch.
When asked which songs she enjoys playing live most, Strauss tells us, “You know… I’m loving all of it. These are fresh songs, and people seem to be loving them. But for me, doing these songs live with a vocalist has left me feeling like I’m in heaven. Kasey Karlsen is out on the road with me, and she’s been incredible. I have to shout her out.”
Further digging into what Karlson brings to the live experience, Strauss continues, “Kasey is new to the industry, and this is her first tour. And we had some technical issues crop up during one of the early shows, but she didn’t miss a beat. She went up the mic, began talking with the crowd, and connected with this beautiful story about her life and her struggle with self-doubt.”
Settling back for a moment before continuing with enthusiasm, Strauss recounted the memory of her young vocalist’s first big moment on a grand scale: “To see Kasey standing there on the stage, being so real with the crowd, and sort of showing that side of herself, it was so inspirational. I try to present a positive message and remind people that while we all struggle with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, it’s important to believe in yourself and overcome adversity.”
There’s truth in Strauss’ words, especially given the road she’s had to travel to get where she is today. If we dial back to the guitarist’s earlier years, you’d find her taking any and all gigs, all in an effort to make a name for herself, making the perpetual cycle of victory she finds herself in today all the sweeter.
“People often ask me how I’ve been able to make a mark in music,” Strauss says. “And honestly, I’m still doing what I’ve always done. If you look back at my career, I went from playing in a deathcore band to playing in Jermaine Jackson’s band to an Iron Maiden cover band, to Alice Cooper, Demi Lovato, and my own music.”
She continues, “So, with regards to playing, there’s no difference in the player I am today compared to back then. I don’t feel like I’ve figured it out anymore. I guess the biggest difference is that I’m in a spot where I get to be more selective about what I take on. I’m thankful for that. But I think it’s important not to lose sight of the journey, where I came from, and how I got here. Because If I didn’t have the same attitude I’ve always had, I might not have had the stones to step out of my longtime gig with Alice and try something different with Demi. I’m still open to trying new things. That will never change.”
Ultimately, Nita Strauss’ career and subsequent success across all her various ventures is a product of being comfortable with the uncomfortable. Ever intrepid and seemingly unfazed by commercial and critical reactions, it’s not hard to see why the now 36-year-old virtuoso goes by ‘Hurricane Nita.’
“I think if any artists stays on the same page for too long, the fans will be able to tell,” Strauss insists. “I know that I’d hear it. I’ve said it a few times; I didn’t want to have singers on this record; I wanted to do another instrumental record. But having the courage to step outside my comfort zone and take a risk in bringing singers in has paid off. But that wasn’t easy for me, and it was different. But I’m so glad I did because amazing talents like Lzzy Hale, David Draiman, and Dorothy brought so much to my music. I was terrified, but I’m glad I was able to make that decision and challenge myself.”
“We live in uncertain times,” Strauss concludes. “And the riskiest thing an artist can do—outside of paying the massive expenses associated with touring—is play it safe. I’ve learned in my career that you need to keep moving forward. So, I promise my next record won’t take as long. I haven’t started writing it, but I have started formulating ideas. But I’m not pushing myself too hard just yet. I only have something like 12 days off between this summer tour and December. But I’m already in a creative headspace, and new ideas are swirling, so it won’t be long before you hear from me again.”
Nita Strauss: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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