From Small-Town Girl to Big-City Rocker
As a developing artist, launching a music career can be daunting. Everyone pays dues and hustles every day hoping to land the big gig or meet the right person that will ultimately change his or her life. Iron Maidens and Femme Fatale guitarist Nikki Stringfield is no exception, and when she sat down with MC recently, Stringfield was eager to share her experiences and offer the kind of career advice that can help any ambitious artist take their music to the next level.
Stringfield made the trek to Los Angeles in 2012 from a small town near Dallas, TX after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin. She spent the summer in the University of Texas in Los Angeles (UTLA) “study abroad” program, which introduces students to the entertainment business. There, she met instructor and Grammy-winning producer Jeffrey Weber, who encouraged her to attend the Winter National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show in Anaheim.
Prior to NAMM in January 2013, the ambitious guitarist reached out to Schecter Guitars via Facebook inquiring to meet up. To her delight they invited her to their booth. “I went every single day and I met everyone at the company,” says Stringfield. “Go on the last day—Sunday when most people have cleared out. You’ll be one of the last people [companies] see, and they’ll remember you more as opposed to when they’re mobbed by a million people on Friday and Saturday.”
A business relationship was established after NAMM between Stringfield and Schecter President Michael Ciravolo. “He gave me a [receptionist] job to help me stay here in L.A.,” she recalls. “They took me in when I didn’t know anybody in L.A., so it’s a family kind of thing.”
In addition to Ciravolo, Stringfield kept busy making other connections with musicians, who later became fellow band mates and friends. “I’d go to local shows ‘cause there are tons of musicians everywhere,” she asserts. “Just get out and see what’s going on. Put yourself out there. Go to Guitar Center! Sam Ash!”
Currently, Nikki Stringfield plays guitar in heavy metal tribute band The Iron Maidens and glam rock/metal band Femme Fatale, and with live shows being booked in the U.S. and overseas, the bands have to work hard to coordinate and not overlap. Before joining those bands, Stringfield was playing in melodic metal act Before The Mourning, who were good friends with The Iron Maidens. What started as mere friendship between bands soon blossomed into new opportunities.
“The Maidens needed a sub, so I learned a ton of songs and filled in for them,” Stringfield recollects. “I filled in more and more until it turned [into] a full-time position!” Femme Fatale was the same story, and Stringfield has no regrets changing gears. “With my old band, as soon as I wasn’t feeling it, I got out. So if you’re not feeling it, don’t push it.”
Stringfield taught herself guitar and can play back songs by listening to them. In the past, she’s attempted to take formal lessons but was constantly in and out, always busy. However, she yearns to learn music theory to further hone her craft, and it just might come in handy.
When we spoke with Stringfield, she had just come back from a semi-blind audition for former One Direction star Zayn Malik. The opportunity was brought to her attention by a talent scout she met through Ciravolo and his wife, founder of Daisy Rock Guitars. Not much information was disclosed to Stringfield the night before the audition, and she found herself competing against guitarists who had attended music schools such as Berklee College. “That was one of the most nerve-wracking, out-of-my-element type things I have ever done,” she reminisces. “[The audition song] was three chords, super easy, but I’ve never performed to pop/R&B before.”
After such an unnerving experience, Stringfield moves forward with new insight. “I wish I had listened to more styles of music like that,” she reflects. “I would have looked at what other R&B guitarists do and their movements! But that’s how the industry is sometimes. It was a good experience, though. Always go out of your comfort zone! It only helps you learn.”
Nikki Stringfield’s most recent accomplishment was designing and releasing a signature guitar for Schecter (pictured), and she hopes to finish out the year with more touring and making an album with The Maidens’ current lineup. On top of that she’s also cultivating solo work while pursuing collaborations with friends and her boyfriend Brad Jurjens. “So basically, anything that’s being thrown at me I’m like, ‘Yes! I’ll do it!’” she says. “[But] as long as you enjoy doing it, that’s the most important thing.”
Photo by Brad Jurjens
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