Lindsey Stirling Interview: Famed Violinist Talks Christmas Special and Pandemic-Induced Mental Health Struggles
Image attributed to Sydney Takeshta
Lindsey Stirling is known all over the world for her unique, futuristic, violen-driven electronic music. Since the release of her 2012 self-titled debut, the Arizona-raised, Los Angeles-based artist has racked up tens of millions of followers and more than three billion total views on YouTube. The single, “Crystallize,” alone has over 238 million views to date. Her sophomore album, Shatter Me, was certified Gold after debuting at number two on the Billboard Top 200 and held the number one spot on the Classical Albums Chart for 21 consecutive weeks.
Stirling’s third album, Brave Enough, featured guest appearances from Dan + Shay, Christina Perri, Rivers Cuomo, Andrew McMahon and others, and she earned a second Billboard Music Award for “Top Dance/Electronic Album.” Her latest release, Artemis, debuted at number one on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums Chart and remained there for 15 combined weeks. She wrote The New York Times bestseller, The Only Pirate at the Party, with her sister, was the runner-up on Season 25 of Dancing with the Stars and appeared on America’s Got Talent.
"I feel like my battles with mental health issues have been definitely worse this year than since I started with anorexia."
Because touring is not possible during 2020, the Platinum-selling artist is bringing a dazzling new Christmas show direct to living rooms with the Lindsey Stirling: Home for the Holidays live streaming special. The ticketed event, set for Saturday, December 12, 2020, will air at two exclusive show times: noon Pacific/3:00 PM Eastern and 5:00 PM Pacific/8:00 PM Eastern. Following the second showing, the special will be available on demand for 72 hours. The show features Stirling performing favorite seasonal tunes brought to life by stylized sets, talented dancers and glittering costumes in a spectacle greater than any standard venue could provide. Tickets can be purchased on Lindsey's official website (lindseystirling.com).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Lindsey, how are you doing during this pandemic?
Lindsey Stirling: I’m doing okay. There’s definitely been some ups and downs and mental health things that have come this year, but all in all, I’ve found some silver linings, so I’m doing okay.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Glad to hear that. Let’s start by talking about your livestream event, Home for the Holidays.
Lindsey Stirling: Yea! I’m so excited about that! It’s been so fun to work on. I had two goals for it. I wanted to create something. I felt the need to be creative, and I needed an outlet. Also, there’s my crew and dancers. It’s not easy to help people if you can’t hire them for months, and you were planning on it. So I wanted to have something to bring us all together to work on as a team. It was so wonderful and just an overwhelming feeling of being so grateful to be doing it and working. The dancers were excited to dance again. So there was just this overwhelming feeling of gratitude from all of us as we created it, and I hope people feel that as they watch it.
Also, I just knew that there’s going to be a lot of people that are not with their families or couldn’t be with loved ones, and people couldn’t go to concerts. I thought that this is one thing I can do to bring some joy to some people.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Of course, these are the same dancers that are seen in your videos.
Lindsey Stirling: Yeah, it’s my girls! They’ve toured with me for years and been in so many of my videos. It’s so important to bring my team together, and we were together. It was like we were all on tour again making it. It felt we were all on the tour bus again. You know, we had snacks late at night after a full day of filming. It just felt so good.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What makes Home for the Holidays different from what you do on tour?
Lindsey Stirling: I really didn’t want to just film our tour show. That would’ve been much easier to just rent a theater and all of us go there. A live film never feels the same when you’re watching it on a screen. It just doesn’t. I think it just loses most of its magic, so I wanted to make something that kind of feels it has the aesthetic of a music video almost but it feels like a show also because we filmed it seamless. It doesn’t cut like a music video. Each performance is like a seamless performance, so it kind of blends the world between the two. These are things you could never do in a live show, the kind of costumes we were slipping into and hours to set up for every song. So, yeah, it was really fun. I think it will be really entertaining for people. People won’t have a chance to get bored.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How did your passion for the violin begin, Lindsey?
Lindsey Stirling: It started when I was super little because my parents loved classical music, and so they would take me and my sisters to these orchestra concerts like the community event orchestra shows. Basically, there were all these free orchestra concerts in Santa Ana. So it was that and the playing of classical music at home that just made me want to play the violin when I was six years old.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How has your musical style evolved over the years?
Lindsey Stirling: It started out classical, and it wasn’t until I was in high school that I decided I would play in a rock band. I wanted to make the violin a little more edgy, a little more fun. My mom and dad were so supportive, and they helped me buy an electric violin because I couldn’t quite afford it. I joined a band. Then I really started playing electronic music and started delving into some dub stuff and fusion stuff in college. It just evolved as my tastes evolved, and that has been fun. It kept it fresh for me rather than just liking certain kinds of music and playing another kind. I thought, “Why can’t a violinist play the kind of music she likes, too?”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I think you have a beautiful voice and should sing more. Do you enjoy it?
Lindsey Stirling: I definitely feel that I’m a much better violinist than a singer, which is why I usually stick to violin. But I do enjoy it when I sing. It terrifies me to sing in live shows because it’s one thing being in a studio and having countless takes. But if you do it in a studio, you’ve got to do it live, so that would terrify me. Maybe that’s why I don’t sing as much.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You registered your YouTube channel in 2007. Considering both the ups and downs, how would you describe your journey over the last 13 years?
Lindsey Stirling: Oh, man, with a lot of perseverance! With the ups and downs, you just have to remind yourself over and over and over again that you can do it. I actually really became aware how often, even in the last few months, I say to myself out loud, “I can do this. I got this.” I do it all the time. I think it just becomes a muscle in me that automatically flexes because I think we all do that to ourselves a lot.
I know sometimes I get very easily filled with doubt, so I have to combat it really strongly with a “No. I can do this. I believe in myself. I know I can.” As I said, I’ve only recently become aware of how much I say, “I got this. I can do this.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You’ve spoken about how you tried to get into the music industry in the beginning. How do you think your career would be different if you’d been successful?
Lindsey Stirling: I’m very grateful that I went into the back door a little bit. When I first really started pursuing music, it was back in 2009/2010, and you had to have a record label. There just wasn’t another way to get your music out there, and I’m so grateful that I was lucky enough to choose a different path because nobody was interested in the young violinist at the time (laughs). I’m grateful for that because otherwise, I would’ve been in some record label contract that probably wouldn’t have understood what to do with me once they got me, and then they would’ve just shelved me or dropped me. I would’ve had all of my stuff overseen by people who didn’t quite understand my vision. It’s really hard to find people these days that get your artistic vision, the thing that you do.
I’m so grateful that I’m not owned by anybody. I’m not under any contract. Nowadays, lots of musicians go the independent route. But back when I did it, it really wasn’t much of a thing. I’d never heard of people doing that, but I’m very lucky.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You have a podcast called String Sessions where you interview different artists. Were you apprehensive about the interview process in the beginning?
Lindsey Stirling: You know, I was apprehensive when I was about to start. I thought to myself, “This will be fine.” Then, yeah, when I was about ready to interview these people, I was shocked because it was a lot of work. I gained a lot of respect for people who do this for a living like yourself. It’s a skill to run an interview, for sure. So right before we were going to start, I said, “Shoot, this is going to be a lot harder than I expected.” (laughs) But it was a lot of fun once I got comfortable with it. I really enjoyed it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How did your relationship with Amy and Evanescence begin?
Lindsey Stirling: That began back in 2002 or 2003 as an avid fan (laughs). I mean, I was such a big Evanescence fan, and I loved her. I did little music videos with my friend to Amy’s songs. Then once I became a musician myself, I covered one of her songs back in 2012 or something, and it did really well. Amy heard it and thought it was really cool. So the relationship has kind of grown from me being a fan.
Then I was so excited when they actually reached out and wanted me to play on the last Evanescence album, which was just a dream come true for me. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, yes!” From that, we ended up touring together, and that was so cool and one of my favorite tours I’ve ever done. Then Amy performed on my album. So we’ve just become friends through the years. But it is crazy to think that I was just a fan.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You look so happy and contented playing your music. Does that fulfill your ambition, or are you interested in other forms of expressing yourself as well?
Lindsey Stirling: I get self-fulfilled doing what I do. It’s the whole scope of it for me. I love playing the violin. I love that I get to write the music and that I get to make the videos. Making the videos is so much fun. For me, it’s the whole package that really does fulfill me so much. That’s just my life, and I’m super contented. Of course, I still have other ambitions like I recently wrote a comic book. I loved doing that process. I hope to get more into hosting because I find joy in doing the podcast and being kind of a host of those episodes. So yeah, I’ve got ambitions for sure, but at the end of the day, I really love what I get to do.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Perhaps you’d like to share that joy with someone special?
Lindsey Stirling: Absolutely! That’s probably my biggest ambition. My sister just had her third baby a few days ago. I love my nieces and nephews! I really hope someday to get married and have a family of my own. That’s a big important thing for me.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You’ve postponed your tour to 2021. I’ve spoken with musicians who have rescheduled to 2022 because they fear the pandemic will last through next year.
Lindsey Stirling: Oh, my goodness!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You’ll be touring on the album Artemis?
Lindsey Stirling: Yep. That’s the plan, and I have good hopes that it will work out for next year. If not, then we’ll push it back another year. But I think it’ll happen.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You mentioned that you had some mental health issues this year. So with the added stress of the pandemic, how do you stay mentally and physically healthy?
Lindsey Stirling: I feel like my battles with mental health issues have been definitely worse this year than since I started with anorexia. The darkest time in my life was when I was struggling with anorexia, and that was back in 2009. So this is definitely the hardest mental health year I’ve had since then. I think, to stay healthy, it’s just giving myself grace, being kind to myself and reminding myself that there’s a lot of people going though this. Also I'm taking the time to talk to a therapist and taking the time every night to write in my gratitude journal and look through my goals.
I write down on pieces of paper all my goals and also notes of the kind of person that I like to describe myself as and that I hope I am. I write all these words and descriptions of who I want to be and think I am and hope I am. I read them every night as a mental health check and also as a refocusing check on what’s actually important to me. That’s so I don’t get discouraged like, “Oh, my TikTok sucks. No one likes me on TikTok.” I ask, “What are my goals? What are my actual feelings about myself? Am I going to let this destroy me?” So I think it’s been a process this year. I think that we all should be kind to ourselves, too.
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