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  • Lindsey Stirling

    lindsey stirling

    Credit: Scott Jarvie

    Violin with a hip-hop beat? The thought alone is quite a ‘dub’ step from the ordinary for a typical violinist, yet Lindsey Stirling’s meteoric rise to fame has been predicated on exactly that. With over 4 million subscribers to her YouTube channel currently, Lindsey began electrifying audiences on season five of America’s Got Talent where she was known as the hip-hop violinist. Advancing as far as the quarterfinals, this is where Lindsey first incorporated dance into her live performances on a large stage. While it is inherently unnatural to try to dance at the same time as playing the violin, this has since become a signature of Lindsey’s in all her music videos and is the epitome of entertainment to see live. Lindsey’s debut album entitled Lindsey Stirling was released in 2012. It became platinum certified in Germany and Austria; gold certified in Switzerland and Poland and has sold over 160,000 copies in the US. Her follow up album is in the works. Currently on tour, Lindsey took time out of her busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions for us.

    SG: I see you began playing violin at a very early age. What drew you to the violin over all other instruments?

    LS: I grew up in a family without a lot of money, but that didn’t stop us from having fun. My dad was a genius at finding free things for us to do. One of our most frequent activities was free orchestra concerts at the park. I absolutely loved them, and it didn’t take very long for me to figure out who the stars of the orchestra were. At six years old, I started begging my mom for lessons. Eventually, she was able to find one teacher willing to give me afifteen minute lesson every couple of weeks because that is all she could afford. I will always be grateful to my persistent mother and to my first teacher who was willing to give me a chance.

    SG: It’s been said that you had to make the decision between dance lessons and violin lessons at an early age. Do you ever wish that you had followed the dance path instead?

    LS: From what I remember I wanted to play the violin first, and later asked for dancing lessons, too. I took a small community tap dancing class one summer, but that was the extent of my training. I knew my parents couldn’t afford to give me both, and I honestly don’t think I would have had the time to master both. I may have ended up “a jack of all trades and master of none.” I was able to teach myself how to dance by watching videos, ice skating, etc. and mimicking them. But, I think it would have been significantly more difficult to learn violin by myself (ha-ha). I’m glad I focused my attention on music because it is truly my passion, and ultimately my career has given me the opportunity to do both.

    SG: Who were your biggest inspirations growing up?

    LS: I loved David Guetta, Vanessa Mae, Bond, Avril Lavigne, Weezer, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Borodin. I think that I have been inspired by all kinds of music that I love. But, even more than that, it is the experiences I have had, the people I have known, my belief in God, and what I have taken from those people and experiences that I think has made the biggest impact and inspired me the most.

    SG: So what would make you want to Stomp on Melvin? Sorry, I had to ask. But, what was the inspiration for that name?

    LS: Honestly, it was pretty random. From what I remember, one of the members of the band pretended to have an imaginary friend named Melvin for the sole purpose of casting blame, and it caught on with the rest of the group. If a cymbal fell, “Melvin did it!” If we had a bad performance, it was “Melvin’s fault!”

    SG: It’s still kind of hung around in spirit today hasn’t it with Lindseystomp?

    LS: It has. I grew rather fond of those guys and the experiences I had with them. I started playing with Stomp on Melvin around the time I started losing interest in the violin. I was tired of always being told what to play and how to play it; I was aching for personal expression and creative outlets. Performing with Stomp on Melvin was an incredible gift. The experience gave me my love for music back, and I’m so grateful for that. I sometimes wonder if I would still be playing if it weren’t for them.

    lindsey stirling

    Credit: Eric Ryan Anderson

    SG: What type of music did you guys play in Stomp on Melvin?

    LS: We were all big Weezer and Jimmy Eat World fans, so we mostly played punk-rock. But, we did write a few ballads, too.

    SG: Anything similar to what you are playing now?

    LS: Stomp on Melvin definitely broke me out of my classical shell. I was forced to learn to improvise, and I was able to use all of the arpeggios, scales, etc. from my classical training to do that, so I am extremely grateful for my classical “base.” Having the technical ability gave me the freedom to play anything I wanted, and ultimately made it possible for me to branch out into other styles that I loved.

    SG: Most musicians have a crossroads at some point where they have to persevere and decide to stick to their craft. What did yours entail?

    LS: My crossroads came several months after America’s Got Talent, after I had tried tirelessly to contact managers, producers, booking agents, etc. and none of them were interested in me. Nobody cared. I was told over and over the same things that the judges at AGT had told me: “You aren’t marketable.” “You need a group.” “You aren’t good enough.” I started wondering if they were right. I wondered if I was foolish to keep trying, but something in me wouldn’t allow me to give up. It was shortly after that that I was contacted by YouTuber Devin Graham. He offered to fly out to Utah, film me for free, and upload the video to his channel. I couldn’t see any catch, so I agreed. Shortly after, Devin helped me start my own channel, and his subscribers became my first subscribers. My three measly songs on iTunes that had not sold very well up to that point started selling like hotcakes. I will forever be indebted to Devin and to YouTube, without which I may not have succeeded. It was truly a miracle and an answer to prayer.

    SG: 2013 was an incredibly successful year for you as number 2 bestselling artist on billboards classical crossover charts, number 3 on billboards classical album artists and your album Lindsey Stirling was billboards number 2 classical album and number 3 Dance/Electronica album. What do you have planned for 2014 to improve on all your success?

    LS: I’m aiming high this year. Hoping to get a gold album on my next album in the US, and I would like to win a Grammy.

    Roundtable Rival on Lindsey Stirling

    Official YouTube Channel

    SG: What has been the biggest challenge in working on your second album?

    LS: I’m not gonna lie…it’s been a bit stressful. I think that most of my fears are probably unwarranted and entirely unhelpful to my progress, but creating something that is authentic and unique while still sounding like “me” has been the monumental challenge. I don’t want to release an album that sounds too similar to my first. But, I don’t necessarily want the songs to sound so different that my current fans can’t connect to it like they did the first. I owe so much to them and I don’t want to disappoint. I am extremely critical of my work and have felt discouraged at times, but I think that things are finally coming together. I’m (crossing my fingers!) confident that the result will be something that my fans will fall in love with and that I can be proud to represent.

    SG: Every musician has a story of a show that just didn’t go right while on tour. What was yours?

    LS: Ha ha…wow! I have had a number of embarrassing moments. But during one particular show, I had a wireless pack pinned to the outside of my costume. It hadn’t been put on right and it kept falling off and dangling under me while I danced. My tour manager, Erich, came up onstage at least three times to put it back on. On the fourth failed attempt, I finally looked him straight in the eye and mouthed, “NO!” The pack bounced and swung under me for the duration of the song. When the song was finally over, I was able to secure it, but that was pretty humiliating. Another incident happened during a time when I was feeling extra embarrassed about a particularly bad “break-out” on my face. It hurt so badly and it wasn’t getting better. So I finally said, “Forget it! Get out theBand Aids and Neosporin!” I covered my entire chin in them (ha ha). That night I removed all the Band Aid’s except for one that covered a particularly painfulowie under my chin, right under where my chin rest would be. I figured the bandage would be hidden there and no one would notice. But, alas…the concert was a bit warm and sweaty. After only a couple of songs, I felt one side of the Band Aid start to slip off. I did everything I couldnot to let it come loose, but before long it was flapping around wildly like a limp noodle.Of course the photographer there took some stunning close-ups, and as you can imagine I was thrilled.

    SG: Have you ever suffered from stage fright?

    LS: Absolutely! I am usually okay until just a few minutes before getting on stage, and then everyone knows to STAY AWAY FROM LINDSEY OR SHE’LL BITE YOUR HEAD OFF! Yeah, you’ll know I’m nervous if I start to get grouchy (ha ha). I always get nervous before performing, but once I get started, adrenaline kicks in and before I know it I’m having the time of my life. I absolutely love being on stage.

    SG: YouTube has been an immensely successful tool for you hasn’t it? Do you have any recommendations for aspiring musicians out there when it comes to promoting themselves since you seem to have such an incredible knack for it?

    LS: I’ve noticed lately that in the YouTube world it is getting harder and harder to get noticed. I have seen a lot of amazingly talented people put stuff up on YouTube and they struggle to get views. I think the key to a successful channel is, first, creating a product that YOU love. Second, it will need to be unique to attract attention. Then network with other YouTubers, collaborate with as many different people aspossible, and continually move your way up to more successful channels and collaborations. Use social media, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. to your advantage. If you have something amazing to offer, that’s awesome! But, you have to get other people to see it and share it.

    SG: Apparently, you have quite a following in the video game community. Were you aware?

    LS: Some of my most devoted, passionate fans are gamers. I love them!!! As much as I love gaming music (some of it really is incredible), I’m not sure if I would have focused as much attention on them if it weren’t for my fans’ persistent requests for more. And honestly, I don’t mind at all…I LOVE playing dress-up; always have. So, I had an especially enjoyable time making the videos of Skyrim, Zelda, Assassin’s Creed, etc. because the wardrobe is so amazing. I made some behind the scenes videos for my second channel (lindseytime), so you can see how much fun these projects were to make. 

    Assassin's Creed: Behind the Scenes- Lindsey Stirling

    SG: Will we possibly find you composing a soundtrack for a video game in the future?

    LS: If a really great opportunity came, I would absolutely love to. I even tried to get my fans to vote for one of my songs to feature on Just Dance 4. As for future game covers, I’ve been thinking about doing a Kingdom Hearts cover, but a project like that is going to take some major research to get it right, and some pretty impressive production to pull off.

    SG: What inspires your creativity when it comes to making videos?

    LS: I’m not sure if there is any one thing. I usually mull an idea in my mind for several days or for several weeks or even months, depending on how much time I have. Eventually, the images and storyline start coming together. It was literally three days before we shot Stars Align that I finally got inspiration for what our costumes should look like. I woke up in the middle of the night with the designs clear in my mind. I got up, immediately made sketches, and got to work. This particular video took several months to create, and so I couldn’t help myself. I was constantly thinking of new ideas to bounce off of the animators and production manager. After about a dozen requested edits, I felt embarrassed to call them anymore (but I still did anyway!) because I just knew they were thinking, “Aw man! Not another change!” They were such good sports (ha ha); so amazing to work with and went above and beyond anything and everything I ever expected them to do.

    Stars Align- Behind the Scenes- Lindsey Stirling

    SG: Do you prefer playing a standard violin or an electric?

    LS: I prefer the sound of a standard acoustic violin for the most part, but companies are constantly improving the quality of electric violins. Ask me again in a few years.

    lindsey stirling

    SG: If you could perform with any musician(s) through history, who would it be and what would the song be?

    LS: In all of history? That’s a tough call, though I would have to say Michael Jackson. And, we would definitely write a new song. I actually haven’t given up on that dream yet. I’m sure he’s up there belting his little angel heart out. I am eager to meet him someday.

    Lindsey Stirling performed at The Fillmore Charlotte on Friday, June 27th, 2014. 

    Sean Glock

    About

    With a love for great music at heart combined with a photographic eye, Sean Glock specializes in both concert and landscape photography. Sean is also an IT professional for a fortune 500 company. He can be reached at 704-490-1897 or via email at seanglock@yahoo.com.

    Featured photo credit: Scott Jarvie