Lindsey Stirling is one of those entertainers who is so multifaceted, you need to take a full breath to describe all that she is: electric violinist, dancer, YouTube star, composer, author and emerging public speaker.
But what she’s most excited about these days is her summer tour that will bring her to Charlotte’s PNC Music Pavilion July 20 and Raleigh’s Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek on July 21. She’ll perform along with rock group Evanescence, in a unique type of woman-power-blended-with-local-talent show that she’s positively giddy over.
Stirling, who boasts 10.8 million YouTube subscribers, started playing classical violin at age 6 and as a young adult morphed her musical talent into an edgy mix of hip-hop, pop and dancing. Her dance background came in handy last year and helped her take second place in season 25 of “Dancing with the Stars.”
Her 2014 album, “Shatter Me,” debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s top 200 chart, and her 2016 album, “Brave Enough,” debuted at No. 5, and also earned “Top Dance/Electronic Album” award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. Stirling’s memoir, “The Only Pirate at the Party,” which she co-wrote with her sister and published in 2016, debuted on the New York Times bestseller list and described her experiences as a struggling musician and her battle with anorexia and depression — topics she now speaks publicly about.
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We caught up with Stirling, 31, before she headed out on tour (which opened July 6 in Kansas City) to learn about what it’s like to create new art forms, how she takes care of her mental health while on the road, what it’s like to team up with one of her favorite musical acts, and why this tour will be a bit like walking a tightrope every night.
Q. You’ve inspired the public to look at strings in a whole new way. How does a classically trained musician decide to break away and take the art form in a totally different direction?
A. I had played classical music since I was 6. Here I was in college about to study music and I was like, “Actually, I don’t like this anymore. I don’t know where my passion went, but it’s not here.” And I realized, “Oh, it’s because I’m a creative mind — I love to create, I love to try new things, and here I’ve been playing this instrument that’s hundreds of years old the way it’s been played for hundreds of years, the songs that have been played for hundreds of years. Why can’t I create something new?” ... That’s why I make a point not only to write music I love and I think others will enjoy and is different, but I also put a lot of energy into getting my songs made (into sheet music) so that kids and teenagers, or anybody, can play them. There are little backtracks and everything so they can play them at their talent show and feel cool, because when I was trying to play at the talent show there was nothing cool and nobody in fifth grade wanted to hear my little Mozart piece. So I’ve put a lot of energy not only into creating, but also making it so others can create.
Q. Tell us about teaming up with Evanescence and especially their lead vocalist, Amy Lee.
A. The first time I fell in love with Amy Lee and Evanescence was when I was a teenager. When I heard “My Immortal” I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard in my teenage body.” It just inspired me so much, I wanted to create music to make people feel the way that song made me feel. I took a page out of their book because I think my favorite thing about their style, what drew me to it, was that it was so full of interesting contrast and a combination of things I’ve never heard. It took these harsh rock and roll sounds, but it had this classical undertone to it, and then this soaring melodic melody, and so when I started making my own music, I was like, “I want contrast — I want to combine things.”
Q. Your audiences will instantly notice something very different this tour: You’ll be playing in front of a full orchestra. Will the orchestra travel with you, or be made up of local musicians here in Charlotte?
A. They’re going to be local musicians. We’ll have a very, very short rehearsal every day with the musicians. They’re going to be working with the conductor several hours that day so they’ll be able to get through all the music and make sure it’s in check. It makes it a very exciting experience every day, when you’re going to have to go up there with a group you’ve never played with. By the end of a tour, as much as you’re still pouring your heart into a show, it becomes very routine. And that’s comfortable; however, I think there’s a slight bit of edge that’s lost when that starts to happen. This will make it so it’s a fresh show every night. That alone is going to make it such a different show for me. I haven’t played with a full orchestra like that, and especially as a soloist, in forever. It’s basically our styles — Amy’s style, my style — combined with an orchestra. So the orchestra is like this layer to this rock-electronic stuff.
Q. You’ve been very open about your struggles with depression and anorexia. Tell us about your “Happiness Takes Work” project and how you stay healthy mentally, especially when you’re on the road.
A. I do it by trying to be really aware of where I’m at that day. It can change in the middle of your day, and all of the sudden you’re like, “I’m not in a good space right now.” Maybe something negative happened, or something triggered a negative memory that took you to a place where you maybe don’t want to stay. I used to look at my mood and my emotional state and it was almost just like, “I’m just a product of life.” I never really thought about it as, “Gosh, I could be in the driver’s seat of my emotions and I don’t have to sit in the passenger’s seat and let whatever life is happening to me dictate how I feel about myself.” It’s made me reevaluate and totally think about my emotional being and my wellness on a different level, so that if I’m having a really bad day I can be like, “Why am I feeling like this? What can I do right now to turn this around?” I do a gratitude journal every night. I write three things I’m grateful for. My neural pathways that lead to gratitude are getting stronger than the ones that lead to negativity. I love this stuff. I’m going to start doing a lot more public speaking; it’s something I want to really develop, where I go and talk to people about these things in a longer form than the five minutes here and there during the show.
Q. Right now, things are going great for you. But you had a rough road getting started. What would you say to someone who has big dreams and is in that beaten-down place where you were at the beginning?
A. See where you want to be. Really see it. Know that it’s possible and then work towards it. Anyone who’s successful had those moments of extreme defeat. Jim Carrey lived in his car for awhile when he first tried to make it as a comedian. I of course had my huge moments of being brutally shamed on “America’s Got Talent,” doing thankless gigs, feeling like I was never going to succeed, being told by everyone that I’d never make it. Anyone who was successful has failed multiple times. The people who succeed, it’s not because they had the most talent, it’s not because they were the smartest or the best, it’s because they know how to take their failures and turn them into success. They know how to take those nos and turn them into yeses in the future.