October 19, 2015
The Rhythmic Realm of Lindsey Stirling: An Exclusive Interview
The Unyielding Spirit of Lindsey Stirling
In the realm of music and performance, few artists captivate audiences quite like Lindsey Stirling. From her electrifying violin performances to her intricate dance routines, Stirling is a symphony of talent, merging classical with contemporary in a blaze of dynamic showmanship. With multiple chart—topping albums, a fanbase that stretches across continents, and an authentic voice that resonates deeply with all who listen, she’s not just breaking boundaries — she’s dancing right through them.
As Music & Arts’ Ian Pullens sat down for this exclusive chat, Lindsey’s energy was infectious, her stories inspiring, and her insights profound. Journey with us as we delve into the mind of this innovative artist, discussing her beginnings, her inspirations, and the magic she weaves through her strings and steps.
The “Kashmir” Vibe
When asked about her recent adaptation of the classic track “Kashmir,” Lindsey revealed her profound connection and admiration for the song. She believes that “Kashmir” resonates with string players universally, having witnessed many orchestras and individual artists putting their unique touch to it. For Lindsey, this track stands out as a rock anthem intrinsically tailored for string players, which motivated her to introduce her distinct interpretation to the world:
Lindsey: You know, I feel like string players have a love with “Kashmir”. I’ve seen other people adapt it. Other strings, orchestras adapt it. So it was really fun to finally be like, “I want to put my spin on this song”. It’s such a classic — it always utilized strings in it. I feel like it’s a rock anthem that’s made for string players.
Ian: Before the awesome and unique Lindsey Stirling style manifest, how important was it to have a classical training first before you developed your own unique vibe?
Lindsey: I am so grateful for my classical training, and I always tell that advice to kids when they ask me at meet and greets. It’s like, “what’s your best advice”? And I’m like, “it’s probably not what you want to hear but those classical roots and that foundation is invaluable”. Even though I play a lot of different types of music and I’m a little more experimental, I still practice classical music. Tonight in the show, I’m playing a classical piece. I spent five months preparing it. It’s “Toccata and Fugue”, which is a bit of a burner for a violinist. But I love that I can still lean into classical music and use that repertoire because there’s a reason that that music has been played for hundreds of years.
From music to costume design to video editing, Lindsey’s passion for creativity knows no bounds. Beyond the pure artistry, she reflects on the multidimensional impact of music on her life. It’s not just about the tunes and the performances; music has been an essential discipline for Lindsey, influencing everything, even unexpected arenas like aerial arts, demonstrating how deeply intertwined music is with her entire existence:
Ian: Had you not had musical training at a young age and stuck with music for so long, what is Lindsey Stirling’s life minus music?
Lindsey: That’s a great question. I don’t know quite who she would be without music. It’s been such a staple of my life for as long as I can remember and I think, at the core of it all, I’m a creative soul. And so I know I would be doing something creative, because I love…everything. From the music, of course, to the costume design to the creation of the show and anything that can be creative — even video editing! So, I would be doing something creative.
Ian: Were there other things in your life like, “oh, because of music, I’m now good at this” or its effective discipline on how [you] learn or things like that?
Lindsey: I mean, all the things, for sure. I feel like music is the foundation of where all the creativity starts for me. For sure, editor. I feel like I’m a better editor because of that. But also…I’ve gotten into aerial arts, and having musicality really helps.
Overcoming Learning Disabilities
Lindsey: I’m dyslexic and I also have this thing called cross-dominance. So I had multiple learning disabilities and, as a child, I remember it making me feel very dumb. I just thought that I wasn’t smart. And I know that so many kids deal with that when you’re doing the popcorn reading around the class and the anxiety that creates in a child when you just know you can’t read. And I was one of those kids. That affected my musicality because if I can’t read words on a page, I sure as heck can’t read notes and little tiny dots on sheet music. And I remember thinking, “oh, this is going to make it so I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be a professional”. If I can’t read what they plop in front of you as a classical violinist, that’s a game changer. However, it made me forced to learn music through different means and I developed an incredible ear. Like, if I could hear things, I could learn to play them and I could pick them up super fast. It also made it possible for me to memorize music so fast because I could not rely on that piece of paper. I had to rely on my mind. And then the way I’ve gone with music, it’s been such a helpful tool. It’s helped me be a better writer. The fact that I can hear things and hear nuances and you know…this training of this atypical learning that I had to learn in school, obviously. But also in my music, it’s really helped me think in a different way and I think it’s really what made the creative muscle in me so strong.
Always a Violinist
Ian: When you were getting into music at a young age, was it always going to be violin? Was there another instrument that you considered, or was it like violin or nothing?
Lindsey: I was always a violinist. That was the instrument I immediately gravitated to and in high school, just for fun, I dabbled with some other things. I played the flute for a bit and the piccolo. I always knew that violin was my language.
Ian: I read that when you went to your first full-size violin, there was a transition, like a pivotal transition point, where the full-size violin was a breakout upgrade. Tell me how that felt. What was that like, experiencing your first full-size violin and the difference that made?
Lindsey: Yeah, I think any time you get a new instrument, that’s special, and the first time I ever owned a violin was that full-size violin that I got in junior high. I remember just being so excited. It was the nicest violin I’d ever owned and being able to experience the nuances that a better instrument can have. Then I remember also the first time I bought my professional violin, you know, my parents helped me [and] I used all my savings and really invested – that I still have. Its name is “Excalibur”, but I remember just the power that gives you as a musician when you get an instrument that allows you to find nuances that you didn’t know you could have, you know? Because you can only play as well as your instrument can match you…I think with anything.
Electric Violin Transition
In discussing her transition to electric violins, Lindsey reveals that her shift happened in high school when she joined a rock band. Despite her passionate performances, the acoustic violin was often drowned out by louder instruments. Prompted by her mother’s desire to hear her play more clearly during gigs, they purchased her first electric violin. This instrument unlocked a plethora of sound effects for Lindsey, such as reverb and distortion. However, she maintains a deep appreciation for the authentic sound of a wooden violin:
Ian: So when did you jump to the electric violins? What was that jump like and the difference that it made?
Lindsey: It was actually in high school. I joined a rock band when I was like 15 or something. And I remember my mom would come to these little shows, like Battle of the Bands or house parties. My parents would come to support and listen. And my mom was like, “I can’t hear you at all”, because I’m up real close to a microphone that we just angled down and I’d try to play as loud as I can, but you can’t compete with electric guitars and such. I remember my mom was finally like, “I’m sick of not being able to hear you”. So she took me down to Milano’s Music and they had one electric violin there and they bought it for me and that was a pretty exciting thing to be able to, for the first time, put reverb on it and I can put distortion on it and just kind of find a whole new cornucopia of exciting things.
Ian: Can you tell me a little bit [about] the difference that the Yamaha electric violin makes compared to others? Why the Yamaha that you play?
Lindsey: The only electrics I’ve ever performed with are Yamaha, ever since I was a teenager. I do just love the sound. I think they [are] the closest to a natural sound where it can pick up a lot of the nuances. Some of them are so strongly electric that you don’t get really any dynamics, and I feel like Yamahas do the best job of picking up the nuances in my personal opinion.
Learning New Skills
Lindsey emphasizes the challenges and rewards of learning new skills as an adult. While learning later in life can be frustrating due to impatience and a preference for familiar tasks, overcoming these obstacles provides immense satisfaction. Ultimately, she believes that persisting through the challenges and realizing one’s capability to adapt and learn new things as an adult is incredibly rewarding:
Lindsey: Even as an adult and learning new skills, I taught myself to dance when I was in my twenties and I learned aerial acrobatics when I was in my thirties and it can be so discouraging. I think it’s a little extra hard to learn something new as an adult because we’re not as patient with ourselves. We also know what we’re good at, and you’d like to stick with the things that are comfortable at this point. So just from my experience and learning things as an adult…it is so extra-gratifying to make it through those hurdles. And you do go through those times when you’re like, “I’m not getting any better and obviously I shouldn’t learn something new. This is too hard. Obviously, I’m not good at this”. But when you make it through that hurdle and suddenly it starts to click as an adult, it’s really gratifying to realize that compensation of like, “I can do new things”. And it’s been really rewarding to learn things as an adult.
The Balance of Life
Lindsey details her experience with maintaining a balance between embracing modern digital platforms, like TikTok and video games, and cultivating one’s craft as a musician. She acknowledges the growing challenge of finding equilibrium in today’s digitally saturated world. Even as a professional, she occasionally has to remind herself of her primary identity as a violinist. While recognizing the significance of digital platforms in her career, she underscores the importance of constant self-evaluation to ensure a harmonious balance between the online and offline worlds, aiming to strike a middle ground:
Ian: Going back to the early days and several years later through YouTube, your influences in the music that you’ve covered and created…I was looking at the Artemis books and there’s like a kind of a cyberpunk/Blade Runner vibe going through it for me when I see it. Obviously you’ve done video game covers and movie covers [and] lots of Christmas music. You have a very eclectic set of influences. I think it’s awesome. At the same time, kids are playing video games all day, every day, and people are getting sucked into social media. How do you find the balance to use the good things in TikTok and the good parts of video games, but not let it consume your life all the time and still practice your craft and become a good musician? How do we keep making musicians and not just kids that just want to do social media?
Lindsey: I mean, it’s actually a really hard balance. I think that the balance of life for everyone is getting just harder and harder constantly. There’s so many competing influences all the time. And how do you find the balance between them and, as a professional musician, I even have to sometimes stop and remind myself that I am a violinist first and foremost, I am not a TikToker. Even though that has become such a huge part of my business and how I have to survive as an artist, I have to remind myself what I actually do is I perform, I play. That all is secondary because it is really easy to get sucked into always thinking of what’s the next social media thing? What’s the next thing? How do I get this song viral? How do I do this? And it’s like, well, you know, constantly reminding myself of the balance between the two and you have to find that balance between the real world and the online world. And I think today it is important to have both. It’s just always kind of stopping, reevaluating, and being like, “have I gone too far to one end or the other?” because I always want to find myself somewhere in the middle.
Forge Your Own Path
Lindsey: You can go anywhere with it…We’ve been doing this thing at some shows where I’ve had people join me on stage. I’ve picked someone in the audience to come up and join me…We had a saxophone [player] come up and he just wailed on that thing and did the coolest solo in the middle of our set – like in the song – and it just is so cool to me to just see. People doing their own thing with their instrument and taking it into new avenues and making it them. And there’s so many ways to make it you, whether it’s from the way you present it on social media; whether it’s the kind of music you decide to fuse it with; whether it’s what you wear and how you present your personality through your aesthetic. There’s so many ways to take instrumentation and make it fun and unique to the person, and really let your voice shine through. I think that the most beautiful thing for me when I first started to really dive into my style was realizing, “this violin I played my whole life I’ve never really made her me, and now I get to discover how to make the violin fit me rather than me fit the violin”. I think that’s when everything changed for me.
From Violin Strings to Dancing Dreams
In the symphonic world of Lindsey Stirling, the interplay of strings and dance steps paints a narrative of dedication, innovation, and unrelenting passion. From her heartfelt reverence for classical training to the brave embrace of electric violins, Lindsey exemplifies the evolution of a versatile artist unafraid to challenge the norms. Her journey, laden with hurdles like learning disabilities and the intricacies of mastering new skills as an adult, only underscores her tenacity and resilience. Above all, Lindsey’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance, reminding us that with the right spirit, dreams aren’t just pursued – they’re danced into reality. Whether it’s the haunting melodies of “Kashmir” or the mesmerizing visuals of her performances, Stirling’s artistry continues to redefine boundaries, inviting us all to find our unique rhythm in the symphony of life.