Lindsey Stirling: Rise to SuccessLEFAIR
Writer Madeline Rosene @madelinerosene
Photographer Kate sZatmari @kateszatmari
Creative Director Tracy Kahn @tracykahn
Wardrobe Stylists Desiree Morales @desireemorales
and Cassandra Dittmer @cdittmer
Makeup Artist Michelle Miller @missmeeeshie
Hair Artist Derek Yuen @dereksyuen
“OH MY GOSH! I look like I’m flying!” said Lindsey Stirling, violinist, dancer, performance artist, and composer. She looked at the photos celebrity photographer, Kate sZatmari, had just snapped of her on the trampoline placed on a roof in Downtown LA. She stood up again on the trampoline. “I kind of want to try some where I go almost vertical!” Lindsey’s team looked on nervously.
“Is there anything you’d like me to do that you guys liked?” She demonstrated some mid-air poses.
“Yes! That was it! Love it!” said Kate.
A true choreophile, Lindsey manages to effortlessly dance in the air between bounces and strike a pose in the sky, smiling angelically. An impressive display considering Lindsey had no formal dance training and is now known for incorporating dance while playing the violin on her tours and official music videos. From humble beginnings, her parents once told her, “You choose violin or you choose dance, but we can’t afford both…”
At just five years old, she chose violin, taking fifteen-minute lessons once a week. But in the end, both pursuits chose her. From being a YouTube sensation and a finalist on America’s Got Talent, to a world tour, and as of recently, her book, The Only Pirate at The Party, YouTube Red Documentary and new album, Brave Enough, Lindsey Stirling aimed for the sky and she made it there.
MR: Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade is one of your favorite classical pieces. It’s based on Arabian Nights and it’s super epic. Of course it has a very strong narrative. How do narratives in classical pieces influence your writing?
LS: My dad was the one in our family who was the most into classical music. He would play records for us. There was this one song — I forget what it was but he explained that it’s supposed to sound like cats meowing. About Scheherazade, he said this is a love story between a King and a Queen. In the piece Danse Macabre, “Death” appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance for him while he plays his fiddle.
His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year. You hear all the xylophones and it sounds like little skeleton bones. My dad was always great at telling us the stories associated with the music. It inspired me to write music and tell a story.
MR: So you grew up listening to classical music—a lot of kids don’t today. Do you have any thoughts on this?
How important is it for training your ear?
LS: I think classical music is kind of like the ballet of music. It’s all about the technicality. If you have a really good classical base it allows you to expand into other things. Classical is probably the hardest thing to play especially for violin and it’s becoming a lost art. I appreciate that my parents would take me to concerts.
People tend to think of attending classical concerts as an upper class activity but we would go to free concerts in the park. I loved it as a child— going to symphonies and seeing orchestras. That’s why I begged for violin lessons as a kid
MR: You said you wouldn’t trade your humble background for anything. How has the way you were raised contributed to your success?
LS: When I first started my career, I had no money but I knew how to be really frugal. Some Christmases my parents made us Christmas presents. My dad made a painting easel and my mom made these horse sticks. She sewed the horse head herself. They were very creative. My mom used to do crafts with us I was taught to make due and the fact that I had no money didn’t make it impossible for me to succeed. I made some of my own costumes. I made my own sets. I was very creative in those first few years.
MR: What is your song writing process like?
LS: I often times approach it with a pop structure— verse, chorus and post chorus with a bridge thrown in somewhere. There’s got to be a chorus. I like to think of it as a classical fusion with a pop structure. In order to write, I have to kind of lock myself into a studio. I wish I was prolific and it just flew out of me. I am never able to write on tour. I have to be in the writing mindset totally. I usually write with producers. We’ll create really rough tracks with chord progressions and I’ll write over them.
MR: In your Brave Enough movie, you are referred to as “the most hands on artist ever.” How much of the videos are your vision?
LS: I’m very involved. I thought of the ideas for almost all of my videos on my channel. Even before I wrote the song Lost Girls I knew I wanted it to be about a ballerina, a continuation of the Shatter Me video. Same with Shadows and Prism— I had the concepts before I made the video. I would tell the producers the vibe of the story. It’s a lot of fun.
I even do some of the story boarding and make mood boards for the videos. It’s like we have the palette and paint and we already know what we’re going to paint. I went to school at Brigham Young University originally for film. I wanted to be a director because I love telling stories. I love music and now since I direct a lot of my music videos, I get to pursue both of my passions—story telling and music.
MR: In Brave Enough you talk a lot about learning how to love yourself and how hard it is to change the thoughts in your head. How did you change those thoughts?
LS: To say I got rid of them would be amazing and inaccurate but I am much more positive than I used to be. It started when I realized I was anorexic in my early twenties. It’s hard to tell yourself to be motivated and happy when you’re super depressed. Start with little things— notice the inner dialogue and ask, “Am I lying to myself?” Ask, “Is what I’m focusing on extremely negative?” A lot of times we don’t even consciously realize what we’re thinking and what were saying to ourselves.
We speak to ourselves in absolutes. We say things like, “I look ugly,” or “That was dumb.” I started with simple things but it was life changing. I would look in the mirror and say, “I am beautiful.” It’s like a muscle. Whatever you’re doing, it’s easy to exercise your negative muscles. It’s all about creating different neuro pathways in your brain. It’s absolutely scientific and I find that fascinating. New ways of thinking get easier the same way exercising does.
MR: How do you overcome the devastating feelings of loss? How do you feel whole again?
LS: That’s what Brave Enough the album is all about. It’s about not shutting off after loss and it started with the song Lost Girls. I felt like a lost girl and I was trying not to feel lost emotionally and thematically, it progressively gets warmer as the album goes on. Some of the last few songs like Something Wild and Love Is Just a Feeling represent how I just want to love with my whole heart.
You cant live closed off.
My best advice is let yourself feel everything. Don’t numb. There are so many ways to numb.
Some people are workaholics. Some people turn to drugs and alcohol. Let yourself feel all of the emotions and give yourself time to heal. Don’t set limitations for yourself. The old Lindsey would have shut off but through my experiences, I was able to treat the passing of my dad and my best friend differently. Drawing together with my loved ones and family made us all closer. It’s much better than trying to deal with it by yourself. Sometimes you don’t want to burden people with your feelings but other people can make you stronger when they’re there for you.
BRAVERY IS TO DO SOMETHING IN SPITE OF FEAR; TO STAY OPEN WHEN YOU WANT TO CLOSE, TO FIGHT WHEN YOU WANT TO FLEE, TO JUMP WHEN YOU’RE AFRAID OF FALLING, TO CHASE YOUR DREAMS…
MR: Has your faith played a big role in your rise to success?
LS: My faith has played a huge role in my rise to success. I have noticed that a lot of people lose their faith when they become successful. When I started to see my career taking off, it scared me. My religious beliefs have played a huge foundational role in my life and it was a part of me that I didn’t want to change. I was afraid that maybe I would fall away from faith the same way I’d seen so many others fall away.
So I made a promise to God that I would do my best to keep my values and my lifestyle of faith a priority in my life. I promised that I would try to represent him well and share a message that uplifts others. In return, I asked him to bless me with the opportunities that would take me as far as he wanted me to go. I also asked for him to send angels to help me. I really feel like God took me up on my offer.
Many times, I thought I was walking blindly but looking back at my path, it is obvious that there is no way I made all those perfect decisions on my own. There is no way that luck and hard work led me to where I am. I know God has led me here and has sent angels to protect me. I’m far from perfect but I’m continually trying to stay strong in my faith. It takes a lot of work and sacrifice but it’s worth it to me.
MR: How do you want people to remember you and your contributions to music?
LS: I hope that people remember me as a girl who wasn’t afraid to be herself, as someone who stood for the fact that you don’t have to be who everybody tells you to be or fit a certain mold. No one should feel like they have to fit into a box and I hope my music and lifestyle is a testament to that. Dreams can come in so many shapes and sizes. If you persevere long enough, you will find some version of your dream. Keep going and you will get to the place you’re meant to be.
MR: What is the difference between impressing a crowd and entertaining a crowd?
LS: In order to impress someone, you focus on making yourself look awesome. It’s a more selfcentered approach where all the choices of the performance would be based on “What makes Lindsey look the best?” To entertain is to think about the audience. What do they want to see? What will make my audience smile? What will make both an adult and a child feel magic and inspiration? To entertain is a team effort. You have to share the spotlight. How can the staging, the dancers and the band all shine together to make this amazing?
MR: What makes someone brave?
LS: Bravery is to do something in spite of fear; to stay open when you want to close, to fight when you want to flee, to jump when you’re afraid of falling, to chase your dreams when you know you’ll probably fail along the way.