Violinist Lindsey Stirling was on a plane to South America where she was about to begin a tour when the world started to shut down to stop the spread of COVID.
“We were on our way there, and our phones started buzzing with texts telling us to turn around and come back,” she says via phone from an Arkansas tour stop. Lindsey Stirling performs at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14, at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. “It was quite jarring to lose all that adrenaline from getting ready to go on stage for an entire tour to literally being stuck at home. But I’m so grateful. All things considered, I’m grateful to have been around family. I stayed with my sister on her farm. It was such a special time. I got to know my nieces. It was, of course, filled with ups and downs, and everyone’s mental health got thrown into check, but I felt grateful for the people I was surrounded with.”
Stirling managed to stay busy, however, and pulled her whole crew together at the end of last year for a virtual Christmas special that drew more than 100,000 views.
Once venues began to reopen, Stirling rescheduled the tour she had originally planned to support her latest album, Artemis. Released in 2019, the album provides the soundtrack for an accompanying comic book. Stirling says the comic book angle allowed her to take a different approach than usual.
“I was like, ‘This is my fifth studio album. What I can do to make this fresh and new and exciting?’” she explains. “I ended up writing a comic book along with the album, so the songs are inspired by parts of the story. ‘Underground’ represents the world under the surface of the planet where people live in the trenches. I wrote the song to express what it feels like down there and that intense environment. With ‘Artemis,’ I was trying to channel the power of the goddess of the moon and her power and strength but also her softness. The song goes back and forth between those two feelings. It was to write songs inspired by the world, the characters and the story.”
The disc also includes "Love Goes On and On," a moody ballad that features a terrific vocal performance by powerhouse singer Amy Lee (Evanescence).
“I love Amy,” says Stirling when asked about the collaboration. “I have been a fan of hers for so long. It was a dream come true when she asked me to record on their album and after that, we toured together. I was writing ‘Love Goes On and On.’ It was going to be an instrumental In the beginning. I thought it needed something else. It needed vocals. It was cool to call up Amy. She sent it back to me with all of these ideas that I hadn’t envisioned. She invented this whole extra part of the song. It was cool to see someone take it and go above and beyond with it and make it a true collaboration. It doesn’t always work like that. This really was a truly collaborative piece. It’s one of my favorite pieces.”
After releasing Artemis, Stirling issued the single “Lose You Now,” a very personal track about her late father and a close friend who also passed away that features soft vocals and fluttering electronic beats in addition to a melancholy violin riff.
“That song started out as instrumental,” says Stirling. “It’s called 'Guardian.' It was strictly violin. It always made me think of my dad. That’s why I called it 'Guardian.' My dad and best friend passed away a few years ago, and I feel like they’re my guardian angels looking out for me. I had told that to my friend Mako, who is a writer, and I expressed what I thought the song was about in terms of believing so strongly in my angels, and he ended up writing lyrics to the song. It was so beautiful. It became 'Lose You Now.' It has its own feel now, and Mako ended up singing it. It was a cool collaborative process to take it to where it is now.”
It’s been a long, strange journey for Stirling, who grew up listening to classical music as well as the Beatles and Michael Jackson. Stirling, who started playing violin when she was only 5, then discovered electronic music and realized she needed to find a way to mix it with her classical impulses.
“When I was college, I really got into Skrillex and just fell in love with dubstep and EDM,” she says. “I thought it was a whole new world. That’s what prompted me to explore the sound that I started. The hardest part was figuring out the blend of the sounds. I played stuff that had classical runs, a lot of arpeggios. I put things that I learned from my classical training into my music. Being a teenager, I used to write over pop music all the time. It was something I did for fun. That felt natural. It was more like, 'Now that I’m making my own original stuff, how do I make the tracks? How much is too much and what is the right balance?' I had to find a producer who would brainstorm with me and experiment with my sound and have the patience to do that. That was difficult.”
In 2010, she competed on America’s Got Talent but didn’t exactly win over the judges, who gave her the boot in the quarter finals.
“It’s funny. Looking back on it, to be honest, I wasn’t ready for [America's Got Talent],” she says. “Now, if I went on, I would be very ready. I have earned my place in this industry, and I have practiced so hard. I’m a seasoned performer. It’s not that the judges missed this shiny diamond that was perfectly placed in front of them. I was still a rough stone figuring myself out. I’m grateful that I didn’t let the fact that I wasn’t ready yet deter everything. You’re often told you’re not good enough, and that’s the end of the story. But so often, it’s just that you’re not good enough yet. At the time, it was a new craft. I didn’t have any original music yet. I didn’t have any experience performing in front of audiences. It was all so new to me. That’s what I try to share with people. That one moment doesn’t have to define the rest of your life. Just because you weren’t good enough that day or that night or that year doesn’t mean that you’re never going to be good enough. Sometimes, it just takes perseverance."
Stirling says she’s particularly pleased to be back on the road with a crowd-pleasing tour that should appeal to a wide demographic.
“It’s been pretty awesome,” she says of the current tour. “For all of us from the techs to the sound engineers to the dancers, it’s been a magical experience to step back on the stage and do what we love and feel the camaraderie not just from each other but from the audience. It’s super magical and even emotional as we get to step back into these roles. It’s been really special.”
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