September 8, 2020 Interview – Lindsey Stirling
One of the most compelling artists to emerge into the spotlight over the last decade is none other than Lindsey Stirling. Unique to any trends, Stirling is a violinist, songwriter, and dancer who melds all three talents into extraordinarily, eye-popping live performances and cinematic music videos. A delightful reminder that classically-trained talents can still find success in the sometimes glossy, superficial Pop world, she has created some of the most watched music videos on YouTube, topped charts in various categories, and continues to find exciting ways to keep things fresh.
Most recently pushing the envelope with her fantastical fifth studio album, 2019’s Artemis, now Stirling is finding ways to shine a light in the dark times of 2020. Actively engaging audiences with stunning virtual concerts, launching The Upside Fund for COVID-19 relief, and releasing new music, she is truly an inspiring, unstoppable force. Enduring a wild and unpredictable ride as a performing artist, Stirling recently sat down to reflect on the years gone by, her success, helping others, plus a lot more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music and the performing arts for many years now. Achieving a great deal of success, including becoming a platinum-selling artist, how would you describe your journey to this point?
Lindsey Stirling – I would say my journey in music has just been a series of making a lot of blind steps based on intuition, hoping, and manifesting. I just look back at it all and think, “I have no idea how this all worked.” It kind of still doesn’t make sense to me that I get to do what I do at the level I get to do it, plus share it with so many people. To be honest, I have to laugh sometimes and, again, think, “How did this actually work?”
It reminds me to be full of gratitude. There are so many things like good luck, talent, right timing, and risk taking that all just make the perfect recipe for everybody’s story. So much of it is both in our control and out of our control. I just have to look back and feel like I’ve been so guided. I’m a very spiritual person, so I really feel like I’ve been guided so perfectly though this crazy journey. I’m grateful for it!
Cryptic Rock – You have accomplished a great deal and it all continues to grow. What is unique about you is you’re a musician but also a performing, visual artist. You have made the visual aspect of your music as vital as the music itself. Putting out some astounding music videos throughout the years, as well as putting on stunning live shows, how important is the visual aspect of it all to you as an artist?
Lindsey Stirling – I would say the visual for me is at least half the art. I don’t even just consider myself just a musician: I love storytelling and I love making people feel things. It all comes together for me when I get to make it visual for people.
Music is only half of the art. When I put out an album, to me it is, “Here’s the album, now just wait until you see what my vision is for these songs.” I feel an album just preps people. I feel like the songs come alive when I get to make a music video or when I get to make some kind of creative vision for it on stage. For me, it’s just not done yet when it’s just the song.
Cryptic Rock – It all comes together extremely well and is energizing to watch. You continually release new music, including some new singles over the last few months. Before we get into that, let’s touch on your 2019 album, Artemis. What was it like putting that album together?
Lindsey Stirling – Artemis was really fun. I felt like I needed a new process. I think when I get stale, personally, it doesn’t mean I have to reinvent everything. Sometimes for me it is just, “What’s a slightly new approach or a slight tweak that I can put in that makes it feel like a new recipe?” It is like I just need to add cherries to the cake; I don’t need to make a funfetti cake, if you know what I mean.
That is why I took a slightly different approach with Artemis and I wrote it in tandem with a comic book. Suddenly the whole album was geared to the themes, the characters, and the world of the story that I was developing. I did them at the same time and it was really fun. It made the music videos feel fresh because I get to continuously show different layers of characters and elements in the story. I get to do that not only with the music, but with the music videos and the live shows.
I recently finished a music video that is like a battle scene. It is this Artemis character and her tribe preparing for battle against the goddess of the night. What a fun music video to make! It made everything so new and fresh for me. I really loved making Artemis, it felt so true to myself and where I’m at right now. It stretched my creativity, and being my fifth studio album, I was very excited to find a way to feel fresh about it.
Cryptic Rock – The approached worked; the album came out wonderfully and has been received well. You have done a great job of creating stories that speak to people, but you have also found a way to use the art as a vehicle to help others. For example, you have The Upside Fund for COVID-19 relief. How did it all come about?
Lindsey Stirling – It all came about when the virus hit and I was so sad seeing all the things that were happening in the world. Just like everybody, I was wondering, “How can I help? What can I do?” It’s so overwhelming, and you realize there is no one way that any one person can solve this problem. It’s too big of a burden for anybody to try and even help with; it’s like a drop in the bucket when you try to help.
I thought, I’m grateful I’m where I’m at right now. If this had happened several years ago when I was first starting, I wouldn’t be okay; I wouldn’t have had money saved up to know I’m not going to be starving or I’m not going to be able to make my house payment. I was so grateful that right now, I’m okay. Then it was, is my family okay? When I knew my family was okay, then it was, are all the people I work with okay? Once I realized all the levels of my fear were okay, and I did my little bit to hopefully help everyone around me, there was still enough of me that I could branch further.
I reached out to my fans, they are my community, and it’s because of them I’m okay. Because of my fans’ continuous support I’m fine, so I was able to go out there and help them. I just have this strong belief that if we all lift where we stand in our little corner of the world, wherever we’re at, that we’re all going to be okay. In that way, we don’t have to feel like we have to save the world: we just have to lift in our own corner.
That is where it came from. It’s been a really sweet experience to connect with people on a very personal level. Asking for help is hard for everybody. I’ve been connecting with people on a very personal level, and I can’t help everybody, but I’m getting to help as many people as I can.
Cryptic Rock – The help and overall positivity you are offering goes a long way during these times. Speaking of a hopeful message, you most recently released the single “What You’re Made Of” featuring Kiesza. What is the story behind this song?
Lindsey Stirling – This song was actually written around two years ago at an all-female writing camp. I had never been to anything like that before, but women in music are trying not only to step up and say, “We need better treatment,” but they are also saying, “We’re going to help each other.” I went to this all-female writing camp – where there was all women producers, writers, and engineers – and we all wrote songs. I thought it was so cool that what came out of this session was, “We want to try to create something that is powerful and empowering.”
The people who are close to us, our friends and loved ones, will always see what we are made of. They will never un-love you, no matter what you go through. If only we could always see that in ourselves, we would not only be powerful, but also, we would see that’s why we are always there for each other. Sometimes it’s really hard to see that in ourselves. Other people seeing it is what helps us remember what we are actually made of in those hard moments.
Cryptic Rock – That is a very positive message that we need to see in these difficult times, not only as individuals, but as a human race.
Lindsey Stirling – Absolutely. I look around and see who am I going to stand up for and be there for. Also, when I’m struggling, who’s going to be there for me?
Cryptic Rock – Right, it is about helping one another out. You continue to do your share and recently hosted a virtual concert in support of St Jude’s Research Hospital.
Lindsey Stirling – Yes, I’ve done one of them once before and it was one of the first times anything like that had ever been done. It was a full virtual concert where I was an avatar and I was performing live, but with a cool suit on which captured my motions. I was amazed with how good the technology was, and they have even improved upon it since then. Now we had a chance to do it again and it looks even better. To be able to not only to put on a very high production show, but at a time when I can’t tour, feels great and it is something I’m really proud of.
I am even more so proud to do it for a cause that is so near and dear to my heart. This especially after having spent a significant amount of time in hospitals with people I love; I had my best friend and father both pass away from cancer, and I spent a lot of time in the hospital with them. I have a very special place in my heart for family, patients, and people struggling and who are stuck in the hospital. I want to do any little bit I can to try and help bring them some joy or relief. There isn’t anything else I can think of that I care about more.
Cryptic Rock – People who are unwell, as well as their loved ones, really need that beacon of hope during hard times. Beyond these virtual shows, can we hopefully see you back touring again in 2021?
Lindsey Stirling – Gosh, I sure hope so. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’m trying to stay in shape. I just ran some stairs since I can’t go to the gym. I’m doing all the things that I would normally do, just to try to put out to the world and manifest that I will get to do these things again. I will get out on tour, entertain, and bring hope and joy to people. I’ll do the best I can through virtual shows and whatever I can right now, but I have to keep planning that touring is going to happen in 2021.
Cryptic Rock – Let us hope it does, because you put on an amazing live show. You spoke about women in music standing up together. As an artist you have always portrayed a very positive image for young women aspiring to be artists themselves. How important is it for you to portray a positive image for young women who are looking to follow their dreams?
Lindsey Stirling – It’s really important for me. I’m so fortunate that I grew up in a home with lots of sisters. My father always made sure that we knew we can do anything anyone else can do. I know that’s a big reason why I am the person I am today.
I remember at the beginning of when the feminist movement happened, I didn’t quite understand where everybody was coming from. Then, stepping into other people’s shoes, I realized that my experience, that was so fortunate, was really the exception to the rule. It made me realize I want to be an example so that young women cannot only hear that they are amazing, hopefully from their wonderful fathers and mothers, but also by seeing that other women have faced challenges and risen above them.
That is why I speak so openly about, not only the triumphs I’ve had, but I also think it’s even more important to speak about the things I’ve struggled with; be it anorexia or depression, and the fact that I was able to overcome things like that, and you can too.
You can love yourself, truly love yourself. I once thought that was impossible. I think that is one of the most important messages I love to share. Once I understood that, that is when I became unstoppable! I believed in myself fully, and I would have never been able to make it without that. That’s the biggest thing I love to share with young women. Hopefully my life speaks for itself, too. If I can rise above some of these awkward early days when I was not a well-perceived performer, so can you – so can anybody! Especially young women out there!
Cryptic Rock – It is extremely important to believe in yourself, and it is also important to shatter gender bias with such an empowering message. You have done so many collaborations throughout the years, whether it be with Pop or Rock artists. What have you learned from all these experiences?
Lindsey Stirling – I love collaborating, in general, because I think it makes something so unique that you would have never made on your own. I recently did this thing called String Sessions, where not only did I get to collaborate with an artist, but I got to interview them and hear their stories. What I learned was getting to hear over and over again people’s experiences, and that they had to go through their own version of triumphing over hardship. It’s this common thread story and I love to get to listen to people share that over and over again.
It was a great reminder that my story is not unique. My story is unique in the details, but someone like Andy Grammar was a street performer for years before anyone listened to his music. The Goo Goo Dolls had five albums before they ever had a hit and they persevered. Gabby Barrett played in grocery stores for a long time – that’s really hard. I just love getting to hear these stories over and over. These are amazing artists that are respected and loved. I hope my fans take away the same thing that I did: an amazing reminder that we all go through hard things. I hope they see when we go through these hard things and think about giving up, just remember they are in the company of Jewel, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Lindsey Stirling. They failed many times before, but just got up again. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve taken away from collaborating with other artists. I just love hearing their stories.
Cryptic Rock – Right, in life we inspire one another, it is what makes the world go round. Last question for you. As someone who is very theatrical, what are some of your favorite films?
Lindsey Stirling – I actually originally went to college to be a filmmaker. I wanted to be a director back in the day; I was in BYU’s film program for two years. I have always loved telling stories and visuals; it is part of the way I became the artist I am.
I grew up watching The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I love Fantasy, I always have. I read all the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings books. Getting to see the films come to life was so magical for me. For me, reading the book is like listening to my albums, and then I get to make the movie when I make music videos.