Lindsey Stirling Interview: “We need to have a dialogue about which stigmas affect our success as women”
Not many artists would promote their upcoming album with a virtual concert, but most artists are not Lindsey Stirling.
Thanks to a bodysuit that tracked Stirling’s movements in real-time, the dancing violinist headlined the virtual concert on August 26th with a digitized avatar version of herself performing a ‘string’ of hits (we love a pun), navigating through virtual environments while playing her violin.
The virtual concert is a testament to Stirling’s artistry and creativity, which seemingly knows no boundaries. Once upon a time, however, there seemed to be every boundary in Stirling’s way: doubters, criticisms and a general misunderstanding of who and what Stirling ‘should’ be from an industry which loves boxing artists in as much as it loves commercializing their individuality.
With five albums, hundreds of millions of streams and over 500k global ticket sales under her belt, Stirling successfully managed to break out of that box, violin firmly in hand – but it wasn’t easy, of course.
Ahead of the release of her fifth studio album Artemis, out Friday September 6th, Stirling sat down with us to spill the tea on inventing her own genre of music, selling 500k concert tickets after Sharon Osbourne told her she’d never sell out venues, as well as why Stirling believes “we need to encourage women to not be afraid to learn all kind of technicals skills.”
SheBOPS: Is there a quote you consider to be your life motto?
Lindsey Stirling: I actually have a favorite scripture:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he [God] shall direct thy paths. -Proverbs 3:5-6.
I believe that each of us is born with specific missions to fulfill – people we are meant to help (and vice versa) and things we are supposed to learn. When I live true to the principle taught in this scripture, I trust that, regardless of the challenges I face, I am led to where I need to be, and accomplish what I am destined to do.
You have practically invented your own genre of music, but what are some of your favorite sounds to incorporate into your music?
I would say that my music is a combination of all of my training over the years! I spent most of my youth playing classical/orchestra music, but I started losing my passion approaching my senior year of high school. I knew I loved the violin, but I think that being limited to performing others’ compositions, much of which were hundreds of years old, became a frustration. I wanted to broaden my scope of repertoire and create some music of my own. This was around the time I took fiddle lessons from a couple of my Dad’s students (Hollywood Bug Guys) and joined my high school rock band, Stomp on Melvin. I learned to improvise to Stomp on Melvin’s music, and later to other pop songs I heard on the radio. Around this same time frame, I wrote my first “pop” song and called it, “I Gotta Get Me One of Those” (a boyfriend haha) and sang it regularly for whoever would listen… mostly my family and friends. After America’s Got Talent, I partnered with Marco G and created my first electronic tracks (“Song of the Caged Bird”, “Transcendence” and “Spontaneous Me”) and fell in love with EDM. So although I ultimately incorporate all of the genres I’ve been exposed to over the years (classical, rock, pop, fiddle, electronic, vocal), EDM has ultimately become my favorite go-to.
What is the toughest part of creating new music?
Confidence! I used to really struggle with the idea that I couldn’t possibly top the music I had already released. My biggest fear was that I might disappoint my fans, or that my “musical babies” (new music) would be criticized or unaccepted. This is an aspect of me that I consistently need to address and work on, but I’ve more or less gotten used to the emotional rollercoaster that comes with writing new tracks, and the predictable steps that follow. Ultimately, I know that with time and work, the music eventually comes to full fruition. I’m not alone either… I know God will be there to guide the work that I do if I allow it, and even the messiest of circumstances has a way of working together perfectly. I can count on that. One of the other challenges of writing has been creating music that don’t sound the same as songs I’ve already done, or, on the other hand, sounds so far from it that the music isn’t “me” anymore. Finding that balance has probably been my biggest writing challenge. I’ve addressed that concern by working with a lot of different producers, which helps bring out different creative sides of me.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you while working on a song?
I don’t know that I can pinpoint one weird thing haha, but I often develop a love/hate relationship with my music during its development. One day I love it, the next day I want to throw it in the virtual trash and start over. The tracks that survive to albumhood ultimately grow on me until love wins out.
Your new album tells the story of Artemis, Goddess of the Moon, and uniquely draws parallels to your own personal experiences. How did you develop this concept?
When writing Artemis, I wanted to convey the message that, even in our darkest hours, there is a ‘silver lining.’ Rather than falling into despair, we can find opportunities to learn and grow. As I was contemplating an album title, I thought of the moon and how it waxes and wanes. It occurred to me that, even when we don’t see the light of the moon, the source of the light is still there. Like clockwork, the moon grows in light and then diminishes in light. But one thing is certain: the light always comes back! I thought back to some of the most difficult times in my life, and how no matter how horrible things seemed to me at the time, I always made it through. Life is like that. We will go through ups and downs. We will go through times of great joy and great challenges. But in experiencing both, we gain strength, empathy, appreciation, and understanding. I remember learning about Greek mythology back in high school, but it’s been a few years, so I had to do some research to re-learn about Artemis, the goddess of the moon. Her story and symbolism led me to use her name for the title of my album. After some deliberation, I decided to write a modern-day story of her to release with the album! This led to the creation of my upcoming comic book, which is really my own story. In the comic, Artemis, totally unaware of her true identity, discovers her power and purpose. Throughout her journey, she begins to see the truth of where she came from, who she is, and what her destiny requires.
What was the biggest difference in terms of writing and recording Artemis compared to your previous albums?
Of all my albums, Artemis was, by far, the fastest album I’ve ever written. Most of my albums involved a good amount of frustration, resistance, and sleepless nights. When writing Artemis, I was in a fantastic emotional space. I believe that the joy I was feeling in my life at the time made it easier to write with the confidence and ease that may have taken more time to cultivate in my earlier albums.
You were told at the beginning of your career that you ‘wouldn’t fill out a theatre in Vegas’ and that your music is ‘unmarketable’ – yet here you are 500k ticket sales later, promoting your fifth album and embarking on another world tour after your previous tour was one of Live Nation’s 10 best-selling amphitheater tours for Summer 2018. How do you stay strong during negative moments like that in your career?
There’s a common saying that “sticks and stones break bones but words can’t hurt…” – one of the greatest lies of our century. Who came up with that nonsense? Words hurt! And they can hurt us worse when we actually believe the words being said. When I find myself in that situation, I find that resilience is the best medicine. When I receive criticism – even harsh criticism – I try to ask myself if any element of the comment is true. If it is, and it’s something I can do something about, I consider making positive changes. If not, I do my best to let it go. I can respect others’ right to their opinion, and I have a right to mine. It’s encouraging that most of the feedback I receive from others is very kind and gracious, and I appreciate that. When I do hear, read, or see negative comments, it still takes a lot of self-discipline not to get pulled into questioning myself, my worth, my talent, or my purpose. But when I remind myself that God’s opinion is the only one that really matters, and give myself credit for doing the best I can in any given moment, it gives me the courage to stay the course. If I wasn’t successful, I probably wouldn’t be getting any negative OR positive feedback for that matter, so I suppose I can take either as a sign that I’m making an impact, and that’s encouraging in and of itself.
Was there ever a moment where you felt like giving up on music and doing something else? How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals?
While I still give credit to America’s Got Talent for fueling the fire I needed to beat the odds, it was America’s Got Talent that almost did me in. I went through a period after the show where I lost all of my confidence, wanted to crawl into a hole, and wished I’d never picked up a violin in the first place. For a time, I actually believed the judge’s harsh words… and wondered if I was just deluding myself to believe I could ever be good enough to perform on stage ever again. But it all came back to what I knew… and I knew what I loved. I knew that I was worth something. And I believed I had a mission to fulfill. I figured that, if God knew what it was, and He was encouraging me in that direction, there was no way I could fail.
You are a very unique performer who has carved out an audience with your eclectic performance style, but have you ever felt pressured to fit a certain ‘mold’ as an artist?
Absolutely. When I first started out, promoting my little ol’ self, I was told over and over by labels and managers that the popular world of music was no place for a dancing violinist. I was told that I could be support for a band, or a player in an orchestra, but I had a difficult time selling my vision to any takers. Devin Graham finally took me on (devinsupertramp on YouTube) and showcased my work on his YouTube channel. The rest is history. But in all seriousness, I owe my career to Devin; I couldn’t have made it without him.
Have you noticed any double standards when it comes to gender in the music industry?
Growing up I was taught to believe if I put my mind to it I could do anything. Thankfully, I don’t recall a time my parents even mentioning my gender, my identity, my appearance, my finances, or my intelligence in relation to my goals. I personally never felt held back and lived as I was taught: to be strong and to make my own choices. However, as I grew up, I started to realize that women are discriminated against every day in all their interactions, whether that be in a common place like a coffee shop or even their place of work. To start moving past this, I think we need to have a dialogue about which stigmas affect our success as women and start knocking down those barriers. Women need to support each other. We should create together. Women should confide in each other and talk about the hardships we have faced both publicly and personally. I think that’s best way for women to work towards overcoming the double standards we face everyday.
How do you feel about the representation and portrayal of female musicians? Is there anything that you’d like to change?
As I mentioned before, women need to support each other. I’m so glad to see so many females using their mind, hearts, and talent in their art everyday. We live in a world where we can create freely and however other women choose to represent themselves is exactly that their choice. And to me, that’s really powerful and exciting.
As a woman, is there anything about the music industry that bothers you?
Yes, that there are not enough female producers in the world! And from the few powerful and talented women producers I have met, I’ve heard stories that people have assumed at first that they were just a girlfriend or friend hanging out. Why do people think that being a woman means they aren’t capable of using technology? That is not okay! I think we need to encourage women to not be afraid to learn all kind of technicals skills, and in fact, I am even learning how to produce myself. On my new album Artemis, I helped produce the entire album and I’m really proud of that. I also edit all of my YouTube videos and have from the beginning. It always makes me laugh when some people seemed shocked by that! But I love editing so much, it’s like therapy for me.
What challenges do you think female musicians are facing today?
I think male or female, to make a living as a musician can be challenging. To be successful, you have to be creative and adaptable. Musicians put their blood, sweat, and tears into their work and that can be exhausting! I think the biggest challenge for some women can be the illusion that we always have to look perfect and put together even when we’re so exhausted. I think there’s something very human about just being yourself. It’s so fun to be all glammed up of course, but it’s important to remember that even without make up or any fancy clothes you’re just as beautiful.
You’ve featured incredible artists like RuthAnne, Raja Kumari and Elle King. Who else is on your hit list of women to collab with?
I would love to collaborate with Ellie Goulding, David Guetta, Adam Sandler, and I’ve wanted to be on the Ellen DeGeneres show since forever 😛
Are you familiar with the K-pop group LOONA? The moon is quite symbolic in their visuals too – a Lindsey x LOONA collab would be quite interesting!
I have now! I’ll definitely have to consider that!
What advice would you give to young girls and women looking to work in music?
Know exactly what you want, and be unrelenting in your standards. Don’t allow the lures and pressures of the industry to make you forget all the reasons you wanted to do it in the first place.
Is there anything in your career that you feel like you are still learning?
Balance. I feel like my life is in a constant state of flux, and I’m having to make consistent adjustments along the way. My goal, of course, is to put first things first: God, family, friends, R&R, and then my career. The most successful career in the world wouldn’t be able to make up for a lack in my primary-goal areas. Sometimes my priorities get a little out of order and I have to be self-aware enough to get myself back on track. It’s a constant learning process, and since the only constant in this world is change, I’m still learning and re-learning this balancing act!
Catch Lindsey Stirling in London on October 14th at Eventim Apollo.
Such a great interview Hasan! You asked a lot of intelligent questions (but then you always do), and Lindsey’s responses show her to be a wise and thoughtful person, in addition to being an amazing musician.
Thank you so much for your comment ☺️ This is definitely one of my favorite interviews because of Lindsey’s answers!
I love me some Lindsey! What insightful questions and great answers from Miss Stirling!
Did you do the interview via phone call or email or such? Just curious ☺️
Thank you! Yes, great answers. The interview was done via email due to busy schedules 😊