When Lindsey Stirling was eliminated from the quarterfinals of "America's Got Talent" in 2010, the fan-favorite "hip-hop violinist" (a term she doesn’t like) received some classic reality competition judgment--somewhere between tactless criticism and brutal honesty. Said Piers Morgan at the time, "There were times in there when it was OK, and there were times when it sounded to me like a bunch of rats being strangled."
That kind of letdown would make your father tell you to get up, dust yourself off and find a hard day's work. Stirling did that, quickly finding a ton of momentum in a place most fathers would never consider: YouTube.
Almost three years later, Stirling, 26, is a YouTube mainstay, boasting 2012's 8th-most-popular video for her song "Crystallize.” With a sold-out show at the Vic on Saturday, clearly this violinist, dancer and video editor is doing something right.
In a recent phone interview, Stirling talked about being a self-made YouTuber, her eclectic song covers and how she writes her originals.
On being seen as an “Internet artist”: “You know I’m very proud of, I guess you could say my YouTube heritage [Laughs]. I don’t know if the outside world sees it too much, but any YouTuber works pretty hard because you pave your own way. You do it yourself. It’s a very DIY world, and all of us YouTubers have a lot of respect for one another because we know how much work it takes … I’m proud to be a YouTuber. I definitely don’t like being pigeonholed in any regard, like, I don’t like being called a hip-hop violinist. I don’t like being called this or that, you know? Everything I like to represent through my playing and my videos and my music is that you don’t have to be in a box in order to make it. You don’t have to fit into any criteria. You can express yourself any way you want to.”
On cover songs: “I take a lot of suggestions from my fans when I do covers just because they’ve been my support. I feel like it’s the least I can do for them if they want to hear a song, so I’ll kind of listen to their suggestions, but the other key ingredient is that I have to love the song. There’s no passion behind it if I’m not interested … Another thing is I always like to make it my own. I’m not a fan of just covering a song and doing it exactly [how] the original artist did it. If I’m gonna cover something, I like to do it in a unique way. So, for example, ‘Skyrim,’ doing it with an a cappella artist and working out, ‘How can we make this sound powerful and just as awesome as a full orchestra with just two people?’ Or like ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ doing it in a rock and roll style. With [Rihanna’s] ‘We Found Love,’ it was in an African style with Kenyan artists on it.”
On her dance moves: “I haven’t [had any classical training]. I do my own choreography… I just really have always loved dancing … I would say it’s my second love. The first was violin, then was dancing. But no, I’ve never had any formal training. In fact, I would say I’m the first YouTube-trained dancer because I would find tutorials on YouTube like on how to moonwalk, or I looked at how to glide and would practice watching those YouTube videos.”
On the considerable visual element behind her music: “I actually started out as a film major in college, and even in high school, I was always making music videos with my friends, you know, roping them into these projects. Even now, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, Lindsey, the same exact thing that we were doing in high school, and you were always like pulling us in and making us do, now you do that for a living!’ I’d always, like, find our costumes and tell everybody what to wear. I’d plan the set. Being a film major really helped me go into the YouTube space because not only do I think in music terms, sometimes the idea--before I even write the song, I’ve got the idea for a video. That was the case with ‘Shadows,’ for instance. I had this great idea to do a video where I danced against my shadow and I was like, ‘Oh, I need to write a song for that, and I’ll call it ‘Shadows’!’ So the two go hand-in-hand. Sometimes the music inspires the videos; sometimes the video concept inspires the music. Sometimes they both kind of happen and overlap each other.”
On her experience touring with a drug- and alcohol-free bus, stemming from her Mormon faith: “I really think that the whole no drugs or alcohol or whatever allowed on the bus, I think that makes a big difference. And it surely eliminates a lot of potential drama that could happen. We’re just a pretty clean, happy little tour.”
Lindsey Stirling, 7:30 p.m. Sat. at Vic Theatre. Sold out.
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