As told to Greg Cahill
Keep Connected chronicles the ways in which string players are staying in touch with their audience or students during the global coronavirus pandemic and its lingering impact on live concerts and classroom education. Even as society struggles to reopen, virtual performances and social-media outreach programs have kept performers in the public sphere, since live concerts, festivals, and other large gatherings remain largely unsafe.
Violinist, dancer, and choreographer Lindsey Stirling is a platinum-selling crossover pop sensation. Sidelined by the latest lockdown, Stirling nonetheless is set to premiere her new holiday special—online. She has been a presence on the internet since 2007—Stirling is one of the early YouTube stars. Currently, 12.7 million people subscribe to her LindseyStomp channel. She is known for futuristic violin-driven electronic music and fantastical music videos that speak to everything from the commodification of the individual to the need for spontaneity in our lives.
Since the release of her 2013 self-titled debut, the Arizona-raised, Los Angeles–based artist has racked up tens of millions of followers worldwide and more than 3 billion total views on YouTube. Stirling’s 2014 sophomore album, Shatter Me, was certified Gold by the RIAA, after debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 and No. 1 on the Dance/Electronic Albums Chart, and holding the No. 1 spot on the Classical Albums Chart for 21 consecutive weeks. Her third studio album, Brave Enough, featuring guest appearances from Dan + Shay, Christina Perri, Rivers Cuomo, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, and others, earned Stirling her second Billboard Music Award for Top Dance/Electronic Album. Stirling’s latest album, Artemis, released last fall, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums Chart and remained on the chart for 15 combined weeks. Artemis has also been turned into a successful comic book series.
Currently, Stirling is preparing for Lindsey Stirling Home for the Holidays Special, a virtual event streaming Saturday, December 12. The ticketed on-demand event will air at two show times: 12 PM Pacific/3 PM Eastern; and 5 PM Pacific/8 PM Eastern. Following the second showing, the special will be available on-demand for 72 hours. Tickets range from $20 (including printable coloring and activity sheets and Christmas recipes) to $125 (which includes a one-on-one virtual meeting with the artist). Click here for ticket information.
Strings asked Stirling about the challenge of performing during the pandemic and her quarantine experience overall.
Where are you quarantined?
I started the pandemic by flying back from South America, from what was supposed to be the first show of a four-month-long tour. I made a split decision to stay with my sister on her farm in Missouri—being with her and her family for four months was the best thing I could have done. I will always cherish that time with my family. Now, I am in L.A., just working from home.
Tell us about your daily routine while quarantined.
I’m pretty proud of myself that I work out six times a week. I’ve spent the last two months working nonstop on a Christmas special that I have self-produced with my crew. I spend my days planning the creative ideas, writing the skits, searching for costumes and making costumes, practicing, and designing sets. It’s been so fun to dive deep into creativity again.
What have you learned about yourself as a person and as a player while working and living in solitude?
I’ve re-learned the importance of creating my own new opportunities, just like I did at the beginning of my career. Since I became a successful artist, the ball has been rolling and as long as I worked hard to keep the momentum going, opportunities rolled in. Well, when everything came to a screeching halt for the world, all my go-to projects were obsolete, so I’ve had to get back in the trenches to create from scratch again. It’s been hard, but good for me.
What are your thoughts about how the pandemic has changed the string world, and how it will change the string world in the future?
Stringed instruments are often group instruments, and it is going to be interesting to see how orchestras can work together while being separate.
How are you staying connected with your audience during the quarantine?
I’ve done a lot of livestreams, and I’ve been working really hard on my Christmas special in hopes that it will bring people some joy this holiday season, since I can’t do my annual Christmas tour. The special airs on December 12 and tickets are available on my website, lindseystirling.com.
Why is it important to stay connected on social media?
It’s more important now than ever. Since we cannot go to concerts or meet in big groups with friends, we can see the world, experience art, and even cultivate friendships through social media.
What have you learned about your audience during this difficult time?
I’ve loved seeing how my fans have supported each other through this time. I’ve seen them donate to my charity, the Upside Fund, so they could help me give back to people in need in our fan community. But I’ve also seen them support each other emotionally by reaching out and listening to each other through social media.
How do you rate your experience with virtual performance?
I did a lot of livestreams from home in the beginning of the pandemic and I’m not going to lie, I got really tired of performing from my couch with bad sound quality. It’s been fun to think of new ways to stream that can make me proud of the performance. That is why I put so much creativity into my Christmas show. I was tired of giving second-tier experiences for people. I wanted to create a show that’s meant to be seen through a screen rather than another live show that you wish you could actually be at. My Christmas show is meant to be seen from your couch and it’s going to be awesome.
Is this something you will continue even as venues reopen?
Nothing will replace being in the room with fans and artists all together. That live energy is why we love concerts. But I’m sure some sort of virtual performing will now always be a part of our norm.
What are your goals going forward as performance venues reopen slowly?
I really hope to take my entire touring team out on an epic tour next summer. Fingers crossed. We all miss it so much.
How will you continue going forward as a player? Will the quarantine or limitations of the virus change your path?
I’m going to practice a little harder. It’s time to up those violin skills while I’m locked inside.
What projects are you working on?
Aside from my Christmas special, I’m working on new music and videos that will be coming out in the next few months. Be on the lookout!
Any tips for other string players considering this path?
My tip for string players is to stop trying to be what everyone else wants you to be. I spent years trying to be the textbook-perfect violinist. But that wasn’t me. I was never going to thrive there. Singers come in all different textures and styles—why can’t the violin come in the same variety of packages? Find what you love about music and your art and chase it.
Is there a parting message you’d like to share?
Stop doubting yourself! We are our own biggest road block, so believe in yourself.
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