The term “self-made artist” has never applied more than it does to Lindsey Stirling, who got started by taking a class on how to create a career on the web. When Stirling then posted her first original song and video, “Spontaneous Me,” on YouTube under the username “lindseystomp” — an homage to her high school rock band, Stomp on Melvin — she never expected to get over 22 million views. But her independent path to success should not have been too surprising, as Stirling delivers high energy and music that’s not like anything else out there: violin meets electronic dance music. Based on fan requests, she posts videos of cover songs partnering with artists, such as John Legend and Macklemore, and theme songs from Game of Thrones and The Phantom of the Opera, all with choreographed dancing.
With a personality so big in person and onstage, it is no wonder Stirling’s career has gone beyond that of the average musician. Commonly compared to Paramore’s Hayley Williams — a musical hero of Stirling’s — both in looks and personality, she is a “firecracker onstage.” Her YouTube channel also includes hair tutorials and dance lessons, and she’s in the middle of writing a book, The Only Pirate at the Party, which will be released this January. We spoke via phone to discuss her career, religion, and upcoming Music Box Tour.
Why electronic music? I tried so many different musics. I kind of burned out on classical and wanted to make it fun again. I started playing with indie bands and country bands and finally realized electronic music brought my style to life.
How has YouTube affected your life? YouTube — holy cow! — I can do my career at my own pace. I didn’t have anybody to tell me I wasn’t ready, and I learned how to self-market and how to strategize. “Spontaneous Me” had already been up on iTunes, but besides my mom and grandma, no one bought it. Once it was up on YouTube, it went crazy.
How do you incorporate other instruments into your songs? Sometimes I’ll add guitar or featured vocalists or background vocals to the track. But I write the lead violin lines, which is always the main feature.
Have you ever taken professional dance classes? Nope, no dance classes. Over the last two years and for music videos, I hired choreographers. It’s made me a much better dancer and gives my music what I’m looking for.
I understand you’re a Mormon. Does that restrict your lifestyle and/or career? I still follow the lifestyle of the Mormon church. I try to go to church every Sunday even when I’m on tour. It’s not only my upbringing, but it helps me stay sane. It helps me remember my purpose and the overall picture of what is important to me and what makes me happy. People call it a restrictive lifestyle, but it keeps me very safe. At the same time, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
What happens after this tour? I’m actually jumping in the studio next week to write a new album, which is … ahh … daunting and scary! I’m gonna be making a lot of music videos this fall and will be doing a book tour in January.
Speaking of that, how did you come up with the title of your book? As a kid, I was creative and unique, and I’ve had that my whole life. One time, I went to a costume party, and I was the only pirate there.
You can catch Lindsey Stirling at the Santa Barbara Bowl, 1122 North Milpas Street, on Saturday, August 15, at 7 p.m.