An exhausted Lindsey Stirling was in a hotel room in Rome, trying to recover from a performance earlier that July evening while talking about the tour that she’d be moving from Europe to the U.S. in a couple weeks.
“I did a show tonight and I just got out of an Epsom salt bath to try to make my muscles relax,” Stirling said. “It’s a pretty strenuous athletic show. It’s either gonna make me crippled by 40 or it’s gonna keep me going forever. I’m not sure.”
That’s the show that the dynamic violinist and dancer will take across the United States in August and September, a few months short of a year after she’d played an extensive tour behind “Snow Waltz,” her holiday themed album, not exactly the music that would be appropriate for a summer tour.
“We are doing one Christmas song, I know that may sound crazy,” she said. “Shockingly enough, my version of ‘Carol of the Bells’ is one of my top streaming songs today. It’s still streaming strong in the summer, which blows my mind. So I was like, ‘You know what, why not give the people what they want.
“But the rest of it, I’m not promoting an album right now, so I’ve got no new music,” Stirling elaborated. “So it was a chance to just look back and be like ‘what are my favorite songs to perform live. We’ve got two epic covers, one of which is a classical song that I’ve reimagined and I’m going to play, which is terrifying to me.”
It’s perhaps surprising that playing a classical violin solo terrifies Stirling. But, she said, the trepidation is rooted in her relationship with classical music and in the contrast of styles between classical violin and her signature amalgamation of pop, hip-hop, rock and electronic music.
“I grew up playing classical music all the way up through my teenage years till I went to college,” Stirling said. “The classical community can be quite cutthroat. It’s a hard world to be a part of, and I felt like I got a little burned by it. So I almost had a breakup with classical music years ago, after I started my own journey with this different kind of music.
“Now come back to it and be like, ‘Hey, this is a skill I haven’t exercised in a long time, but it’s a part of what made me fall in love with the violin,’” she said. “So we’re gonna make up. It’s very, very different to play classical music or this messy style of what rock and pop can be. Classical is pristine, and you can’t do that. So it’s just kind of working a muscle. It’s as if you went to a pop singer’s concert, and she suddenly busted into an opera. It’s such a different style. it would be like ‘Whoa. That’s how classical music feels to me. It’s a stretch. It’s hard.”
Stirling’s breakup with classical music, which came after a much-criticized performance she did with a symphony orchestra in London, came a few years after she made the transition away from pure classical violin.
“I thought ‘I’m good enough to make it in the classical world. I’ll be somewhere in the back of the orchestra. But I’m never gonna get to choose what I play. I’m never gonna get to be a soloist,’” she said. “That was a moment where I needed to figure out what I liked about this and if I want to keep going enough to do that. That’s when I ended up swaying a little bit.”
That sway had started when Stirling joined a rock band while in high school in Arizona. But it really took off when started writing the music that earned her the designation of “hip-hop violinist” when she appeared on “America’s Got Talent” in 2010.
That performance led to her music video for “Spontaneous Me,” which was uploaded to her YouTube channel, where her videos received millions of views, propelling her to stardom.
“It was like a wild, wild west back then,” she said. “We were making YouTube videos in 2011, 2010. We were part of that original OG YouTuber culture. It was hard and you had to figure it out. Now, there aren’t very many people from that era that are still doing it that have kept up with the different waves and figured it out time after time.”
Two years later, Stirling, who had experimented with adding dubstep and other electronic music to her compositions, released her 2012 self-titled debut album. That was also when Stirling began dancing, a rarity for a violinist.
“I didn’t dance at all, actually, until I was 25,” she said. “When I started to write music, I was like I better learn to move around because this is very dance-y music. That’s when I started to dance.
“I was really awkward looking for a while and you know, I’m still a work in progress because I feel like I’m trying to keep up with these kids who’ve danced their whole lives,” Stirling said. “But I feel like I’ve come such a long way. And I’m pretty proud of all that effort because it was years of work.”
That work is manifested in the live show that Stirling painstakingly puts together for each of her tours, blending the music from her six albums, with tightly choreographed dancing, aerials and striking lighting.
“I do put months of work into every show,” she said. “It’s one thing to have a set list, but then to figure out all those transitions and where to put costume changes, where to put the dancers, when to put in the talking moments, when to have enough time to get on the aerial apparatus and how to get down smoothly, all these little things. It takes a lot to make a show feel effortless and smooth.”
Stirling’s also still on top of the online world, now doing TikTok videos to connect with another generation.
“The thing I’m best at is performing and making music; it’s not marketing,” she said. “But I’ve had to learn to be a marketer. I’ve had to learn to think like Gen Z. It used to be I had to try to think ‘What would millennials like?’ I was a millennial, so it was a lot easier.”
That marketing to each generation, however, has, for the last decade, made Stirling an influence on kids, boys and girls, who come to her shows and let her know that she’s changed their lives.
“It’s so heartwarming every time someone comes up and tells you that they pursued something, we started playing the violin or, they started dancing, whatever it may be because they resonated with something I did,” Stirling said. “It’s always really flattering and really special. It’s something that doesn’t get wasted on me for sure.”
Lindsey Stirling will perform at Centennial Terrace, 5773 Centennial Road, Aug. 4 at 8 pm. Ticket prices vary. For more information, visit eventticketscenter.com/lindsey-stirling-sylvania-08-04-2023/5627915/t.