Violinist Lindsey Stirling has the world on a string.
Her dubstep-laced instrumental video, “Crystallize,” went viral in 2012, jettisoning her to fame.
Her YouTube channel has topped more than a billion views.
Stirling’s season-opening concert at 4,000-capacity Outlaw Field at the Idaho Botanical Garden is sold out.
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Yet Stirling, 28, claims she is not a born Internet-marketing Einstein.
“I wish,” she says, phoning from her home in Studio City, Calif. “It’s funny, because people are still all the time, like, ‘Wow, you’re such a genius.’ And I’ve seen articles written about how smart I am: ‘This girl has figured it out.’ And I cannot take credit for that. I was extremely blessed. I worked extremely hard at the things I was good at ... .”
“It was the right song, the right time, the right mixture of everything to make something magic when it was ready,” she explains.
Stirling’s image is more natural and less calculated than one might think. In 2013, she agreed to do a video, “I’m Lindsey and I’m a Mormon.” In it, she tearfully reveals a past battle with anorexia.
These sorts of topics come with mainstream branding risks. But Stirling says she had no reservations about filming a video for the Mormon Church.
“I was actually very excited when they asked me to do one,” she says. “To be honest, I feel like part of the reason that I’ve been successful is that it gives me a voice, it gives me a platform.”
“I’ve had the opportunity to share a really positive message about overcoming challenges like my eating disorder. But also it’s given me an amazing opportunity to share my testimony. And that’s the least I can do to kind of almost say thank you for all the blessings that God has given me.”
It’s just another twist in an unlikely path for an EDM-influenced violinist who broke through by prancing among ice sculptures. Stirling’s career has been guided by one rule, it seems: Be herself.
“I love to play the violin, dance, write music, edit videos, play dress up, and perform,” she explains in her YouTube bio. “So, I combined it all together and this is what happened. :)”
Not everyone has been floored along the way. Stirling’s first big taste of the entertainment industry was a quarterfinals appearance in 2010 on “America’s Got Talent.” The judges agreed that the bespectacled 23-year-old was talented. But Piers Morgan said she wasn’t good enough at violin to simultaneously handle the choreography, making her playing sound “like a bunch of rats being strangled.” Sharon Osbourne told Stirling that she needed to be part of a group, not a solo performer: “I don’t think what you’re doing right now is enough to fill a theater in Vegas.”
Maybe it’s time for Stirling to write a good ol’ “na-na-na!” song for those early-career detractors?
“Everybody loves a good ‘na-na-na!’ song, I think,” Stirling agrees, chuckling. “Especially because at the time, it was so devastating. Those moments, they make or break you. It almost broke me as an artist — my artist’s spirit. That passion almost turned to fear. My love for getting on stage — I remember the next time I got on stage after that, I was so filled with fear.”
Instead, Stirling plowed forward. After meeting a “professional YouTuber” in 2011, she was surprised to learn that there are web celebrities who make money using the video-sharing site as a platform. Stirling decided to focus more intensely on YouTube as a career strategy. “It changed my world,” she says.
“The only person that could truly see the potential of what I could become was me,” Stirling says. “I didn’t know exactly what it was going to become. But I had this vision of ‘This could be so cool!’ — dancing, playing a violin. Cool costumes, really fun videos.
“I didn’t know it would be dubstep. I had no idea that I would be selling out 4,000-seat venues. But I just knew in my head, I saw that there was potential, and it could be so much more than just me on a stage with two backup dancers.”
When Stirling headlines Outlaw Field, it will be a dynamic experience. The show also will be different from her last Boise visit, a sold-out gig in 2014 at the Knitting Factory Concert House.
“New choreography, new dancers, new costumes, new staging, some new songs,” Stirling says. “It’s a full new show and that’s why I’m so excited.
“A little bit stressed,” she adds with a laugh. “But excited.”
That excitement never really leaves Stirling’s voice — or her face, if you’ve ever seen her move gracefully on stage. Stirling repeatedly points out that she works “super hard.” But still, a girl who started film school at Brigham Young University, graduated in recreational therapy then somehow wound up becoming a worldwide sensation as a dancing violinist?
“It is crazy to me,” Stirling admits. “I feel like it happened very fast. ... I just feel so incredibly blessed that it continues.”
Tonight in ‘The Other Studio’
Tune in as Tim Johnstone and I talk music and spin tunes from Wiz Khalifa, Little Big Town, Snoop Dogg, Shania Twain, Alessia Cara, Good Old War and ... David Duchovny? “The Other Studio” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.
In Scene May 22
Summer concert guide: Lindsey Stirling kicks off outdoor concert season in Boise, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Scene magazine will take a look at major shows in the Treasure Valley, Salt Lake City, The Gorge and more.