Chart-topping YouTube sensation dares to be dissimilar
Interview by Joshua Maloni
Writing a book about your life - at the ripe, old age of 29 - isn't normal.
Then again, neither is wearing elaborate costumes out in public.
Nor is having 1 billion people watch you perform a rock concert ... with a violin. Or seamlessly (and oddly logically) meld classical music with EDM.
Of course, if these things were ordinary or typical, then Lindsey Stirling wouldn't be "The Only Pirate at the Party," as she describes herself in a new autobiographical book of the same name.
In the nine months since our first conversation, the YouTube megastar staged and executed a tour of George Lucas-sized grandeur (including a stop at Artpark), appeared at various star-studded award ceremonies, graduated from BYU and met Taylor Swift.
Yet, it's the chance to tell her tale that means the most to Stirling. In the midst of all of the above, she put the finishing touches on a book that, among other things, chronicles her struggle with and ultimate defeat of anorexia.
The performer, who was prematurely dismissed from "America's Got Talent" in 2010 (and told she didn't have the goods), finished 2015 with her sophomore album, "Shatter Me," atop the year-end classical albums chart and second on the dance/electronic albums chart.
In the face of "You're not good enough," she's single-handedly sold nearly 800,000 copies of her music in the U.S., while amassing more than 7.5 million YouTube subscribers.
If you ask her how she's done it, her answer is simple: By being different; by being herself.
Stirling chatted about her book (out Tuesday), her journey, last summer's tour and an admiration for Swift in a phone interview last week.
Joshua Maloni: Last year you graduated from college and you wrote a book - in addition to having a giant tour. When did you develop cloning technology, and when do you plan on sharing it with the rest of us?
Lindsey Stirling: Right? Well, you know, it's funny. It's kind of cool that this (past) year had projects come out that I had been working on a while. It's really cool.
You know, of course, I had been working on my degree - my internship - for quite a while. It finally came to fruition during that tour. I worked on the tour forever. Then, also, this book, it was three years ago that we started it. I was working on it pretty intensively through the tour. My sister (Brooke S. Passey) and I were Skype-ing all the time, working on chapters.
It's amazing to have it coming out. ... I had no idea writing a book would take so long!
JM: That's usually the kind of thing that people do when they have a break; when they've been working in an industry for 10, 20, 30 years. Why was it the right time for you at the beginning of your career to write a book?
Lindsey Stirling: You know, I have so many things I wanted to share. Everything from really funny stories that just kind of showcase how I ended up being the way I am - you know, childhood stories - all the way through overcoming anorexia and just how I realized that I had a problem. And how I dealt with it and how I was able to overcome it. And then, how I formed my career.
I just felt like I had a lot of things I wanted to share. On stage, I'll talk about stuff, but they're little snapshots of my life rather than being able to actually say the "hows" and the "whys."
My fans ask me all the time, in a meet-and-greet setting, "How did you overcome anorexia? I struggle with that." You can't answer that question in 45 seconds, you know?
I hope that, in writing this story, in writing my story out, people could ... laugh and have fun and be entertained, but also see that they're not alone in the things that they go through. I think that's one of the biggest things about mental disorders - and any struggle; failure; whatever it is you're going through - we always feel so alone in it.
I wanted people to realize that my story to success is full of all of that. I overcame it, and they can, too.
JM: I think most people would have a vague concept, an imagining, of what it would take to sit down and write a book. I'm sure it's much more difficult than people realize. What surprised you the most about the process, and what was the most rewarding part for you?
Lindsey Stirling: I realized that I'm an over-cheesy person. I douse everything with a little extra bit of cheese (laughs). Sometimes I'd be like, "Oh, I think we should say it this way." And my sister, thank heavens, writing - doing the final tweaks on the actual writing - she would let me know, like, "Well, Linds, that's way too on the nose." Or "That comes across so cheesy." Almost to the point where it feels unauthentic.
I was, of course, trying to be authentic. But, I think, sometimes (I've) learned that less is more. And it's really hard to convey strong emotions, sometimes, in a way that doesn't feel too much like you're batting someone over the head or on a soapbox. You don't want to spend 200 pages on a soapbox. No one wants to read that book!
And so, being able to convey emotions and feelings - both the fun, the good and the bad - without feeling like you're preaching was a really interesting balance.
JM: And the title? Just an excuse to dress up as a pirate? What do you like about the title?
Lindsey Stirling: Partially. I love dressing up like a pirate!
There's a story in the book from when I first moved to L.A., and I got invited to a "Peter Pan"-themed party. I was super-excited; I had just filmed a music video with a pirate costume. I was, like, "Oh my gosh! I have the best pirate costume to wear!"
I show up, and I was the only person that had dressed up. At all. In the entire room. And so, as I was there, it was just like, "Wow, this is just a metaphor of my life." Kind of sometimes being a little over the top and feeling like you're the only pirate at the party.
And also, I kind of wanted the overarching theme of the book to be that being different is an interesting thing. I owe my success to the fact that I'm different. And I'm very glad that sometimes I'm different in certain ways. At the same time, sometimes it's hard to be different. So, I want the theme of the book to be that it's OK to be different; it's OK to be true to yourself - even if it doesn't feel like that's what everybody else is looking for. And in the end, it's wonderful to be different - even if, sometimes in the moment, it feels a little off-putting.
Lindsey Stirling at Artpark
JM: (Speaking of an upcoming book tour) What are you looking forward as far as the book signings go?
Lindsey Stirling: I'm looking forward to going with my sister. She's my best pal. So, to get to gallivant around the country with her is going to be a blast. And also, I love meeting my fans. It's so rewarding to meet these people that have supported me and have made my career happen. And the people that are going to be at the book signings are those people; they're the people that have really propelled my career.
It's so exciting to get to see their faces and their smiles and talk to them. A lot of times on tour, meet-and-greets have to go pretty fast, because we're on a schedule, and, you know, "We have a show to put on in an hour." This is nice because my whole purpose in traveling all over the place is just to talk to my fans and meet them and sign the books.
It's going to be a really unique tour. I'm excited.
JM: With the book, you're looking to provide inspiration to your fans. Who inspires you these days?
Lindsey Stirling: I have a lot of different inspirations that come from different places. My dad inspires me so much. My parents, in general, just have been super-inspirational my entire life.
I remember I met Taylor Swift last year, and I just was so inspired by how kind she was in person, and how intentional she was in the moment. She looked right into my eyes and talked with me as if I was the only person in the room - where she had tons of people waiting to talk to her (and people that were much more important than me). And so, I just remember really taking away from that moment, "I want to make every single person feel important."
It was such a small thing on her behalf, but it made me feel great. So, I just thought to myself, "I want to be intentional. I want to live in the moment. I want to see people."
That's the one thing I learned from Taylor Swift. I hope to someday embody that.
JM: (Speaking of her tour last summer). I've never enjoyed an Artpark concert more - or taken more photos - than I did when you performed. I know you were excited about putting that tour together. Were you satisfied with how it went?
Lindsey Stirling: Yes, I was. I worked, like, months, preparing that tour. Everything from creating some of the visuals myself to working really closely with the graphic designers who were creating stuff and planning the set pieces and the dances.
Gosh, we just all put so much into that tour. And it was actually terrifying. We only had like, I think, three days to do rehearsals for it and learn all the tech stuff - everybody together. It was terrifying. But I think one of the most rewarding nights of my life was when that first performance actually worked. And we all had this huge big hug backstage. And we were like, "Oh, my gosh, that was one of the most incredible feelings."
And then to get to perform it for another three-and-a-half months, it was rewarding every single night. Because I could watch the faces of the audience get excited at certain moments, and point up at the shadows, or get scared by the zombies. It was just a really fun show.
JM: I still can't get over the fact that you're a self-taught dancer.
Lindsey Stirling: Thank you so much. That means I'm doing something right! (Laughs)
JM: I saw on your website you'll be debuting a new music video. I'm sure it's going to get some insanely high number of views on YouTube. Is that old hat at this point, or do you still get a kick out of the fact that your videos are seen by whole countries in terms of total numbers?
Lindsey Stirling: That will never get old! I love making music videos. I went to college to be a filmmaker, originally, because I wanted to "make videos for the masses!"
It still propels my career. I've toured now, and I've released albums ... I'm writing a book. But what really propels all of it is my YouTube channel.
This last video that I released, it was so rewarding to see it enjoyed by so many people. It was a really special one that had a really cool theme to it ... about seeing people and seeing the world around you, and living in that. It was really so rewarding to see people say that they, maybe they cried during it; or that it meant a lot to them; it made them feel like they weren't invisible. ... It meant so much to see that response.
And so, I think it will always be like Christmas morning when I release a video.
Visit http://www.lindseystirling.com to order "The Only Pirate at the Party," find a book-signing event near you, or to connect with Lindsey on social media. Watch her videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/LindseyStomp.
Watch Lindsey's new video, "Heist," below:
"The Only Pirate at the Party"