The moment was “devastating.”
On August 23, 2010, “hip-hop violinist” Lindsey Stirling stood before the judges on the popular television variety show “America’s Got Talent,” and received an appraisal of her recent performance.
She had just taken the stage with several backup dancers in tow to play energetic violin accompaniment to the pop hits “Break Your Heart” by Taio Cruz and “Tik Tok” by Kesha, and had received a rousing ovation from the audience.
Now, standing front and center in sneakers, high socks, and with a skirt held up by rainbow suspenders, the pixyish Stirling listened attentively while judge Piers Morgan described portions of her playing as sounding like, “a bunch of rats being strangled.”
“You’re not untalented,” Morgan continued. “But you’re not good enough, I don’t think, to get away with flying through the air and trying to play the violin at the same time.”
Such harsh criticism would be some of the last Stirling would hear on “Talent” before being eliminated from the show that same week. Fortunately though, the rejection would not mean the end of the young musician’s dreams.
Flash-forward four years and Stirling has rebounded from her low moment to become an online star with two successful albums and multiple global tours to her credit.
Stirling’s latest record Shatter Me even features guest vocals from singers Lzzy Hale (Halestorm) and Dia Frampton (“The Voice”), and hit number one on the US iTunes electronic charts based on pre-sale numbers alone.
In a recent email interview, Stirling cited her sour exit from “America’s Got Talent” as strong motivation for continuing on with her career.
“At the time I was excited to be on the show; taking it all in,” she says. “I was anxious, nervous, excited, shocked. It was a huge learning experience, and I’m so grateful for it. The rejection was devastating, but it ultimately fueled my desire to prove them wrong.”
To prove her detractors wrong, Stirling went directly to the public and began posting videos of herself to YouTube. Hits quickly accumulated, and Stirling soon became a bona fide social media darling with millions checking in to watch clips of her perform as well as behind-the-scenes footage of her making music and talking about her life.
She says, “Social media has made all the difference. Starting out, I was totally self-promoted through YouTube and through the collaborations I did with other artists, starting with Devin Graham. He helped me create my first music video and promoted me on his channel. His fans became my first fans. And everything snowballed from there.”
Stirling has since collaborated with critically-acclaimed artists like John Legend as well as the a capella group Pentatonix, whose video with Stirling performing a cover of the Imagine Dragons’ song “Radioactive” has received over 65 million views online and even won the YouTube Music Award for Response of the Year in 2013.
"I have always felt that collaborations were important,” Stirling says. “First of all, they are so much fun. I’m a solo act, so whenever I get to duet, etc. with another artist I absolutely love it. I love people, love meeting people, love making new friends. Secondly, it was absolutely critical to my success early on as a musician. Collaborating with another artist meant that I would be seen by their fans, many of whom would become my fans too and vice versa. It’s a win-win all around.”
Another way collaborations have aided Stirling’s career has been by assisting in the evolution of her overall sound. Though branded on television as a “hip-hop violinist,” Stirling can be classified as a classical crossover artist, who also has incorporated elements of EDM, electronic music, and dubstep into her work.
The title single from her latest album Shatter Me even adds Lzzy Hale’s rock star vocals to the mix without diluting Stirling’s unique flavor.
Watch the official video for “Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling and featuring Lzzy Hale of Halestorm here:
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“My biggest challenge in creating my second album was making it sound ‘different’ without losing ‘my’ sound,” Stirling says. “I worked with several different producers on this album as well as several collaborations. This album is the first time I have ever done any original songs with singers or lyrics. My music has always had a message [or] meaning, but being able to spell out exactly what I’m trying to say has been a very unique experience for me.”
On her current tour, Stirling is attempting to convey this more personal message while also greatly expanding her stage show. Instead of performing solo she now plays with a band – Drew Steen on drums and Jason Gaviati (aka “Gavi”) on keyboards – and also hosts several backup dancers along with more elaborate lighting. Noting the workout that comes with dancing and playing violin simultaneously every night, Stirling even claims to have bought herself some new running shoes to help keep fit for every concert.
She’ll need the new kicks too because looking ahead to the future, the young musician who was once told she’d never fill a theater in Las Vegas is showing no signs of slowing down her productivity.
“I would love to do a Christmas album and possibly release a ‘covers’ album in the near future,” Stirling says. “I’d love to collaborate with some of my favorite artists like Ellie Goulding, Hayley Williams, Amy Lee, David Guetta.”
But for now Stirling is exactly where she wants to be – on the road.
She says, “Touring is a dream come true for me. I absolutely love the energy that comes from having a live audience; I feel like that energy brings out my best. It’s euphoric; there’s nothing like it. Granted I always get a little nervous right before I perform, but once I’m on stage there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
For more information on Lindsey Stirling please visit www.lindseystirling.com.