Piers Morgan almost crushed Lindsey Stirling like a butterfly on a wheel. In 2010, when Stirling made it to the quarter-finals on America's Got Talent, the broadcast journalist took a dim view of the dancing dubstep violinist, saying, "There were times in there when it was OK, and there were times when it sounded to me like a bunch of rats being strangled."
"I was so sad," Stirling says of her dismissal from the show. "When you hear something like that, and it's on TV for everybody else to witness, you think you're over."
After licking her wounds, Stirling dusted herself off and got crafty, putting out her own videos on YouTube, where they quickly found a sizable and loyal audience. Her classical-crossover/electronica clip of the song Crystallize has racked up an astonishing 83 million views, and her self-titled debut album has already sold over 180,000 copies in the US while going gold in both Germany and Switzerland.
Before heading off to the studio to work on her second album, Stirling sat down with MusicRadar to talk about her unique approach to electronic music and how she's mastered online marketing.
Hearing you play, it's not surprising that you've studied classical music.
“No, I definitely have. I took classical lessons for about 11 years. I started when I was about six years old. I had a private teacher and took lessons once a week. I did that till I was about 17.”
You were only into classical at that time?
“Pretty much, but when I was about 15, I started experimenting with different types of music. I joined a rock band and started playing along to a lot of my favorite radio hits. It was kind of my reward for practicing so much. I’d be like, ‘OK, now I’m done with my practicing – I can play to the Black-Eyed Peas!’ [Laughs] But until around then, it was all pretty much classically based.”
Did you play violin in the rock band? Ever try you hand at the guitar?
“It was with a violin. I saved up and my parents helped me buy an electric violin. I played these little house parties so that my friends could hear me play. Before I got the electric, my friends would complain: ‘We can never hear you!’ I tried doing it at first by just playing to a mic, but it still wasn’t loud enough. Getting the electric violin was the beginning of my itch to play on stage.”
Did the sound immediately work for you, putting the violin to rock?
“Oh, yeah! Not long after I joined the band, we discovered Yellowcard and were like, ‘Oh, cool! Here’s a band that people really like, and they’ve got a violinist, too.’ The violin, to me, can go with anything. That’s why I’ve been able to put it with dubstep and dance music; it’s why it works with rock ‘n’ roll. It’s an incredibly versatile instrument and can cross over a lot of boundaries, which is why I love doing what I do. Most people still see the violin as a classical instrument. It’s nice to break the mold.”
How did you start getting into electronic music? What was the first thing that hooked you?
“There was this techno radio station that in Arizona – 1011 or something. It came in really fuzzy, and you could hardly hear it, but I started listening to it and got really into what they played. I would listen to it on my way to school. Electronic music wasn’t that big in Arizona, but I just loved it. It was so much fun to dance to – it made me wanna move! [Laughs]
“I got really into electronic, which then led to me loving Daft Punk. From there, I discovered bands like Passion Pit and Phoenix. And then I got into Nero and Swedish House Mafia. Skrillex was what got me into dubstep, but that was years later.”