It’s a phenomenal feat for an artist to top the classical, pop and dance/electronic charts, and even more unusual to do it as a violin soloist. But this is the new age of Lindsey Stirling, who brings youthful spirit to her near-billion-viewed YouTube videos and concerts that mash up classical technique and Celtic/dubstep dancing.
“I don’t even pretend to be the best violinist out there,” says Stirling, 28, who plays Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on June 13 with a keyboardist, a drummer and four female co-dancers. “My strongest suit is that I’m an entertainer, and it’s the creative vision of the entire package that’s brought me to where I’m at.”
She’s at a crossroads of styles and cultures, a place where Stirling dresses up in fantasy videos, performing music from video games like Zelda and Skyrim and covers of both pop tunes and the Game of Thrones theme song, as well as originals. Her second independently issued album, Shatter Me, debuted in 2014 at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 pop chart and No. 1 on the iTunes album chart, in addition to logging 21 weeks atop the Billboard classical chart. The album includes vocal turns by Halestorm rocker Lzzy Hale and Dia Frampton, a former finalist on The Voice who served as an opener on Stirling’s tour.
The violinist also recently joined rapper Wiz Khalifa in performing his hit “See You Again” from the movie Furious 7 at the Billboard Music Awards and paired with John Legend to film a video of his single “All of Me.” Given her diverse collaborations and swirling, syncopated productions, Stirling inhabits a world that bridges Disney, Dvorak and EDM.
“I enjoy the fact that people don’t know how to categorize my music,” Stirling says from her tour’s launch spot in Vancouver. “I’ve never thought that things have to be categorized, like who says everything has to go in a box? That’s a big theme of my life.”
She earned her big break on America’s Got Talent in 2010, making the quarterfinals before the judges sent her packing, suggesting that her mix of hip-hop, dance and violin had its limitations. “It was actually devastating at the time,” Stirling says. “That was a huge initiation into getting some thick skin… I thought, ‘I’m going to prove them wrong. I’m going to get better. I’m going to practice my tail off, and I’m going to show them that I can do it.’ These [talent] shows give you a shot, but even if you win, those moments don’t make you or break you.”
Before playing to millions on television, Stirling hadn’t played in front of more than 100 people in one room. She grew up in a Mormon family, with parents who favored classical music. But they couldn’t afford to give her both violin and dance lessons, Stirling says, so she took up violin at age 6 and became a self-taught dancer. In high school in Arizona, she played violin in a rock group, then joined a country band and eventually turned to hip-hop and dubstep.
“I kept experimenting until I discovered what I wanted my music to sound like,” Stirling says. “I’ve always loved electronic music—I love that it makes you want to dance. You go to some of these EDM shows, and it’s amazing to watch an entire audience move in sync together, like it has a power of emotion.”
Shatter Me taps into particularly personal emotions about her battle with anorexia around the time of America’s Got Talent. “I basically started to give up every single thing in my life to keep this one control, and really, it was controlling me,” she says. “I had to gain weight and, more importantly, to teach my mind to think healthy again.”
The album’s cover art and the video for the title track depict Stirling as a music-box ballerina poised to crack out of a crystal ball. “I related so strongly to this image of being trapped, but feeling like what’s trapping you is also protecting you,” she says. “She’s flawless. But as she stands there, she’ll never be able to change… I had this facade that I had to break through in order to progress.”