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Behind the Scenes with a Dynamic Artist

We had the chance to chat with musician and performer Lindsey Stirling about her upcoming Snow Waltz tour and the magic behind her music, costumes, da

Published in the December 2022 Issue Published online: Dec 03, 2022 Events
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Photos by Cara Robbins

We had the chance to chat with musician and performer Lindsey Stirling about her upcoming Snow Waltz tour and the magic behind her music, costumes, dancing and more. We wanted to give our readers a chance to peek behind the curtain and meet this energetic and creative artist. 

IFM: Welcome, Lindsey. Thank you so much for talking with us today so we can share a little bit about you and your work with our readers. Let’s get started by having you tell us about your new Snow Waltz album.

LS: Definitely. It's a Christmas album. I love Christmas. A big fan over here, always have been. But I wanted to take a more cinematic approach with this Christmas album. I just kind of pushed all the sounds a little bit further than people are used to hearing with these songs. And I took the songs all in some really unique directions. So, you know, basically all the songs on there, people have never heard an arrangement like the ones that I did. And I think that was a fun challenge to try to find new ways to arrange these Christmas songs that have been covered hundreds and hundreds of times.

IFM: You’ve definitely succeeded. The album is so much fun to listen to with lots of little surprises. Tell us about your favorite song on the album.

LS: My favorite is actually “Magic.” David Archuleta sings it. And I immediately knew when I was writing it that David would sing it. He's so good. The song was actually inspired by a conversation in a Sunday School lesson. We were talking about the difference between happiness and joy and how you can go through really hard experiences and hard times that leave you feeling discouraged or sad or lonely. All the situational things that create those deep emotions. But even while you're feeling these things you can still have an underlying joy, which comes from not your situations but from just internal hope, faith, peace, gratitude all those stronger emotions that kind of can supersede any situational experiences.

So that's what inspired the song. And I really went back to some moments of my life where I felt really powerful dualities of emotions like being extremely devastated over something but still having this gratitude deep down. I just love the song. It gives me all the right kind of warm fuzzies.

IFM: It’s a really great song. Very complex. Can you tell us a little more about the song “Snow Waltz”?

LS: Yes. I'm a big fan of Harry Potter and Nightmare Before Christmas. And I feel like both of those franchises did such a good job at combining whimsical magical sounds with spooky sounds. So that's kind of the world I was going for. And as we were writing it, I thought, oh my gosh, this sounds like skeletons are dancing. So I kind of chased that idea and thought, what if these skeletons are hanging out in the hall of holidays and Halloween is over, so they're about to go their caskets to sleep ‘til next Halloween? But then they hang on just a little too long and they're wowed by Christmas. What would they feel? What would they think? You know, if they experienced what we know as happy things, would they be scared by this because they’re skeletons? They come from a world where everything's supposed to scare them, including maybe an adorable puppy or a bedtime story about Santa Claus sneaking into the house. Of course the skeletons would be terrified by that. So it was really fun to find the humor in the song, and, oh gosh, I had so much fun with the costumes on that one. It was just a really fun project to work on.

IFM: The song definitely stands out on the album. It’s both sophisticated and whimsical. It’s not hard to see why you chose it for the title. Tell us more about the costumes for the Snow Waltz album and tour. They look fantastic.

LS: Thank you. Yes, I was really very proud of them. I do a lot of my own costuming and sometimes it's just because I have a fun idea and I quite enjoy it. I just enjoy doing things with my hands and being crafty. So I had this vision in my mind of these ornate, beautiful Victorian skeletons, not like a Halloween costume skeleton. I couldn't find rib cages online like what I was imagining. I had seen on TikTok how people can make these cool things out of hot glue. So I thought, well, why couldn't I make a rib cage out of it? So yeah. They're all made out of hot glue. I formed them around a mannequin and then spray-painted them gold and added lace to them. I was so excited when I put them on my dancers and saw how good they looked. I was like, Oh my gosh, it worked.

IFM: Let’s shift a little and talk about your background and some of the early influencers in your life that brought you to this point in your career, especially musically.

LS: Well, a lot of my really early influence came from my parents. They loved classical music and they would play these classical pieces on this old record player. That's kind of what made me want to play the violin as a kid, just hearing that. And, you know, my dad loved The Beatles, so I kind of grew up around that music. And then when I was in high school I fell in love with Evanescence and some of those darker sounds, which I think really influenced a lot of the way I like to write music. I love a little bit of that dark edginess. Then I got really into Skrillex when electronic music started to take off. So, yeah, I have quite eclectic tastes, from the first album I ever bought, which was John Williams, to Evanescence to Skrillex. Those were some of my biggest influences.

IFM: How much would you say you're a student of classical methods and music and how does that influence your contemporary style?

LS: Well, I was classically trained as a kid. I don't really claim to be a classical musician anymore, but I have so much respect for that discipline. It's so challenging and specific. When I started college I began experimenting and having fun with a new way. I was just kind of burnt out. I got to a point where I was like, I can't play what's written on a page anymore. When I started writing music though, that's when I was like, “Oh, there's a whole new side to playing violin.” I'm so much more of a creative person than I am even a violinist. So once I found a way to make the violin feel creative, I realized I could make things with it, whether it was inspiration for a costume or telling a story through music or something else. That's when I truly found myself as a musician and as an artist. I'm a creative soul. I was meant to create and tell stories and come up with a way to make them visual.

IFM: Tell us about your process when you’re writing a new song or creating something new. What does that look like?

LS: It can look like so many different things. I used to always work one way, but with this I used a different process than I have previously. I think it's important for me to switch it up occasionally, otherwise I just get really stale and my way of doing things kind of stops working. It's like, okay, this is no longer inspiring because I'm writing the same kind of music I’ve written before and writing in the exact same way that I wrote before So with this album I actually wrote a lot of arrangements from home, which was unique. Usually in the past I've worked with producers or worked in the studio with somebody. This time I just sat and played these arrangements and figured out Celtic riffs and different things. It has allowed this album to take on a different kind of sound and a different shape than my past albums.

IFM: That's cool. There is definitely an explorative energy in this album. It really does feel like you were simply delighting in different sounds and melodies. How would you say your style has evolved since the beginning of your career?

LS: It’s been over 10 years since I released my first album, which is wild. Since then I’ve explored many different things. I always do hope that my sound has matured. I think it has. I think I've learned to pull in more depth. My very first album was really fun. I was experimenting with this whole branding style. I was just trying to make music that sounded fun, you know? Now I try to make music that expresses a lot more emotion and allows people to feel different things throughout one album. I also think a lot about how a song will feel when it’s live. My artistry has improved with my live shows. I’ve had practice. I ask myself what the music calls for.

IFM: Tell us about the role of cosplay in your art and storytelling.

LS: I think costumes are so important in telling a story, especially for live instrumental music. Costume is half the way you let people know what you're talking about or what you want them to feel. We do a lot of costume changes on stage in my shows because I think it’s such a fun way to connect with people and hopefully wow them a little bit. It also helps shift their emotions. Color does so much to change how people feel. Like blue makes you feel really different than red. I always say that one of the most complicated parts in planning a live show is figuring out the costumes. These two songs have to be near each other because they feel red to me, and I want us to be wearing something red. That kind of thing.

IFM: That’s cool. This next question is actually about your dancing and how that has evolved over time also, and also how you choose costumes for different styles of dancing.

LS: Absolutely. You know, growing up I always wanted to dance but my parents could only afford dance lessons or violin, and I chose violin. But when I was in college and I started to discover the kind of music I wanted to create, it felt to me like I couldn’t just stoically stand there on stage. It just doesn't work. For me, the goal was always to put on a show and entertain people live, not necessarily to be famous on YouTube. Dancing was a way to bring people a performance.

As far as costumes go, dancing is such a part of my art, and certain songs need a certain kind of fabric to look right when we move. So you have to pair certain songs together, not only color-wise, but asking if we’ll be wearing long flowing skirts or a pair of shorts, that sort of thing. Because it looks silly when you try to do certain dance moves in the wrong clothing. So yeah, costuming and cosplay is not only about storytelling, it's also part of the movement in a piece.

IFM: Tell us if there are ways you're pushing the boundaries even more with your dancing lately, including aerial performances and more circus-like elements.

LS: Sure. I’ve worked really, really hard at my dancing, including working with lots of great choreographers and even being on Dancing with the Stars, which was very helpful. It was the first time I had real instruction from an actual teacher. Now I feel very comfortable dancing and it's been fun to stretch even further by doing aerial work. In this Christmas show, me and two of my dancers go up in trapezes and lyras, and it's really challenging.

On every tour I take what I've learned and I try to push it as far as I can go. We definitely upped our game a lot this year, and I've been practicing really hard to do these routines and develop the skills to do it. I just think it's so important to kind of keep pushing the boundaries of what I can do to not only keep myself interested, but also to elevate the show.

IFM: What would you say is the most rewarding experience for you as an artist?

LS: Well, I feel so incredibly blessed that not only do I get to do what I love, but I get to share it with people. I get to share joy with people. I get to create experiences that hopefully last in people's memories as little magic moments in life that they can remember.

I get to go out and consistently connect with people, whether it's through putting out a YouTube video that makes someone smile or being on stage and looking into someone's eyes as I'm playing my heart out and they're receiving it. There's something so special about being able to share my joy with so many people.

And not only with my fans, but also the people I get to work with, like my crew that I've gotten to tour with year after year. You know, we've become a family, and together we get to make something special. So being able to share that joy with so many people, I just feel incredibly blessed. The legacy I want to leave is being a spreader of positivity and love and joy.

Lindsey’s upcoming Snow Waltz concert will take place in the Hero Arena at the new Mountain America Center on Saturday Dec. 17, at 8 p.m. Go to www.mountainamericacenter.com to purchase tickets today.

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