Lindsey Stirling Talks What (and Who) Makes Her Strings Sing, From 'America's Got Talent' to Skrillex

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Stirling onstage at the Panorama festival in New York on July 22.

If the idea of a dancing, EDM-influenced violinist seems an unlikely recipe for pop success, no one bothered to tell Lindsey Stirling. The 29-year-old Arizonian’s most recent effort, 2014’s Shatter Me, hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and topped both Classical and Dance/Electronic album charts. Her official YouTube channel has notched close to a billion-and-a-half views, and earlier this year, she even co-authored a New York Times bestseller -- her memoir, The Only Pirate At The Party. But for Stirling, whose upcoming third album, Brave Enough, is due August 19 on her own label, Lindseystomp Records, it isn’t just about the numbers. “Maybe someone will walk away feeling more loved or inspired,” Stirling says of Brave before sharing some inspirations of her own.

Skrillex

Stirling broke through in 2012 with “Crystallize,” which fused her classically trained violin acumen with dubstep rhythms. “I heard [Skrillex’s] ‘Bangarang’ and thought, What is this crazy sound, and how can I do it with my violin?” she says. “I wanted to make dubstep where my grandma would say, ‘Wow, that’s pretty.’ ” “Crystallize” ultimately peaked at No. 28 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart — but did grandma like it? “She loved it. So, mission accomplished!”

Winning (and losing) on America’s Got Talent

Stirling first came to national attention in 2010 when she made it to the show’s quarter-finals—only to be harshly criticized (Piers Morgan: “You're not good enough”) and sent packing. “It was my first real heartbreak,” says Stirling. “I was devastated, and it was terrifying to step on a stage again.” But ultimately, it was a learning experience. “A career can’t be built through 15 seconds of fame. You also think all you have to do is get on TV and have a big moment – but big moments don’t make a career.”

YouTube

“I went to film school instead of going to music school -- it’s a huge part of my brand,” Stirling acknowledges, adding that when she composes music, she’ll sometimes “come up with a video idea first and then write a song to fit that concept.” She has similar considerations when tackling cover tunes: “I’ll ask, ‘What’s going to have viral potential?’ Especially when I was a new artist -- nobody was going to just be searching for ‘electronic violin songs.’ ”

90’s alt-rock

“It’s one of the things that has helped me to grow,” Stirling says of working with other artists on Brave Enough, where she’s joined by country duo Dan + Shay, rapper Lecrae and Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, among others. “Working with Rivers was kind of a dream come true,” she says. “All my old band members immediately hit me up like, no way you worked with Rivers Cuomo! Weezer and Something Corporate were huge inspirations for our band -- so my 16 year old self died a little bit at working with him.”

Moonwalks (and pirouettes)

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When she was in her early 20s, Stirling decided she “wanted to add movement to the violin.” A self-taught dancer, she studied tutorials and So You Think You Can Dance clips online. “At first I learned simple things, like how to moonwalk or do a pirouette,” she says. “Then I moved on to more complicated routines.” Why did she want to combine the two? “I’m just really theatrical. I’m even thinking of adding a bit of magic into my show."

Spirituality

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Stirling was raised in the Mormon faith, and at 21 traveled to New York City to do missionary work. “That was a life changing experience,” she says. “And now that I’ve gone from living in podunk Arizona to touring around the world, my beliefs have kept me ‘me.’ The decisions I made about who I am happened a long time ago, and nothing can compromise them."