Lindsey Stirling could not have experienced a more abrupt and dramatic stop to her music activities than what happened when the pandemic hit in early 2020.
She was on a plane with her dancers, band and crew heading to South America to start a leg of her Artemis tour when word came that the tour was being canceled and it was time to turn around and fly back to Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, it took a minute to grasp what had just happened.
“At first I definitely thought my agent and my manager were just being over-protective,” Stirling recalled in an early June phone interview. “I was like, I can do this. We’re healthy, we’re good. My crew is willing to stay. My girls (her dancers) turned to me and they were like, ‘No, Lindsey, we want to do this,’ as if it was my choice. So I called [my manager] and I said, ‘Please let us do this. My crew, they’re all willing to stay.’ And they basically told me this is bigger than management and agents. This isn’t a choice. You’re coming home. It was just such a shock.”
Stirling spent the early part of the pandemic in Missouri with family before eventually returning to her home in Los Angeles, where she rode out the rest of the lockdown. Now with COVID restrictions easing, she has been busy preparing for the restart of her Artemis tour (named after her most recent album, released in fall 2019). Her show is getting a bit of a makeover from where it was when the plug was pulled on touring.
“We decided to completely redo all of the costumes, one because they just got so worn out on the last tour,” Stirling said. “That was kind of the thing I’ve been creative with lately … going to the fabric district and picking out the fabric myself and designing them. I’m super hands-on with all of that stuff and it’s really fun for me.
“And now I’ve had more time to see what fans love about the album,” she said. “I’ve been able to see what songs and what things they’ve [been responding to] the most. So I am switching up the set a little bit based on what I’ve seen over the [recent months], because Artemis was brand new when I went on tour [in fall 2019].”
The new show figures to feature the two main components that have made Stirling a unique fixture on the modern music scene — a diverse range of songs from all five or her albums that set her violin playing to a dynamic backdrop heavily influenced by electronic music and plenty of choreography for Stirling and her four dancers.
Interestingly, Stirling has never taken dance lessons. She said as a child she wanted to, but her parents didn’t have the money for both dance and violin lessons, and Stirling chose to pursue violin. But as she started to envision her career, her interest in dance was very much at the forefront.
“The goal for me was always to tour. I wanted to put on a show,” she said. “So I thought to myself if I believe in this so-called show that I’m going to do, I have to learn how to make it visually engaging. I can’t just stand there and play. That’s when I started to teach myself to dance, and it all just kind of started with what kind of movements can I possibly do while playing violin. What can my feet do while my hands are still focused (on violin). It all kind of grew from there. Definitely being on Dancing with the Stars gave me a whole new set of moves.”
Stirling competed on Dancing with the Stars in 2017 and finished second with her partner, professional dancer Mark Ballas. By that time, Stirling was a rising star on the music scene, having launched her YouTube channel in 2007.
She was introduced to many Americans in 2010, when she made it to the quarter finals of America’s Got Talent. But the show didn’t result in a record deal. Stirling went back to posting videos on YouTube, where she rapidly gained viewers.
Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, noticed Stirling’s burgeoning online presence and signed her. This led to the release of Stirling’s self-titled debut album in 2012. Three more albums followed over the next five years as she refined her classical-meets-EDM sound and did multiple tours. Her YouTube channel now has 11 million subscribers and she’s topped 2 billion views of her videos.
Artemis arguably represents Stirling’s most ambitious musical venture yet. In addition to including 13 songs, the project also features a six-part comic book series that tells the story on which the album is based and videos for several of the songs, making for a true multi-media project.
Stirling came into the Artemis project after an album, Brave Enough, on which she grappled with loss and grief following the deaths of her father and best friend. She was in a much better place emotionally and wanted the next album to reflect both past phases of her life and the much happier person she had become after completing the Brave Enough tour cycle.
“When I was thinking about concepts and album artwork and what not, I just kept drawing the moon. That kept coming up in the artwork,” Stirling said. “And I love that the moon goes through phases. And the phrase came to my mind that just because the moon is covered in shadow doesn’t mean it’s not still there. There was a time in my life I had felt like I was so covered up by sadness, grief, depression, shadow, whatever it was, that I felt like I had lost myself. I didn’t know what I was doing anymore. But then I felt myself come back. Oh, it’s not that I was gone. It’s not that I lost who I am. It’s that I was covered with shadow. And then I really started thinking, who is the goddess of the moon?”
In Greek mythology, that goddess is Artemis.
“So it all started more with the concept of the moon, and then I became fascinated with Artemis as the goddess of the moon and she is this strong, fierce warrior who also is the huntress, but also she’s soft and she’s nurturing. She’s the goddess of fertility,” Stirling explained. “I thought that was such a cool metaphor for women. We can be strong and fierce, but also we have this special nurturing side. So I just fell in love with what she represents in every way and this story just kind of poured out of it in a very organic way.”
Stirling has U.S. tour dates on the books through September, and a run of overseas shows planned for next February and March. At some point, she’ll be ready to tackle her next album and expects it to mark the start of a whole new phase in her musical story.
“I just feel like I kind of have said all I can say album wise in the style I’ve been in for so long and it’s time to make a big departure into something new,” Stirling said. “I’ve got a couple of ideas, but we’re going to see. It’s yet to be determined what will come out.”