Violin lessons spark career for Stirling

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Lindsey Stirling plays the Newport Music Hall Friday, March 15. The Vibrant Sounds opens. Tickets are $20. Visit promowestlive.com.
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When Lindsey Stirling's parents arranged for their 6-year-old daughter to take violin lessons, they, and Lindsey's teacher, just hoped she wouldn't get bored.

Suffice to say, that didn't happen.

Which is not to say that the still-spritely Stirling, now in her mid-20s and a budding international star, hasn't wandered her way stylistically through the world of music -- learning her trade on the classics, joining a rock band (Stomp on Melvin) in her teens, playing along to her favorite songs on the radio and ultimately gravitating toward dance music. Introduced by artists such as Skrillex to dubstep, Stirling primarily collaborates with producers and DJs on her original songs, while continuing to make uniquely arranged cover tunes from a broad range of styles on her insanely poplar YouTube channel.

The violin has remained constant for Stirling throughout her musical wanderlust.

"There is technique, detail and a sound. I mean, I trained classically. I love the sound of the violin. I make dance music, but my violin is not a 'created' sound. It sounds real."

Stirling took inspiration from Vanessa Mae, a violinist who in the '90s scored crossover success with rock 'n' roll-style violin playing, but also from pop acts such as Passion Pit and Black Eyed Peas. Her varied inspirations were reflected in the cover tunes she was recording for her YouTube page, from Phantom of the Opera and The Lord of the Rings to music from the Legend of Zelda series to pop hits such as We Found Love.

"When I decided to take (making music) more seriously and start writing original songs, I knew I had to do things with a dance vibe."

The original songs didn't harm her status as a YouTube sensation in the least. Crystallize boasts more than 50 million views; Skyrim, Shadows and Elements each top 15 million.

Yet Stirling knew something was missing from her resume.

"I had done an EP and released a bunch of singles, but I hadn't done an album. It's a completely different thing, making something intended as a complete package."

So the release of her self-titled full-length last fall was a "check mark on the bucket list, I guess," she said with a laugh.

"I worked on it for two years, which is way too long. But I'm very proud of all the songs."

The original songs start with a backtrack arranged by Stirling with the help of her producer. Then the process of finding melodies begins.

"I improvise over those tracks for hours and hours. I play a bunch of really bad stuff until I find something really good."

Having a formal album has focused Stirling's touring as well, as she is playing more shows and, specifically, more headlining shows.

"It's amazing and fun. I get to meet all these fans all over the country -- everybody from young girls who come in their sparkly skirts like I like to wear, to older couples who have always loved the violin, to metal kids and electronica kids and young people who are just starting to take violin lessons."

"I'm just happy to be able to encourage people."

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