There is no-one else like Lindsey Stirling. We are talking about a classically-trained violinist, from Gilbert, Arizona, entering a futuristic world of big beats and animation – imagine Vanessa Mae leaping through the pages of a Manga comic with Skrillex in hot pursuit. Her song ‘Crystallize’ was the eighth most-viewed video on Youtube last year, racking up an incredible 78 million views and over 3.6 million subscribers. With her first ticketed show just twelve months ago, she’s now selling out dates across Europe, America, Russia and Asia. Her debut album has sold 200,000 copies in the US without the backing of a major label, and has gone Gold in Germany (over 100k sold) and Switzerland.
It is hard to believe that Piers Morgan told Lindsey Stirling the world had no place for a dancing dub-step violinist. But being voted off 2010’s America’s Got Talent, at the quarter-finals, turned out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Rejection simply strengthened Stirling’s resolve to be herself. “The same reasons I was told I wouldn’t succeed are the reasons people travel hundreds of miles to see me now,” she laughs. “Because it’s different. Because it’s something you haven’t seen before…”
Stirling’s debut album features twelve original tracks including viral smashes ‘Crystallize’, ‘Shadows’ and ‘Electric Daisy Violin’. She has created a new musical world where the romance of Celtic folk music and modern classical meet the infectious energy of dance and electronica. In ‘Elements’ you’ll hear rhythm programming and “wub-wub” bass recalling dubstep giants Skream or Benga, while ‘Zi-Zi’s Journey’ and ‘Spontaneous Me’ feature all the thrilling, arpeggio build-ups of trance. On stage, Stirling moves with the grace of a ballerina but works the crowd into a frenzy, “dropping the beat” like some strange, electro-pastoral rave fairy.
Like Imogen Heap or Amanda Palmer, Stirling is the model of modern independent recording artist, with a formidable online presence and a powerful, symbiotic relationship with her fans. She is famed for taking “requests” and has recorded unique versions of the themes from Phantom Of The Opera and Game Of Thrones, the video games Zelda, Pokemon and Skyrim, and songs by Michael Jackson and Rihanna – uploading them all to Lindseystomp, a YouTube channel packed with music videos and short comedy films, many featuring her alter-ego, a ‘superfan’ called Phelba.
It was no conventional childhood. Stirling was raised within a Mormon community in Arizona. As a teenager, the rigours of classical music training stifled her, and she nearly chose to pursue a career in therapy. But the violin would not let go, and it became a comfort throughout her struggle with an eating disorder in early adulthood.
It was her experience with America’s Got Talent that inspired her to start composing. As a motivational speaker in her spare time, Stirling uses her own story to show teenagers that you’ve got to have confidence in the very thing that makes you unique – then wait for the world to catch up. “We give more liberties to other people than we do to ourselves,” she says. “We put labels on ourselves, but we love seeing people who just don’t care about what others think. The challenge is to love yourself for who you are, be your best self, and to encourage others to do the same.”
Having sold nearly 14 million records worldwide, well more than 6 million in the U.S. alone, with their major-label debut Fallen, Evanescence is poised to continue their meteoric rise with their forthcoming CD, The Open Door (Wind-up Records), scheduled for release October 3. The album from the two-time Grammy-winning band is defined by Amy Lee's beautiful melodies, compelling lyrics, poignant piano and stunning vocals, fused with Terry Balsamo's urgent, yet intricate guitar, to form a seamless, ethereal mixture that perfectly channels the band's hard rock and classical sensibilities. The contributions of members John LeCompt (guitar) and Rocky Gray (drums) are also evident.
"Making this record has been really intense," explains Lee. "Terry suffered a stroke last October and is still recovering, we got a new manager [Andy Lurie], and I've come out of a difficult breakup. But everything we've been through together has benefited this album." With Fallen, says Lee, the band had much to prove while defining its identity. This time, finding a cohesive writing partner in Terry Balsamo, "we really took our time crafting this album and had the freedom to express a broader range of emotions: not just pain and sadness, but also anger and, yes, even happiness."
Written late last year, The Open Door was recorded at The Record Plant in Los Angeles and mixed at Ocean Way Studios in March 2006. Marking the return of long-time friend and producer Dave Fortman, the album's musical elements include a classically-infused choir and strings on several tracks, giving further color to songs of introspection, longing, doubt, self-respect and, ultimately, empowerment. The album opens with "Sweet Sacrifice," a post-relationship catharsis that head-dives from an otherworldly intro into a hard-driving thrash of hard rock guitars and soaring rock vocals. Its first single, the mid-tempo "Call Me When You're Sober," reinforces the moving-away-from-dysfunction theme.
Other standout tracks on The Open Door include "Lithium," which embraces feeling over numbness, "All That I'm Living For," Lee's tribute to band life, "Weight of the World," her plea for perspective from the expectation of young fans, and "Good Enough," a string-and-choir-infused closer distinguished as the band's first truly (almost) contented song ("It feels really good ending the album this way," says Lee). Having toured for a year-and-a-half straight with only a month off following the release of Fallen, Evanescence hopes to hit the road this time out with a care not to neglect key markets worldwide. Its U.S. tour begins immediately after the October 3rd release of The Open Door, rewarding hardcore fans with a "sneak peak" of the album during a handful of more intimate theater dates before segueing into much larger arena shows.
Originally hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, the band's evolving sound - a nearly mystical marriage between rock, goth and classical - was informed by a curious duality. Lee, who spent nine years studying classical piano, explains, "When I was in high school I listened to a lot of death metal bands. Both genres are intricate, complex types of music that are very dramatic, and I'm naturally drawn to that."
curious duality. Lee, who spent nine years studying classical piano, explains, "When I was in high school I listened to a lot of death metal bands. Both genres are intricate, complex types of music that are very dramatic, and I'm naturally drawn to that."
Evanescence self-released two EPs and a first full-length album, the much-sought-after Origin, before finding a home at Wind-up Records. Fallen, their major-label debut, was released in April 2003 to critical and commercial success. The internationally appealing Top 10 singles "Bring Me to Life" and "My Immortal" helped drive airplay and led to two 2003 Grammy Awards (Best New Artist and Best Hard Rock Performance for "Bring Me To Life"). Propelling the band to sales of nearly 14 million albums worldwide, Fallen spent more than 100 weeks on Billboard's Top 200 chart, was certified gold or platinum in over 35 countries, and sold out arenas globally. Anywhere But Home, their 2004 live DVD release, has sold over one million copies to date.
The inherent drama in Evanescence's music - a kind of audio odyssey that can turn on a dime from piano-led introspection to hammering guitar - has resonated with listeners everywhere. The band's aggressive core finds a counterpart in Lee's passionate vocals, lyrics that forge a connection with audiences searching for identity or struggling with feelings of desire, hope love and loss. The Open Door is a logical (but certainly not predictable) transformation of epic proportions for the band, which, in many ways has only just begun to make its mark on the music world.