Lindsey Stirling Talks Dancing With The Stars & Her New Holiday Album

Photo: Randy Holmes/ABC.
We're still figuring out our last-minute Halloween costumes — but Lindsey Stirling is already looking ahead to the holiday season.
The violinist is currently competing on Dancing with the Stars, but that's not the only thing she's been up to lately. Stirling recently released her holiday album, Warmer in the Winter, and she's going on a holiday tour next month.
"This is just such a different album for me. I think I'm very much known for my fusion of electronic music and a very unique style of violin. But this album was really fun for me to make, because I got to try several different things," Stirling explained to Refinery29. "There's a little bit of the familiar Lindsey Stirling that my fans know; there were some electronic influences. But there are also some songs that were very big band-styled, because I've always wanted to do that, and there's no better place for that than Christmas music. And also, we recorded almost the entire album with real, live instrumentation, and even an orchestra for some tracks. So, yeah, it's a very different feeling album from anything I've ever done."
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We talked to Stirling about the inspiration for her album, her sweet DWTS tribute to her late dad, and how she overcame her fears on the show. She shared a hilarious behind-the-scenes story from the DWTS set, too.
Refinery29: Did you always know that you wanted to be a musician?
"I begged for violin lessons when I was a kid, and then I played my whole life. I always loved it. But to be honest, I never assumed that would be what I became. I was very interested in being a film director... And it wasn’t until I was actually in college that I just became, it was like a flipped switch in my brain. And I think it's because, for the first time, I started writing my own music. Up to that point, I had just been playing the music that everybody else had played for hundreds of years, the way it was played for hundreds of years. I'm driven by creativity, and I think once I started to write my own music and express myself in a different way through the violin, I just fell in love with it. And that's when I realized, Oh my God, I'm so happy to make this my life."
How did you get into electronic music, specifically?
"It was during that time that I was starting to explore the violin more, I was starting to write music. And I went through this self-exploration, a little bit, because I had gotten burned out on classical music. I was like, 'I don't enjoy it anymore.' It wasn't fulfilling me. And so I started to think, 'Well, I should play the kind of music that I like to listen to — why have I never done that before?' And so that's when I started to write electronic music. I really started trying all these different styles, and what I came out with was a blend of all of my favorite things about different genres."
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What inspired you to start your YouTube channel?
"I had been trying so many different things to make it as an artist, to get my music out there. I tried a lot of the traditional things, and I saw this book that was called How to Make it in the Music Business. And I read it, and I was getting increasingly discouraged, because I realized it took... it said in this book that it could take a million dollars to break an artist. You need that help from a label, or you need that help from a talent agency, or something. And I'd reached out, and no label was interested in what I was doing, and I just kept getting more and more discouraged. And I realized that the little open-mic night shows I was playing were not going to get me to the next level. And it just seemed like dead end after dead end."
"And then I met, actually, a YouTuber reached out to me. His name is Devin Graham, and his YouTube channel is still really popular, it's devinsupertramp. And he is a cinematographer who films different, kind of showcases different skills, or talents, or high-adventure activities, on his channel. He reached out to me, saying, 'Hey, I'd love to do this. It's a free music video for you, it'll go on my YouTube channel.' And I was so confused. I was like, 'Why would anyone want to make a free video for me? I don't know this guy.' Anyways, we ended up doing the collab, and he put it on his YouTube channel, and he then kind of became my mentor. [M]y world just opened up, and I was so excited that, finally, I didn't have to wait for someone else to invest in me. I could invest in myself."
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And now your holiday album, Warmer in the Winter, is out this month. Why did you decide that this year was the right time for you to do a holiday album?
"Well, to be honest, it's kind of funny. I thought this year would be the perfect time to do a holiday album, because I had kept this fall free. And so last Christmas, I was like, 'Hey, don't book anything next fall, because I'm going to be writing a Christmas album and doing a Christmas tour. And then it turns out that it's turned into the craziest fall ever, because I'm doing Dancing with the Stars at the same time. I didn't know that was going to happen, but when that opportunity came up, I couldn't say 'no.' But I've always wanted to make a Christmas album. Christmas music is so nostalgic, and it means so many different things to me. It brings back family memories, it's a very spiritual time of year. And it's very important to me, in my spirituality, to reflect at that time on the things I'm grateful for and my religious beliefs."
You mentioned Dancing with the Stars and not knowing you'd be doing that at the same time as you were promoting your album. How did you get involved with the show?
"Well, I performed on the show before, just as a guest performer. And so I had met the producers, and they had said to me, 'Some day, we would love to have you on the show.' And every time they reached out, I'd been like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm on tour in Europe at that time, there's no way.' I've always just been so busy. But I've always wanted to do it, for years now. I've always thought that was so much fun — I've always wanted to learn to dance. And so this year, when they reached out, I was like, 'Well, actually, it falls right in a break.' And it was a break that I had intended on preparing for my holiday tour and doing album press, but I was like, 'I can make it work.' It was the first time ever that it had even been a possibility, so I just took a big leap of faith and jumped into it. And I don't regret it, but I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty tired."
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I was watching your tango video from Dancing with the Stars, and there are so many positive comments from people saying things like that people aren't going to believe you're not a professional dancer, and that it's just the best performance they've ever seen on the show. Were you surprised by reactions like that?
"To be honest, doing that dance, even watching it back... It's funny you say that, I actually just did a post on Instagram about how with that dance, actually, I shocked myself. When Mark [Ballas, Stirling's DWTS partner] told me the creative concept of the dance, I was actually terrified. I was perfectly honest with him that I didn't think I could do it. I was like, 'I don't think I can pull that off.' And he was like, 'I know you can do it.' And I kind of just, you know, we all put limitations around ourselves of what we believe we can do. And we usually stay in those limitations, because they're safe, and we know what they are. But for this dance, it taught me something, because when I watch the video back, I can't believe I did that…"
"I believed, I forced myself to believe I could do it. I think when you put yourself in that situation, it's amazing what you can do when you take away your own limitations. I still watch that video, and I'm shocked that I did it, just as much as everyone. But I wasn't too good to be on the show! I'm not a trained dancer. That dance was extremely foreign to me and terrifying, and I was so scared to do it. But I'm so proud of myself! I worked really, really hard, and Mark was so proud. It was just an amazing reminder to me of what we all can do."
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What was it like filming the tribute to your dad for the show? Was it really emotional to talk about everything that happened?
"[T]hat was such a hard week. I was so emotionally exhausted by the end of it all, and then at the end of the week, having to dance about it. We did a lot of interviews where I repeatedly had to tell the whole story of how my dad got sick and how it was watching him go through cancer treatments, and to have him pass away. And it was really hard to relive that over and over again. And to be honest, he passed away early this year, and I think I kind of had emotionally put up guards around myself and just continued on with life. I felt it when he passed away, and I hadn't really emotionally let myself go back. And so I was shocked at how hard it was for me to talk about it. All those emotions were so bottled up deep inside, and that dance was really hard to do. But it was so beautiful, and I'm so grateful for the experience of getting to honor my dad in a way like that."
Is there anything surprising or funny that's happened on the Dancing with the Stars set?
"I don't know if I should tell you this story or not, but you want to know a story… Last week, there was this position, I will say, that I had to go into, where I basically bend my body in half. And Mark was like, 'Let's try that move.' And I wasn't prepared, and I knew, in my mind, I'm like, Oh gosh, I really have to fart right now. So I was trying to compose myself, and I was trying to stall. And he's like, 'Get over here, let's do it. What are you doing?' And finally I just was like, 'Okay, I think I've got myself under control.' Anyways, he did this lift, and I farted, it was real loud, right in front of him. I was so embarrassed!"
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Moving away from Dancing with the Stars, who are some of your musical inspirations?
"Oh! Actually, I had the coolest experience to see one of my music inspirations perform a week and a half ago. And I think one of the people who influenced me the most as a teenager was Amy Lee from Evanescence. I loved that album, their first album that they did. I just loved that combination of dark and light that you feel in their music. And it really just inspired me a lot to create that contrast in my own music. So that was really exciting, to be able to finally see her live. And also, I was very inspired by Skrillex. He originally inspired me to create dubstep tracks, which was kind of my big break, was when I did dubstep music. And I love Paramore. Hayley Williams is one of my favorite artists. As a performer, Pink is my biggest inspiration."
Is there any advice you'd give young women who want to pursue nontraditional career paths like music, but are afraid to take the leap?
"I love a quote by Lucille Ball. [She] is one of my idols. And I love that she said, 'I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done.' That meaning, she was just saying, 'I would rather regret taking a chance and making a huge leap of faith and maybe falling, than always wondering 'what if.'' And I really took that to heart, and I always wanted to live my life with no 'what ifs.' Anything I put myself into, I'm going to fully jump. And it's really scary to do! But I feel I could live with the idea that I didn't make it, if I tried, but I couldn't live with the idea that I just never did..."
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"I think realizing that just because you failed, doesn't mean it's over. I've failed and fallen so many times, and hit so many dead ends, and still, sometimes I have to put on the brakes a little bit, and re-evaluate, and go in a slightly different direction. Failure doesn't mean you're done, it just means you have to get up again. And I think that's the most important thing that anyone successful has to learn."
This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.
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