Getting kicked out a talent show saved a YouTube star's career

YouTube star and hiphop violinist Lindsey Stirling was determined to make it after America's Got Talent judges rejected her

Getting booted out of popular television reality show America's Got Talent might sound the death knell for lesser budding artists but not for violin player Lindsey Stirling.

For the multi-talented 28-year-old, getting kicked out of the fifth season of the show in 2010 during the quarter-final round was the best thing to happen to her.

In a telephone interview from Los Angeles ahead of her first Singapore gig at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands on March 3, she says: "I didn't win, I got voted out early. It was embarrassing and humiliating.

"The judges were mean and very hard on me, but that experience was important. It made me fight for what I wanted to do."

While she was initially lauded for her violin playing skills and mixed repertoire of classical and hip-hop, the show's judges Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne later criticised her attempts to dance and play the instrument at the same time, telling her that she was not good enough and that her act would not be able to fill theatres.

They could not have been more wrong. Stirling is now not only a bona fide YouTube star whose music videos have earned almost 900 million views on the video-sharing site, but she has also succeeded in the music business the old school way.

While her 2012 self-titled debut album peaked at No. 23 on the mainstream Billboard album charts, her sophomore effort Shatter Me, released last year, reached No. 2 on the same charts.

Her blend of electronica with classical has been described as "Mozart meets Skrillex". As a sign of her crossover appeal, two of her albums have topped both the American classical and dance charts.

Despite the America's Got Talent judges' predictions, she is filling up theatres, with many sold-out dates in the two worldwide tours that she has done so far.

Dealing with rejection on the television show "wasn't easy", she says. "It truly made me stronger and more certain that I didn't want to play anyone else's game. I don't let people tell me what to do."

1 For someone who is a YouTube star, how long can you survive without going online?

I've never really tried not going online. Like a lot of people, I usually have a bad habit of checking my mobile phone every couple of minutes, whether it's for e-mail or texts. It's a bad addiction but I think I'm getting better at dealing with it. When I am with family and friends, I try to be there in the moment.

2 What can those who have seen your videos online expect when they come to your show in Singapore?

I think people will be surprised at how energetic my show is, compared to watching a video. I'm doing it all live at my show. I'm dancing and jumping, and it's a very loud rock show. I have my band with me and I always have fun with costumes.

3 Speaking of costumes, you are also known for your quirky dressing. What will you be wearing at your show?

I'm actually designing the costumes as we speak, you'll have to see them at the show. I used to do everything myself but I work with stylists now. I'm looking at a lot of fashion ideas, maybe something box-ier with more angles, more colour and patterns, not like in the past, which was more fantasy-driven and more ethereal.

4 Does the fact that your last album, Shatter Me, did so well put pressure on you to have the next album do just as well?

There's always going to be pressure but I felt so relieved at how Shatter Me did. There was pressure after the first album for the next one to do better. It's hard trying to outdo yourself, to do good and always do better and I have to remember that I love doing what I do and that's the best. My music has taken me around the world to play for my fans.

5 You first made your name as a violin player and then as a dancer, and you sing in some of your videos. If you had to choose among any of these three, which would you pick?

Definitely the violin. I'm a much better violinist than I am a dancer. As for singing, yeah, you might hear more of me singing, if I can write the right song then I can definitely sing it.

6 Have you thought about how your music will progress in the next 10 years?

I'm always wondering about that myself. When I was working on the last album, the music took on a life on its own. But I don't want to keep on playing the same kind of music. I want to progress, to find out what is my new sound and how I evolve as a musician.

7 Some artists, including Taylor Swift, have taken their music out of Spotify. What are your thoughts on letting fans listen to your music for free on such streaming platforms?

I love streaming services like Pandora and YouTube. They are great places to discover new artists. Having my music on streaming platforms changed my life and let me be an artist.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

I hope to inspire people to be themselves, to show everyone that being different is not a bad thing. I believe that we are happiest when we truly are ourselves and be true to what we are.


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