Since her days as a YouTube star, Lindsey Stirling has made violin concerts hip, with her back bends, and hip-hop and ballet moves. The costume changes and light show are reminiscent of an EDM festival.
But the fun stopped temporarily for the Gilbert native, who graduated from Mesquite High School. Her latest album, “Brave Enough,” comes from a raw and emotional place for Stirling, who plays the Comerica Theatre on Saturday, November 12. It documents the emotional journey she traveled after the death of her best friend and keyboard player Jason “Gavi” Gavati.
“I kind of shut off in every possible way after it happened—especially emotionally,” recalls Stirling, who was a quarter finalist on “America’s Got Talent.” “I just closed up and went numb for a while.”
Refusing emotion only worked for so long and Stirling found herself inspired by the writings of Brené Brown, a scholar and author on shame and vulnerability. Adversity is nothing new to Stirling, who previously suffered from anorexia.
“The thing that stuck out to me is she said you can’t selectively numb emotions, if you numb the bad, you numb the good,” Stirling said. “I didn’t want to live a life that was just numbing, I wanted to live a full life.”
From there, the album was born.
The collection and its title track reflect her feelings about the troubling time: If she was “brave enough,” she could have a whole heart again and experience the hard emotions needed to feel joy.
Each song tells a step of the process, from faith and trust to getting up after you fall to independence and gratitude.
A former Arizona Junior Miss, Stirling has achieved success on her own terms. She has 8 million subscribers and 1.3 billion-plus views on YouTube, and a New York Times bestselling autobiography—all without the benefit of a major record label. Stirling’s fan base has proven its size and her impact continues to expand. When it comes to inspiring those who have supported her for so long, Stirling is eloquent and determined in her advice.
“Don’t be afraid to start,” she says. “It feels overwhelming, like the journey is way too far, but do something. Whether it’s playing open mic night or drawing pictures and posting them on Instagram. Whatever it is, just start sharing what you love because you’ll always be better for it.”
No stranger to Arizona
Before she released the chart-topper “Shatter Me” in 2014 and was named No. 4 on Forbes’ “Highest-Paid YouTube Stars,” Stirling grew up in Gilbert.
Returning home is always a treat for Stirling, who turned 30 in September.
“People say, ‘Where do you want to go when you have time off, where do you want to travel?’ Honestly, I travel all the time, I want to go to Arizona,” Stirling says. “I want to get some Cafè Rio and climb Camelback Mountain. That’s my favorite stuff to do, to be honest.”
Stirling specifically her booking agents to end the tour in Arizona once again to intensify that coming-home feeling.
“I see so many people in the audience who I know, whom I went to high school with, who I went to church with growing up. It’s so cool and I love that,” she says.
Bucket list project
For the album, Stirling enlisted some of her bucket-list favorite artists for collaboration.
“Brave Enough,” her third album, has a collaborative feel. Christina Perri, also a Brown fan, lends her vocals to the album’s title track.
Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo sings on “Don’t Let This Feeling Fade,” with Christian rapper Lecrae. Her current hit is “Something Wild,” in which Andrew McMahon of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness sings. The song also appears in the credits of Disney film “Pete’s Dragon.”
Stirling recalls being in the studio writing with McMahon. She looked at her producer and grinned.
“There were a lot of moments that were like, ‘Wow I can’t believe this person is working with me,’” Stirling says.
She wants her concert to reflect the mood of the album. She wanted it so much that she was skeptical that it would work.
“It just seemed like I stretched myself too thin, pushed the envelope too far, and now here we are, the show’s running like clockwork,” says Stirling, who had just pulled into Kansas City for a show. “The fans have been loving it and it’s so rewarding to see that happen.”
Stirling described the show as extremely visual and theatrical. She gave “Mirage,” her favorite song to perform, a Bollywood feel with Hindi visuals, belly dancers and video flashes.
In between songs and clips, she can be seen sharing personal stories and experiences. Stirling really wanted the tour to tell the same story as the album about being vulnerable.
“I hope that people leave with the resolve to be brave enough in whatever they do,” she says, “We’re all consistently trying to better ourselves, I hope people feel empowered.”
Lindsey Stirling w/The Federal Empire, Comerica Theatre, 400 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com, 8 p.m. Saturday, November 12, $29.50-$58.50.