If it weren’t for YouTube, Lindsey Stirling wouldn’t be the rising star she is today.
Since launching her own YouTube channel in 2007, the fiery-haired violinist has been one of the video platform’s most popular content creators. Her usually epic music videos have gotten her more than 8 million subscribers. Her knack for making videos that instantly go viral has made her a 21st-century rock star, releasing her own albums and everything. (“Shatter Me,” her second album, reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200.)
And, yet, because Stirling got her start online and not through the usual channels, people still see her as a flash-in-the-pan.
“I don’t think people are surprised anymore that people get famous by YouTube,” says the Santa Ana-born Stirling, 29, calling from her LA home base. “I think that’s, like, a fact and everybody knows it now. So, that’s not the thing. I think there is a stigma still, however, about the legitimacy of the platform.… A lot of people see it as like, ‘Oh, these kids! They get their 15 seconds of fame and they’re just gonna go away!’ But the fact of the matter is that there are so many talented artists on YouTube.”
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It’s not as if Stirling didn’t try to go the regular route. She was even a quarter-finalist on “America’s Got Talent” in 2010. But she says no one thought a vivacious fiddle player with choreographed dance moves would work.
“Labels weren’t interested in it,” she remembers. “It was too different. It was way outside the box, and no one was willing to take a chance on it except for, of course, me. I was willing to take a chance on it. And, so, that’s one of the cool things about YouTube: it allows more unique and kind of more out-there art to go public.”
As much as Stirling appreciates her fans for proving you can find an audience if you cater directly to them, she now realizes you have to keep your fan base at a distance. The unfortunate shooting death of singer (and YouTube celebrity) Christina Grimmie last month has made Stirling and other YouTubers think twice about their relationship with their fans.
“It is something that does make you worry, and I think, gosh, that was so devastating,” she says. “I mean, I knew Christina personally, and it was something that was a really hard thing for our whole community to deal with. Whether people knew her or not, it is the first big loss from this very tight-knit YouTube community, and it was devastating. And it was very much a wake-up call as well, to just be like, oh my gosh – I have so many friends in this space and we need to be there for each other. We need to support each other, and we need to all be more careful, because we are very vulnerable with our fans in so many ways. And we let them in because we love them.”
Stirling says she’s taking precautions by bringing a security guard on tour with her. “I love my fans,” she says. “I want to give them everything I possibly can. But I have to also protect my crew, and I have to protect myself. I have to protect my fans. I don’t want them to experience anything like that either.”
Her tour to promote her third album, “Brave Enough,” brings her to Durham Performing Arts Center on Monday. The album, out in August, features collaborations with such artists as Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, ZZ Ward, Lecrae, Christina Perri and others.
“I wanted to really showcase diversity, and I think the album really does that and the collaborations definitely helped,” she says.
Stirling has performed with many of her fellow YouTubers and continues to be a staunch advocate for the YouTube community, the same place that welcomed her with open arms and made her a star.
“I love collaborating and, when I first started on YouTube, one of the things that helped me kind of just launch out is collaborating,” she says. “And that’s one of the things that’s so beautiful about the YouTube community – it’s so collaborative. And that’s why we all help each other. That’s how we help ourselves. Like, everybody rises when we are together.”
Who: Lindsey Stirling
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: DPAC, 123 Vivian St., Durham
Info: 919-680-2787 or dpacnc.com