Lindsey Stirling on How Anime Inspired Her New Album ‘Artemis’
Much like the Greek goddess Artemis with her mythic bow and arrow, Lindsey Stirling has a signature weapon of her own: her electric violin. A skilled warrior of musical sorts, Stirling wields her (often underutilized) instrument with all the the poise and joy of a master archer, hitting a sonic bullseye over and over again with each swift flick of the wrist.
The songs on her new concept album, the aptly titled Artemis (out September 6), are no different, with each track capturing Stirling at her most powerful. It's no wonder that the record was inspired by the legend of the Greek goddess for which it's named, as well as the cycles of the moon and the art of Japanese animation, from which it takes its visual cues.
Stirling, who was raised in Arizona and rose to prominence on America's Got Talent before her 2012 dubstep-classical crossover "Crystallize" became a hit, is a vibrant pop star as much as she is a classical musician. She treads the in-between on Artemis — sliding her bow back and forth between mythic history and futuristic dreams; organic and electronic; radio pop hooks and explosive electro-acoustic flourishes. She expresses a duality that mirrors the alter-egos featured on her new album, which is a collection of sweeping, epic anthems that follow an empowering story arc.
Below, Lindsey Stirling opens up about working with Evanescence's Amy Lee, surprising fan cosplay and how anime inspired her new album.
You recently performed a virtual concert that featured a motion capture animated avatar of you. What sparked that idea?
I thought this album really lent itself to that [sort of experience] because instead of having me on the album cover, it's a character. And so I thought, how fun would it be to have a concert with the character performing as me? They designed the avatar to look like the character that we made for the cover. Going in to test all the equipment and seeing the character being brought to life was so fun. And also, I was very impressed! We’ve gotten so good [at this technology]. I was amazed by how well the avatar matched my movements; it literally looked like I was playing the violin, like I was really there. It was so cool.
There’s only two vocal collaborations on your new album. What was your process for deciding who to work with?
For this album, I didn't want to focus on anything like, “Oh, I want to write a lyric song for this,” or, “I want to write a radio hit with this song.” It was literally like, I'm just going to go to the studio and write what I know how to write. There were a few songs that stood out and could really use a vocal. If the song asks for it, you do it!
I knew immediately we wanted Amy Lee when we decided that “Love Goes On and On” needed a hook. It's great ‘cause Amy and I are friends. I was on her album and we worked together last year. She's just one of my bucket list artists to work with and I've always wanted her on one of my albums, so it was a no brainer. I asked her to do a verse and she texted me like, “Hey, I have and idea for the chorus, mind if I record it?” I was like, “Sure! Oh my God, this is incredible.” It just happened organically.
And then with “The Upside,” it was the same thing. It was an instrumental first, which we released as well. But when we wrote the demo, we had no idea what kind of a singer we wanted on it. It was very up in the air, but I always wanted to work with Elle [King]. So we reached out to her, she was one of the first people. When she came back excited about it, I was so happy. I’ve loved her ever since “Ex’s and Oh’s.”
Who else is on your collaboration bucket list?
I have such a random bucket list, but I also want to work with John Williams someday. He's written some of the most iconic musical moments of all our childhoods. I’m such a fan! I had his greatest hits album when I was like a kid. He's done everything from the Harry Potter themes to Star Wars — the most iconic sounds we know.
Can we look forward to another Lindsey Stirling/Evanescence moment in the future?
I don't know, but I hope so. We had such a good time working on “Hi-Lo” and touring together. Everybody got along, and that's not always the case. I’ve heard some horror stories from other co-headlining tours where the artists don't get along, or there's just too much conflict, or the one band doesn’t like the other band, or the fans don’t like the other band playing. There's so many variables! When we toured together, it worked so well. The fans had a great experience and a great reaction. And after the shows, we would play like, corn hole and have barbecues. We have talked about maybe doing it again, ‘cause it was great.
I know Artemis as the goddess of the moon and of the hunt. Who is Artemis in the context of your new album? Is she an alter-ego?
Artemis represents me for this album, which is why she's on the cover. In the comic book that I’m working on, there's two characters. There's the very goddess-looking version with the long white hair and antlers, and then there's this little red headed character who’s more of the embodiment of me. Her name in the comic book is Artemis as well. She lives in a future world and keeps having dreams about this goddess character, and she realizes she’s actually getting signs from her. Because of that, she decides to call herself Artemis.
This album cycle in particular feels very inspired by anime. What’s your relationship to that? How does anime inspire you artistically?
It's funny because I really wasn't brought up with it. Even when I was a kid, I didn’t know exactly what anime was just yet. But as a teenager started to discover anime art. I just absolutely loved it. I feel like a lot of my costuming is inspired by like, Final Fantasy characters. Anime art has such a strong portrayal of femininity. I've always loved it and that's why I decided to make this entire album inspired by the aesthetic of nineties manga style. And along with the record, I’ve also been working on a comic book that goes hand in hand with the album.
What can you share about the epic themes behind the Artemis album and comic book?
All of it started with the symbolism of the moon. I love that the moon brings light to darkness. It takes a lot of courage to take your light into the darkness. I thought that was a symbol of how brave Artemis is — she faces the night alone and brings light to it. Every single one of us live in a world where there's good and light, but also darkness and hardship. Even among those hardships, your light is strong enough to shine in the dark. It’s one of the big things that this story asks — is your light strong enough? — and Artemis has to ask herself many times. I think we need to ask ourselves the same question. When you feel like you are going through rough times, is your light strong enough to shine? Can you still find hope?
Are you planning on taking the Artemis project to upcoming conventions?
I focused so much on trying to finish the project that we weren’t ready to take it to Anime Expo like I wanted, but definitely I think we'll be done next year. By then, we'll have the and the comic book and be able to take it to some cons.
I know you’re into cosplay. Have you seen any fans do cosplay as Lindsey Stirling?
Yes! I love when people dress up at my shows. They'll wear anything from costumes that are from music videos to things worn on my album covers, and that makes me so happy. On our summer tour here was this group of like, five guys who dressed up exactly like my first album cover. It was the funniest thing. I’ve seen people dress up as the “Shatter Me” ballerina. They even painted the cracks on their skin. I went to the Anime Expo this year to get inspiration for my comic book, and I was walking around and a girl asked me if I was cosplaying as Lindsey Stirling. It was really funny ‘cause I was just wearing normal people clothes!
You do a lot of advocacy work related to children’s causes and mental health. Where does your drive to make a bigger difference outside of music come from?
I grew up in a very religious home, so there was always a huge focus in my family on the importance of serving and giving back. Looking at what I do now as a career, I've been given an incredible platform to reach people, whether they listen or not. And that's why I like to share messages that I think are empowered. I have certain organizations that I partner with and I like to do something with on a regular basis. Other times, it'll just be something that tugs at my heartstrings. I'm grateful for my sister, who informs me about a lot of stuff. She’s very aware, so when she posts something it makes me fired up and then I want to post about it.
Back in May, you released a really cool mashup of the Game of Thrones and Avengers themes to commemorate each franchise coming to a close. What did you think of how each story concluded?
I have a confession to make... I am not a Game of Thrones viewer! But I’m very, very familiar with the plot and know all the characters. I mean, if you're not aware at the franchise and the characters at this point, you live under a rock. But I do love Avengers and the MCU. I thought it was incredible how the last one [Infinity War] ended. I was like, how do you wrap all of this up? The way they were able to make all the stories tie up and have lots of conclusions for hours and hours and hours worth of comic book stories... I thought they did a really good job.