Lindsey Stirling Tells Cambio Interns About Her Eating Disorder That Inspired "Shatter Me"
Girls Who Code: How has your childhood influenced the kind of person you are today?
Lindsey Stirling: I am so grateful that I had parents that were so encouraging with art and my expression. I remember going to the first day of first grade all dressed in a costume, like a kimono, red sparkly shoes, a wig, and one glove. And my mom took me to school just like that and I think that's a big part of why I am the way I am because my parents were like, "You wanna do it? You look great!" And those kind of experiences when you're young that really shape who you become.
GWC: What's the most difficult thing you've ever had to go through?
LS: I had an eating disorder when I was in my teens, and I didn't even realize it at the time. It was in my early twenties that I finally had this moment of realization. My mom and others pulled me aside and said, "We think you have a problem," and I would always answer, "No, I don't, I'm fine." And I finally realized that I had a huge problem, and that's kinda what "Shatter Me" is about. It's written about that realization that I am so unhappy.
An eating disorder is such a consuming thing. It's an actual mental disorder. It wasn't about food, it was about self hatred. I had to train my mind to think positively, to love myself and be able to look in the mirror and say, "You're beautiful," even though I didn't believe it until I learned to love myself again. That was the hardest thing I've ever done. It broke my heart when I realized that I had this problem because I was studying in school to be a therapist, to work with troubled teenage girls! And I was like, "How can I ever help someone if I cannot help myself?" And so that was one of the biggest motivations for me to get over it.
GWC: While you were on America's Got Talent did you ever feel like you had to sacrifice your values as an artist just to please other people?
LS: I definitely remember it was hard, especially in designing my costume. They showed me my costume for the first time, and I was like "I can't wear that."I was so afraid to say something, but I did, and it was a little awkward and they weren't too happy with me. But I also think artistically, I wasn't as strong an artist yet. I hadn't really put myself out there. I didn't really understand that I had the right to stand up for myself, and so artistically I remember them suggesting ideas that I would think in my head, "I don't like that." But I went along with it anyway and it came across as so contrived, like it didn't feel genuine. Looking back at performances, it feels awkward, it looks awkward and it's because I didn't have the guts at the time to say, "I'm not okay with that." And I learned a lot from that experience, that you have to stand up for yourself in those ways, even though it's awkward or it's weird.
GWC: What have you learned from doing all the backstage production stuff in all of your videos and what's your favorite part?
LS: I had to do all the stuff by myself in the beginning cause I didn't have any money. I knew how to do video editing and directing, because I went to film school for two years, so I was like, I can do this all myself. And as my productions and have gotten bigger, I've had to learn that you can't, and you shouldn't do it all yourself. You'll drive yourself insane! And also, it's easy to say, "No, I wanna do it this way, my way..." But sometimes you benefit when other people give their input, and they have a vision and you can make it a little bit of a collaborative process.
I really almost had to take a bite of humble pie and realize, "You know Lindsey, your ideas aren't always the best. Maybe his idea's better." And learning to trust other people. That's one of the biggest things - learning to work with other people and trust. My favorite part is I am just a film nerd, I love thinking of fun concepts. I love dressing up and being able to design costumes. So that's probably my favorite part. To be able to have this thing in my head that has all of these little moving pieces and then to see it like a puzzle all come together in the end, is just a really amazing process.
GWC: If you could only do one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
LS: It would be dance. I love dancing. I would probably have an '80s music playlist, and I would dance, forever. I would be in great shape.
GWC: Can you tell us about a memorable moment with a fan?
LS: There was a young man that came to a show - they contacted us beforehand and this young man he was only 13 years old and he was dying of cancer, and we had him backstage and we hung out with him before the show and after the show and dedicated the whole show to him. His parents said that they were already planning the funeral because he had about a month left to live and they just expressed that he wanted my song to be playing, precisely the last song he hears. This young man was sharing his art with us, paintings he made, and he was full of smiles. I was just like, what a strong man - his future is so bleak right now and yet he's still sharing every part of himself as much as he can. His name is Hunter and I was just so inspired by him.