When 2022 arrived, violinist Lindsey Stirling was at a musical crossroad. She had created a unique sound for herself by merging classical and electronic music over the course of four previous studio albums. Her sound had brought her considerable acclaim and popularity – with all four albums topping the dance and classical charts. But Stirling felt she had pretty much explored the possibilities within her classical/EDM fusion. It was time for a departure, time to find a new sound.
But there was a problem.
“I was trying to work on my next original album and nothing was really coming. I was feeling a lot of blockage,” Stirling said in a late-October phone interview. “I think, since COVID, I never felt inspired to write during COVID and then even as we were coming out of it, I still was like ‘I’m coming up blank.’”
That’s when her plans for 2022 took a detour.
“I took a session and did a holiday song,” Stirling said. “And it just flowed so naturally and writing was fun again. So I was just like you know what, this year is calling for a Christmas album. It’s just what I apparently wanted to do, even though I didn’t know that.”
The Christmas album in question is the newly released “Snow Waltz.” It’s Stirling’s second holiday release, following the 2017 album “Warmer in the Winter.”
“I decided to start working on it in February,” she said. “And to meet the deadline, it had to be done by, gosh, the end of April. It was very quick. So it kind of just flowed naturally. It came out fast, thank heavens, but I’m really proud of it.”
“Snow Waltz” is quite different stylistically and sonically from “Warmer in the Winter.”
“With ‘Warmer in the Winter,’ I kind of wanted to almost use it as an excuse to, I don’t know, depart from my own sound in a fun way,” Stirling said. “I was like I’m going to really lean into the traditional Christmas sounds, and that’s very sweeping orchestras and we had some big band songs on there and I actually recorded with a live band. It was really fun to do that and like I said, so different from the kind of music that I, previous to that, I’d done all electronic.”
“Snow Waltz,” on the other hand, is more like Stirling’s four non-holiday albums, as it features more of an electronic sonic palate over which her violin takes center stage as the lead instrument.
“I thought, you know, rather than me leaning so far into what I think Christmas has traditionally sounded like, I’m going to take a little bit of me and my sound that I’ve done for years and I’m going to kind of combine the two,” Stirling said. “So that was the attempt of this album.”
That sound fits nicely with the thematic vision Stirling had for “Snow Waltz,” where she wanted to inject a bit of Halloween spookiness into the festive sounds of the Christmas season.
“I had the idea to meld like Halloween has ended,” she said, “but the skeletons stuck around and accidentally discovered Christmas, and what would they think?”
The result on “Snow Waltz” is a decidedly modern and quite unique Christmas album. The spooky facet of the album emerges strongly on the title track, where Stirling’s violin works hand in hand with a haunting musical backdrop, on the ghostly treatment of O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” a version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” that’s reimagined in a martial tempo and “Ice Storm,” which feels like a prelude to the impending cold, dreary days of winter. But the happy spirit of Christmas is very much alive on familiar songs like “Sleigh Ride,” “Joy to the World,” which features some inventive elaboration on violin from Stirling, and “Feliz Navidad,” which gallops along to a south-of-the-border beat, as well as the peppy original “Crazy For Christmas” (co-written by Stirling and Bonnie McKee) and “Magic,” a warm original, which features David Archuleta on vocals.
Stirling began developing her sound and performing approach about 15 years ago. She first tried to break through by appearing on “America’s Got Talent” in 2010, showcasing her classical/EDM sound and her ability to dance while playing violin. But she was voted off of the show, with judge Piers Morgan saying she was “not untaltented, but you’re not good enough, I don’t think, to get away with flying through the air and trying to play violin at the same time.”
Stung by Morgan’s critique, but determined, Stirling launched her own YouTube channel. Her videos caught on, generating enough activity that she was signed by Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter.
This led to the release of Stirling’s self-titled debut album in 2012. Three more albums -- 2014’s “Shatter Me,” 2016’s “Brave Enough” and 2019’s “Artemis” – followed, as she refined her classical-meets-EDM sound, did multiple tours and amassed several gold and platinum album certifications.
Stirling is excited to bring together her two holiday albums this fall on the latest edition of what’s becoming an annual Christmas tour. Once again, fans can expect a beautiful stage set, new choreography from Stirling and her dancers and some accomplished playing from Stirling.
“It’s been really fun to get to kind of marry the two albums together and make it like a nice hybrid of what I think is kind of the best mix from both my first Christmas album and now my second one,” Stirling said. “It’s a super fun show. It’s going to be really energetic. There’s also going to be some really sweet, like soft moments and then ending with like a big bang of stuff we’ve never done before, including some aerial routines we worked really hard to learn. I’ll be singing, but mostly playing the violin. It’s so fun.”
If she makes good on her intentions, “Snow Waltz” will mark the end of the classical/EDM musical phase for Stirling – at least for awhile.
As it turns out, making “Snow Waltz” triggered a new round of creativity, and Stirling thinks she’s found what she was looking for before her focus shifted to “Snow Waltz.”
“While I was doing this Christmas album, I did take several sessions to kind of go back. Now that I’m having fun writing again, can I find something (new)?” she said. “And I will say I think I’ve found it. I’m really excited about this next sound. It was not what I was expecting. I was chasing pretty straight-up rock for a while and it just wasn’t feeling right. Nothing was coming that felt like it was inspired to me. And I found, yet again, a really fun fusion. It has elements of rock, it has elements of like cinema, like very cinematic. I’m very excited about this new sound. I’ve probably got, you know, two or three tracks so far that I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, I think I’ve found the pulse.’ So I am ready. At the beginning of the year, I’m going to be coming back from the Christmas tour, and I’ll be able to hit the ground running and make something fresh and new.”
Lindsey Stirling plays Johnny Mercer Theatre Friday, Nov. 25, at 8 p.m. For more information visit savannahcivic.com