SALT LAKE CITY — Thanksgiving may be a week early this year, but Lindsey Stirling ate her turkey a full two weeks ago.
And come Black Friday, while the rest of us are either up early to get the best deals or lying around groaning about our full bellies, Stirling will take the stage, opening in Reno on the first night of her "Wanderland" tour. From there, the dancing violinist makes her way to Sacramento and then comes to Utah's Maverik Center on Monday, Nov. 26.
We caught up with Stirling before she sets off on her monthlong tour to discuss her experience competing on “Dancing With the Stars” last year, the deluxe version of her "Warmer in the Winter" album and her upcoming Utah concert. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
DN: How did you get in a position to be on “Dancing With the Stars?”
LS: I had performed several times on “Dancing With the Stars” as a guest performer and came to know the producers a little bit through that … so the seed had been planted a long time ago. (The producers) actually asked me (to be on the show) a season or two before, and I told them, “I’m touring way too much. I can’t. It’s just impossible to do it.” But then when they reached out (last year), again I was going to be touring, but I thought to myself, “I can make it work.”
Because I really wanted to do it; I’d always wanted to be on the show, and also I’d never had dance training before, so getting to work with a professional — one of the best ballroom coaches in the world — six to eight hours a day for three months, I mean, that sounded like a dream come true in Lindsey land, so I somehow made it work. It was absolutely exhausting. It was one of the hardest seasons of my life I’ve ever had … but at the same time, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
DN: How did you balance being on “Dancing With the Stars” with practicing the violin and touring?
LS: There are not enough hours in a day. And the thing that was hardest about it was that I was touring for a brand new album, so that meant brand new choreography. So I would be practicing with (“DWTS” dance partner) Mark Ballas for six to eight hours a day … and then I would go across town and practice with my dancers — totally different choreography for a brand new Christmas tour.
I got about halfway through the season and almost had a panic attack because for the first time in my life, I realized I had taken on way too much and (that) what I put myself up for is actually impossible. I didn’t know what to do. … I was either going to let down thousands of fans for a sold-out Christmas tour or I was going to make a fool of myself on national TV in front of billions of people. There was nowhere to give. And so, (as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), I actually got a blessing from my bishop because at this point, I was also injured and I just didn’t know if I had anything left to give. And in the blessing, my bishop said there’d be angels helping me every step of the way and that they had been with me and specifically that my father, who had passed away about eight months before, was with me and that I needed to rely on the fact that I was receiving help.
I prayed every step of the way through every single day … and I swear miracles happened for me. It’s funny, as soon as “Dancing With the Stars” ended, it was like I was at my end. But it’s amazing what we can do. And sometimes you do your best and then you turn it over to say, “Help.”
DN: When you got injured on “Dancing With the Stars,” how long did you have to decide if you could keep going or not?
LS: I injured (my rib) the day before one of the shows. So I was in the hospital the day before I was supposed to go on TV to do the paso doble — it is the hardest dance you could possibly have to do when you can’t lift your arms. And so I basically had 24 hours to try to figure out how I could do the dance. I didn’t rehearse it until we went out on that stage to perform it … and it hurt so bad! But I look back at that tape and I think, “Dang, that’s a miracle, that’s a freaking miracle that I went out there and did that dance because I was in so much pain.”
But it was really funny because that week we happened to have full-face makeup. I was wearing Day of the Dead makeup (and) had a skeleton drawn on my whole face, so it’s funny, you couldn’t tell that I was grimacing at all.
DN: What was your favorite dance from the show?
LS: I would have to say it was when we did this Argentine tango. It was so far outside my comfort zone, but it was everybody's favorite. To me, the dance became a really cool metaphor for life. Sometimes you have these ideas in your head of what you can and can’t do, and when we first started this dance, I told my partner, “I can’t do that. I can’t pull off this kind of a character that you’re asking me to play. I can’t be sensual.” And he said, “Yes you can.”
Sometimes when you push the walls down of what you can and can’t do — this box that we all live in — it’s amazing what you can accomplish. I watched the video back after we performed it and I could not believe that that was me.
DN: A number of times, you shared your faith on the show. Why do you choose to share your faith on such a national platform and is that scary at all for you to do?
LS: Here’s the thing: People often shy away from speaking about faith because they’re afraid they’re going to offend someone. But I’ve realized, I offend people all the time by just living. People on social media love to be offended and they love to get upset over things, and I’ve had people throw fits on social media over something as silly as the fact that I changed my hair. … No matter what you do, you’ll probably offend somebody. You can’t turn around without offending somebody these days. So I might as well say things that I actually believe in, things that mean something to me. I’ll take offending someone that way over offending someone about my hair, which is something I really couldn't care less about. You might as well say something you actually love and believe in.”
DN: When you competed on “America's Got Talent” in 2010, some of the judges doubted your artistic style would ever take off as a career. What would you say today to skeptics about the art that you do?
LS: Whatever art you’re creating, there’s going to be people that bash you. To this day, there’s still people that think I’m a terrible violinist and think what I do is really ridiculous. I think it’s just important to remember that there’s always positive and negative around you, and it's up for us to decide where we’re going to focus and put our energy. Consistently, whether it’s through my art or whether it’s just the way I’m living my life, I try really hard to focus on the positive and I think that’s the key to living happy and being successful.
DN: You recently released a deluxe edition of your 2017 Christmas album, “Warmer in the Winter.” What’s different about this new edition?
LS: The new edition of the album has five new tracks on it, some of which are my favorite tracks that actually ended up on the album, so I absolutely love them and I’m so excited to perform them live. And I’m just excited that I was able to add to the Christmas album and make it fresh again.
The (new) show has everything from pointe ballet to ballroom to pop, and it really takes you on a journey from festive Christmas … all the way to the more spiritual side of Christmas and being able to share a little bit of my faith with the audience — just the things that bring me joy about Christmas and what it really means. I hope people love it.
DN: Could you talk about the process of creating "Warmer in the Winter?" Why did you decide to do a Christmas album?
LS: I enjoyed creating this album more than any other album I've ever worked on. I love Christmas and that it is full of so much nostalgia (and) traditions. The fact that I have so many memories attached to the songs that I was arranging made it so much fun to re-imagine them. But along with being fun, this album was a challenge. It is difficult to take classic songs that have been covered thousands of times and find a new way to do them. It was a tough balance to stay true to the original songs and yet add my own signature style to them but it made it all the more rewarding because I think I achieved that goal.
DN: Do you have a favorite song from that album?
LS: I think my favorite song is “I Wonder as I Wander.” It’s one of the added tracks. I love that it is an old Celtic hymn that talks about how without Jesus we are left to wonder. I love that it has such a haunting melody, and not to brag but I think my rendition of the song is pretty awesome. I have only ever heard this song done in a … simple style, and so it was fun to do it as a huge epic track. It is powerful and yet still reverent. I feel something when I play it.
DN: Do you have any traditions when you come to Utah, places you like to eat or visit?
LS: I love going to the Indian restaurant Bombay House. I think it has the best Indian food in the world — and I've traveled the world and had great Indian food everywhere.
DN: You have a huge following in Utah. What do you hope people take away from your upcoming show in Salt Lake City?
LS: I always hope that my shows will help people laugh, I hope they are thoroughly entertained and that they leave feeling inspired. I pray every night before I go onstage that whatever someone is searching for that they will feel what they need to feel during the show, whether it is self-love, hope or courage to go after something. I hope that people gain a message that they can take with them.
If you go …
What: Lindsey Stirling’s “Wanderland” tour
When: Monday, Nov. 26, 8 p.m.
Where: Maverik Center, 3200 Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City
How much: $31.50-$96.50