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The Only Pirate at the Party

A few years ago, I got some money for my birthday and for some reason I bought a violin and an amplifier from Amazon. I never really did anything with it, but I started looking at YouTube for violin stuff and kept reading references to Lindsey Stirling. “She must be a famous violinist or something,” I thought. Finding some of her videos, I was impressed. When I think of YouTube videos I often think of people trying to get rich by posting inane crap with clickbait titles. Lindsey’s videos aren’t that.

Though I’m normally skeptical of YouTube videos, I’ve found several great bands through there including OK GO, Pomplamoose, Pentatonix, and even the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Like the videos for those bands, Lindsey’s have nice production values in that they’re well shot, edited well, and sound great. It wasn’t long before I started buying CDs of her music. At one point when I was looking for some of her music, I saw that she had a book out, so I bought that as well. However, it lingered in my to-be-read pile for well over a year. A few months ago, when I started listening to audiobooks during the commute to and from work, hers was one of the first I listened to.

Between the audiobook and the trade paperback versions of her autobiography, I was struck by how conversational it was. For the audiobook, listening to Lindsey narrate, we hear her emotions, when she’s serious, when she’s pumped, when she’s brokenhearted, when she’s enthusiastic, and more. It’s less like a narration and more like a friend or family member on the phone, catching up and telling you about their life. It works better as an audiobook, because as a book full of text, it comes off a bit awkward, almost as if it was spoken, then transcribed.

As expected from a memoir, it covers her life, starting in childhood up to the time the book was written. Somewhat surprisingly, she doesn’t talk a lot about violins or music, and when she does, she doesn’t go into them very deeply. She doesn’t describe her violins in detail, or what kinds of strings she uses, or her performance setup, or any other musical minutiae, but that’s fine because it’s about Lindsey Stirling, not about Lindsey Stirling’s violins. Many of the early chapters describe her family and her upbringing, and how she always wanted to be the center of attention. She writes about her parents and her sisters, and making friends in new places as the family moved around when she was a kid.

For an autobiography, it doesn’t gloss over or ignore parts of tougher parts of her life. She’s very earnest about dealing with depression and anxiety, and describes dealing with anorexia as battling her own personal demon; one she’s determined to vanquish. She describes her feelings after losing on American Idol, and relying on friends and family for support. Despite all this, it’s not the diary of a Debbie Downer.

She also writes about playing gigs and being on tour. She writes about her bandmates, who become like a second family on the road. She writes about becoming successful on YouTube (it’s also not a book about becoming successful on YouTube, so if you want those details, look elsewhere). After watching some of her early videos, she decided to get more involved in editing them, partly for modesty, and partly because the notes in the music weren’t matching up with what she was playing in the video.

In one of the funnier parts of the audiobook, she talks about meeting Taylor Swift at a music industry party, trying not to be a complete fangirl, and being completely stunned that Taylor Swift knew who she was.

Lindsey also talks about her faith quite a bit, particularly how she finds strength and peace in it, especially as a way of vanquishing her demon. However, even then she has a couple of funny stories about doing mission work in New York City.

Overall, I enjoyed her autobiography. I think it’s better as an audiobook than in text. I think this book would be an excellent gift for an aspiring musician, especially if they’re in their teens. Part of me wants to say this book would also be good for people who deal with depression, anxiety, or eating disorders, but it might also be useful for their friends or family members, since it might give them an insight from the point-of-view of someone who has those conditions.

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