Like any good pirate, Lindsey Stirling has a reputation that precedes her.
Most of America knows her story.
It's one that underdog-loving households can get behind. A young artist is told on national TV that there's no way she can sell out a Vegas venue with her electric violin dance performances. Then she goes and does it — at Sin City's 2,500-capacity House of Blues. The YouTube sensation, who has released two albums independently since being a contender on America's Got Talent, has 7 million subscribers and more than a billion video views. Still, even with all those eyes on her, Stirling has kept some stories under her sash.
The lesser-known Stirling tales — as told in her just-released memoir, The Only Pirate at the Party — involve a charmed childhood filled with lemonade stands, riding around Arizona in a Toyota Previa, and persevering through those baggy-denim days of adolescence.
"I have a story to tell — not only the wonderful and the joy, but also the hard things I've been through," the 29-year-old Gilbert native says.
The chapters also reveal her years of battling anorexia, becoming estranged from family members, and managing the rock 'n' roll lifestyle as a Mormon — plus sharing a really uncomfortable stage with Andrea Bocelli.
"A takeaway I'd like from this book would be that everyone has to fight for happiness, and we're all different, and it takes work," Stirling says. "You feel alone any time they go through a disorder, but people face these things more than they know. I want them to see these embarrassing things and that I wasn't successful on round one. Road to success is full of ups and lots of downs."
While Stirling's career propels the latter half of the book, it's hardly a musician's autobiography covering the minutia of recording and writing, band drama, or substance abuse. (Stirling's chapter on drugs and alcohol is two sentences long.)
A motivational speaker in her spare time, Stirling's memoir isn't tied to any mark of career success. It is more about finding the right venue to share what she has deemed meaningful lessons with her followers, known as Stirling-ites.
"Fans would ask me these really deep questions at meet-and-greets, and being on stage wasn't the best time to share the deeper side [of me]," Stirling says of those tough chapters. "It's impossible to share these things in a quick interaction."
The memoir ends up being so much more than a way to build a better relationship with fans — it even includes a chapter written by Phelba (Stirling's No. 1 fan, played by Stirling in a YouTube series).
Between the humorous and the heartbreaking lines of the book, The Only Pirate at the Party also reconnected Stirling with her younger sister, Brooke Passey, who co-wrote the memoir. Stirling had grown apart from her sister/roommate/best friend as the star fell deeper into an alienating struggle with anorexia.
The sisters got back in touch about three years ago, after Passey graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in creative writing. Stirling shot her sister a text, asking her to help write her first book.
Like any recently graduated writer, she took her sister up on the offer, which turned into a three-year project. The two Skyped nearly every other night across the planet and time zones, Stirling says.
"We kept elongating the final chapters; we didn't want [the book] to end," Stirling says. "It was something I always looked forward to doing."
Not all the chapters were easy to write.
"[Writing this book was a] second layer of therapy," she says. "You can only talk about something in a healthy way if you can see if from an outside perspective."
Likewise, not all chapters were easy to read.
At the end of the book, Stirling dedicates a page to friend and bandmate Jason "Gavi" Gaviati, who died November 21 after bouts of chemotherapy treatment.
"I was glad I finished the book before he passed," Stirling says. "I'm glad he's alive in the pages; he's written as if he's there."
Stirling, who also recorded an audiobook of The Only Pirate at the Party, says she had to read Gavi's chapters about a week after his death.
"The hardest thing I've ever been through . . . While he was going through chemo, he couldn't wait to get back on the road again," she says. "I'd say, 'We're saving a seat for you [on the bus].' When he got out of the hospital, we were going to write [new songs]."
Gavi's passing isn't talked about at length in the book, and Stirling chose to focus on his positive disposition.
"I strongly believe those on the other side can help us and influence us and inspire us," she says. "I honestly feel like he will be in my [next] album. His presence will be there in a stronger way."
Stirling, who will be busy promoting The Only Pirate at the Party through February, did not reveal when her next trip to the studio would be.
Over the holidays, the performer returned to the Valley to give pre-release copies of the book to childhood friends featured in those chapters about her formative years.
"It was really cool to be able to give the book to these people," she says. "I don't think we realized the difference we make in people's lives. For me to say, 'You're a big part of my story,' I didn't realize how cool that would be."
Lindsey Stirling is scheduled to sign copies of her book at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 20, at Changing Hands Bookstore. Admission is free for up to two people with one book purchase.
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