28 March 2015

Lindsey Stirling's advice to fellow artists

It’s funny how, sometimes, taking comfort in your uniqueness and not pretending to be like everybody else, can lead to hearing things like, “Sorry, the world has no place for you.” Take Lindsey Stirling, for example — a dancing dubstep violinist once deemed “not cool” or “not marketable” enough.

For so long, she has struggled with putting her music out there: “I tried lots of ways, from traditional ones like going to record labels and talking to agencies to joining America’s Got Talent — that didn’t lead to anything,” shares Stirling.

So she took matters into her own hands. “I got sick of waiting for somebody to sign me, for someone to say, ‘Okay, you’re good enough,'” she continues. “So I started making videos, uploading them to Youtube and setting up shows.”

Stirling’s Crystallize became the eighth most-viewed video on Youtube last year with 63 million views and her channel, “Lindseystomp” garnered over 6 million subscribers. That was when record labels, for a change, came knocking on her door.

“I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to be signed,’” says Stirling, who later on sealed a record deal in Asia. “I don’t live here. It’s a different world that’s why I signed with a record label here, but I still act very much as an independent artist,” she adds.

Her new album, “Shatter Me,” might well be a confessional. Far from the “happy-go-lucky” vibe of her debut record, Stirling admits to exposing the darker side of herself in her latest outing. “At that time, I was going through depression and anorexia,” she shares. “But the album is also a celebration of breaking free from whatever it is that haunts us: other people, ourselves, our fears.”

This freedom from fear is best represented in the titular single with a music video that shows a violin-wielding ballerina trapped in a snow globe. “As she starts to express herself (through music and dance), the globe begins to crack,” narrates Stirling. “But she’s afraid of what’s happening. ‘If I break, will there be anything left?’”

It’s difficult to imagine Lindsey Stirling contained in any form of barriers, especially after seeing her perform live. On March 13 she returned to the Philippines to open for Incubus at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena and for a moment made us forget about Incubus.

She is always moving — going from one point of the stage to another, involving every part of her body in the performance. And even in her craft, she couldn’t keep still. In “Shatter Me,” Lindsey collaborated with Dia Frampton and Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. Asked if we could expect more from the trio, she said that she wishes to create different sounds in the future and work with different people such as Zedd, Haley Williams, Ellie Goulding, and Ryan Tedder of One Republic to name a few.

Right now, Lindsey is touring, and on the side, writing a book with her sister. Somewhere in the future she hopes to score for a film, work on a video game composition, and maybe squeeze in an acting gig.

Lindsey Stirling with reporters

Following her arena performance in the Philippines, Lindsey got a little closer to her fans and held a small show and a meet and greet at SM North EDSA The Block. As much as the fans were delighted to meet their idol, they were clamoring for a full concert from the dancing violinist. Their plea didn’t escape Lindsey, who told everyone who came, “I’m planning to come back, I’m going to do a full show as soon as I can.”

Later in the afternoon she laid down her bow and picked up a pen to sign copies of “Shatter Me.” But her CD wasn’t the only thing fans wanted autographed; a lot of them brought their own violins and guitars — a reminder that many of Lindsey’s fans are aspiring artists as well. And to them, Lindsey’s biggest message is simply: Don’t give up.

“Artists are so hard on themselves. They are the most critical of themselves,” she says. “Failure is just one of the many steps that comes in the line of being successful, so pick yourself up again and don’t be too hard on yourself.”

—Originally published on GIST.PH

23 March 2015

Dancin' and singin' in the rain

The best things about the One Direction concert have little to do with One Direction. Well the entire night wouldn't have happened if not for 1D, but let me talk.

OTRA Day 2 pass
First of all, am no Directioner, just someone who appreciates music. The way I see it, there's ambition and achievement. Louis (my crush), Niall, Harry, Liam, and Zayn aim to be a cute boy band singing singable danceable tunes and they do it well, so I like them. That's why when there was a chance to watch the group live, I grabbed it.

I attended the second night of the On the Road Again Tour – Manila leg. It was fun but not as magical as I hoped it would be. Maybe because I could barely see the boys and maybe because it was 1D sans Zayn.

Anyway, we've already settled at a nice spot in the middle of the concert grounds late in the afternoon. So it was basically a waiting game from then on. By 6pm it started to drizzle. Then rain. Then back to drizzle. Then solid rain. Non-stop rain. That made me anxious and cold.

Our view

Until a DJ KC came out on stage and the next thing you know, I was in the midst of a rave party and loving every second of it. Except when his set finished and the rain stopped as well.

It was as if all the good things I own in the world were taken from me. I was wishing for more rain and dancing.

Instead, there was more waiting.

When One Direction finally showed up, performing song after song, I was simply going through the motions. Humming, swaying, hands up in the air; replying with a howl when they say, 'How are you, Manila', 'We love you, Manila', 'Thank you we wouldn't be here without you'; and taking a couple of photos and videos as keepsakes.

Of course I went wild when they sang my favorites—One Thing, What Makes You Beautiful, and Night Changes.

It was fitting that they closed with Best Song Ever (imagine when you have a song with that title and the melody's crap?). That was a pure moment I had with One Direction coz I was dancing and singing like crazy to the best song that night, which was punctuated by fireworks—their final good-bye.

While fun, the show wasn't as magical as I hoped it would be. Maybe because I could barely see the boys and maybe because it was 1D sans Zayn. Or maybe because I would've liked it for the rain to keep pouring and the band to never stop singing so I may carry on dancing.

21 March 2015

In a Sing state of mind

As early as five in the afternoon, people already came in droves at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena, chanting, “We want Ed! We want Ed!” They meant Ed Sheeran, the British singer-songwriter who broke into everyone’s music consciousness with hits like 'Lego House' and 'The A Team'. To those who still don’t know him, he’s the artist behind that song you keep hearing everywhere, that song you can’t get out of your head and will probably play on your wedding day — Darling I will / be loving you till / we’re 70. Sheeran brought his Multiply Tour to Manila on March 12 and a couple of hours before taking the stage, we had the chance to sit down with him for an interview.

X memories forever frozen still in digital photographs

“I was expecting a good gig, but I think this might be one of the bests in the tour just based on the reception I’ve got. Everyone is so excited and that makes me more excited,” Sheeran said when asked about his expectations of the show.

We were surprised that he was surprised by his level of popularity in the country, to which he replied, “On social media (you have an idea of your fan base), yes. You can see the amount of tweets that you get but you can never really tell until you step into a country and feel the electricity.”

His doubts must’ve been cleared now as the 16,000-seater arena was filled to the brim, and with how the audience behaved (or misbehaved — blocking aisles to get closer, for example), it felt like there were 30,000 people in the room — which Sheeran effortlessly commanded.

Those who watched the concert fondly speak of how the 24-year-old musician in jeans, polo, and messy hair only needed his voice, guitar, and loop station to rock the night away. Meanwhile, those who were able to meet him, talk non-stop about his kindness and humility.

How can one be a rock star on stage and a grounded human being off stage? (Sheeran once remarked that thank goodness he wasn’t selling albums based on his looks.) The answer, at least for Sheeran, is to separate the musician from the man. “The artist side of me is the one who is successful and the normal side of me is not. You have to separate the two,” he said.

Ed Sheeran is the third act featured in MMI Live’s British Invasion 2015 concert series. Before him, The 1975 and The Vamps performed in Manila in January and February respectively, and following him are One Direction on March 21 and 22, and Sam Smith in May.

What is it about British music that resonates so well with the rest of the world?

“I don’t think the invasion ever stopped,” offered Sheeran. “Because before us there was Adele, Coldplay and Mumford & Sons; and before them there was James Blunt, David Gray and Travis,” he continued. “There’ve always been British bands — Oasis, Blur — It’s the same for the Swedish, they’re good at songwriting. England, UK and Ireland just produce good artists.”

Lucky for us they’re now crossing continents so we can watch them perform live. Before we let Sheeran off, we asked which one of his songs best reflects his current state of mind. He paused to think, then said, 'Sing' — the upbeat tune he co-wrote with Pharrell Williams. “I’m having a wonderful time in the Philippines and I just, I feel…” he couldn’t find the words, so maybe he just really felt like singing and letting go. And that he did at the MOA Arena last Thursday.

Sheeran closed his first Manila concert with Sing. Towards the song’s end, he told the audience to sing the song’s hook, O-oh o-oh-oh o-oh-oh o-oh-oh oh-oh… and to “never stop singing” even as he put his guitar down and left the stage. The crowd obliged.

It was, to reiterate and to understate, a memorable night. And in case you’re reading this, we’re still singing, Ed.

—Originally published on GIST.PH

10 March 2015

Over the hillside

32. Last year, my theme song was Petshop Boys' 'Being boring'. This year it's The Blue Nile's 'Over the Hillside'.

I tried and tried to make good sense. What's the good to try it all again?

Except that I don't end where the song ends, I continue to try.

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