We’re born. We live. We die. If we’re lucky, we will be surrounded by those who love us, comfort us, and guide us. Loss is one of life’s greatest, most tragic expectations, yet it never gets any easier when it happens. Musician and songwriter Lindsey Stirling certainly knows what loss is. Over the last five years, she’s lost her best friend, Jason Gaviati (“Gavi,” for short), an accomplished musician and producer, and her father, Stephen Stirling.
“I don’t think you can ever get over a loss. There will always be something to work through,” reflects Stirling. On a phone call with American Songwriter earlier this week, the talented violinist and performer spoke candidly about her pain, coping through songwriting, and how it all funnels directly into her new track “Lose You Now,” a collaboration with Mako, a singer-songwriter and DJ in Los Angeles.
“It’s amazing how you reach back into those emotions, they’re still raw. I’ve learned to have them as part of my life now. They don’t make me sad everyday,” she says. “But when I reach back there, and check to see how they’re doing, they’re always going to hurt. Now, they’re filled with sweet memories instead of painful memories. The pain turns sweet.”
“Lose You Now” originally appeared on Stirling’s 2019 studio record, Artemis, then called “Guardian.” As time wore on, she soon realized how special the track really was—and sought to give it a bit of an update. Stirling gave Mako (real name Alex Seaver) complete control over the lyrics and found his perspective to be just what she needed.
“I felt like he was able to say something that I was never able to capture in words. I tried multiple times. That’s why ‘Gavi’s Song’ is an instrumental,” she notes. The entirety of her 2016 album, Brave Enough, drenches in loss, and perhaps, she couldn’t write lyrics then because she wasn’t ready. “I was in a lot of pain at the time,” Stirling adds.
“I wish I could remember every second we had,” weeps Mako over beaming violin. “I know I tried to count ’em all one by one, one by one / But you don’t get ’em back, you don’t get ’em back.”
Upon death, memories emerge as emotional currency, and try as we might to grasp them all, many will inevitably slip through our fingertips. “And I swear that I’m not gonna lose you now / I’ll keep you in my life somehow,” Mako later vows on the pumping chorus.
Stirling has felt that push and pull, often feeling like she was losing the most cherished memories. Yet she experienced immense joy, too, especially when certain memories were triggered through her everyday life. “With Gavi, I will go somewhere, and it’ll suddenly spark a memory. And I think, ‘What other memories have I forgotten?’” she offers. “It’s such a blessing when you get those little sparks that make you laugh. You get to feel close again to these people we’ve lost. You can’t hold onto every single moment of every day.
“You can’t choose if you lose someone or something,” she adds. A song like “Lose You Now” then explores “how you [can] hold onto that person. That’s the choice we all get to make. And we have to make it.”
The accompanying visual, which Stirling co-directed with Stephen Wayne Mallett, utilizes a post-apocalyptic scene to delve further into Stirling’s emotional journey. A knapsack tossed over her shoulder, containing various reels of home videos and other trinkets, her character navigates a cold, dark world and learns what it means to move on.
“The bag is almost weighing her down. She has to carry all these things through” life with her, describes Stirling. “It is all supposed to be the remnants left behind that we hold onto, and we’re trying so hard not to forget and lose them. Sometimes, we hold onto things that aren’t even the most important. That’s the message with the video. She has to learn to let go, and her person will be with her no matter where she goes and no matter what she does.”
In an episode of Westworld, a member of the Ghost Nation whispers to another character: “You live only as long as the last person who remembers you.” Therein lies the notion that we live far longer than any physical barriers, an idea Stirling has experienced in real life. “Some of the most inspiring moments I’ve ever had were at my dad’s funeral and Gavi’s funeral. All these people stood up and told a story or memory, and it was very much a celebration of their lives,” she says.
“I left that room so full of love and gratitude that I had them in my life and had the chance to learn from them. Then, I was thinking how on earth I could go through my life and take a piece of them forward. They still inspire me.”
Stirling is no stranger to being so open and vulnerable in her songwriting. Throughout her impressive career, she’s written about mental health, depression, and her struggle with anorexia—but “Lose You Now,” intensely personal with a universal potency, has gifted her “a whole new depth of experience as a human. [Death] changed me forever, for better and for worse. It makes you more empathetic, too.”
Working with Mako, including on “Love Goes On and On,” featuring Amy Lee, has opened up her world, creatively, in ways she did not expect. “The very first time I worked with Alex, he pulled out this sound on his computer. It was a set of windchimes he had recorded one time when he was on vacation. That tiny sound inspired the epic [Amy Lee song]. It’s really fun to see how he lets sounds and experiences of everyday life inspire a whole song.”
While “Lose You Now” will be a one-off single, Stirling hopes to “start writing again” this year for her next record. “[This song] is rare as a standalone piece. I always work in albums. I’m going to try and find a new sound. I’m ready to write something new and switch things up.”