Shirley Manson on Sitting Down With Patti Smith, Thundercat, and More “Amazing Minds” For Season 3 of Her Podcast

“I think if I had sat down with David Byrne in the flesh, I might have fucking fainted on the spot,” says Manson

As the lead singer of the band Garbage, Shirley Manson has spent nearly three decades clocking in time as the subject of countless interviews. On her podcast The Jump, however, the alt-rock icon steps into the interviewer role, welcoming one renowned musician per episode to discuss one song that changed the trajectory of their career.

Manson never intended to start a podcast, but when the opportunity arose, she saw no other option than to run with it. “As you get older, you kind of have to seek out adventures and opportunities in a way that you don’t have to when you’re young,” Manson tells Consequence. “For me to have this experience at 55, at this point in my career, has just been invaluable.”

The third season of The Jump — available now wherever you stream your podcasts — boasts some of the podcast’s most exciting names yet, ranging from multigenerational icons like Patti Smith and David Byrne to contemporary favorites like Run the Jewels and Thundercat.

Although Manson had never conducted an interview prior to recording the first season of The Jump, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Her whip-smart sense of humor and unbridled passion lay the groundwork for incredibly enhancing, raw conversations. “To be quite frank, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing,” Manson adds. “I just try to listen, which is a whole skill in itself. It’s been really illuminating for me and enhanced my appreciation for music journalism.”

Below, Consequence chats with Manson about the making of The Jump‘s third season, and the most important things she’s learned along the way. Garbage is also currently on tour with Alanis Morissette; grab tickets via Ticketmaster or the secondary market.

Consequence: How did you conceptualize the podcast?

Shirley Manson: Well, there was no conceptualization at all. I’d never flirted with the idea of a podcast. I got called up out of the blue by Hrishikesh Hirway from Song Exploder; I had been one of the first guests ever on that podcast, and we had sort of kept in touch since then. He called me up, and he’s like, “Listen, I’ve got this idea for another podcast. I think you’d be an ideal host.” I was like, “Are you kidding?” I mentioned it to my manager. I said, “I don’t feel like I’m knowledgeable enough about music, and I’ve never interviewed anyone before.”

And he was like, “Look, this is an incredible opportunity for you, and you really should think about it because I think this is ideally suited to your personality. You love people. You love talking to them. You’re really curious and you’re excited about music. And if you turn this opportunity down, I really think it’d be a big mistake.” So I accepted the opportunity simply because I was too scared to turn it down. I don’t want to wake up one day and regret it.

I’m so grateful I did. It sounds so selfish because, obviously, the podcast is about the artists I speak to. But I’ve just gotten so much out of the experience of sitting down with these amazing minds.

I actually think it’s a bit of a handicap, truth be told. As an artist, there’s certain questions you get asked over and over and over again, but because they’re great questions, the cliche exists for a reason. But [when you’re asking questions], you catch yourself every time you want to ask a really obvious amazing question, you sort of catch yourself and go, “Oh, God, I can’t ask that question. They’ve been asked that question 5 million times.” It’s just been a strange flip of the narrative for me, but there’s something really lovely about just sitting down and listening to someone else speak about a subject that’s of immense importance to me.

It’s sort of a relief to hear people that are almost exactly the same wavelength as you, who are just as excited about the things you are excited about, and who you value profoundly. That’s not always something that happens in life. I think particularly in the last sort of decade, music has been treated like a weird commodity — sort of like sausages coming out of a factory. And that’s not how I view music at all. So to sit down with like-minded people feels like going to therapy in a funny, weird, twisted way.

Now that you’re on the third season, how has your process changed?

Of course, this last season was disrupted by COVID, so all the episodes were recorded remotely, which is both easier and more difficult. I had to play a bit of a different game. You can’t read people the same way over the phone that you can when you’re sitting right opposite them and in the same space. But, it also provides a sort of buffer zone — I think if I had sat down with David Byrne in the flesh, I might have fucking fainted on the spot.

What do you think makes a great podcast?

A simple, great conversation where both parties are actually listening to one another. I absolutely do not listen to podcasts myself — I really prefer to read. But I always figure that if I am interested in what the guests are saying, then it’s going to make for a good podcast. I know a lot about the discipline of music myself, so if I’m sitting there having my mind blown, I know the audience is gonna have their minds blown. I mean, Patti Smith reciting “Pissing in the River” for the first time since the 1970s? I’m sorry, but I don’t know what more anyone wants. I had goosebumps all over.

What moments from recording the third season stick out to you most?

All the guests have been extraordinary. My husband thinks it’s really amusing, because I always come home a bit sort of lovestruck after meeting them. But one particular incident amuses me so much: When I was talking to the lovely Joe Talbot from IDLES, who I love — they really excite me and Joe is just so sweet. And at the end of the podcast, he says to me, “This experience for me has been a little like meeting the Fonz.” I thought that was the funniest thing perhaps anyone has ever said about my career, and it endeared him to me for life. Like, you’re my kind of person, and I love you.

Which of the guests in the third season surprised you the most?

Something that surprised me is when I started to do my studies for Robyn, whose music I’ve always enjoyed, but I had never really studied her whole song book. I was listening to all her records back to back while I was working out at home, and I was so shocked by the strength of her songwriting. She’s like a Max Martin or something. Any of these young pop stars today not hitting Robyn up for some good songs are utterly beyond my understanding. I was blown away.

I really appreciate the variety of guests that you have. There are people who have been icons for decades, like David Byrne and Patti Smith, as well as artists who have only emerged in the past few years. Was this a conscious decision to cast a wider net in terms of audience reach, or do these people represent what music you’re fascinated by?

It’s a bit of both. I have a very diverse taste anyway, but it was important to me that the roster of talent was diverse. I didn’t want them all to be men, and I certainly didn’t want them all to be women either, and I wanted there to be LGBTQ representation. That’s just the way I see the world and how I want the world to be. But it’s also just my taste. I’ve been really entranced with Kelsey Lu since she first emerged. I really find her intriguing.

What do you hope listeners take away from listening to The Jump?

An appreciation for what actually goes into writing what we consume. We listen so mindlessly so often, and yet, it’s somebody’s whole life experience and their whole philosophy. Talking to somebody like Thundercat was so extraordinary, because he’s a fucking genius musician — on a different playing field from so many other musicians I know. The hours and dedication and discipline that goes into that craft is extraordinary.

I feel like there’s been so much fuss made over the last decade or more about the pop stars that come out of theater school and sing other people’s songs, and they become really famous and the world is their oyster. Well, that’s one thing entirely, but there’s a whole other subterranean world that exists underneath that presentation that I think is worthy of examination, respect, and admiration. There are so many fascinating stories underneath.

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