Garbage’s forthright frontwoman Shirley Manson is no stranger to interviews, having given thousands in her 35-year career. But as host of the new seven-episode podcast “The Jump” on the Mailchimp Presents platform, the tables are turned as Manson is in conversation with artists including Courtney Love, Perfume Genius, Big Boi and Karen O, discussing “the moments in an artist’s career where they decide to take a leap into something new.”
“I’ve got an innate curiosity about people in general, and I’ve always enjoyed pulling truths out of them,” says Manson via phone from her Los Angeles home. “I leapt at the chance [to host] because it seems like such a different opportunity for me, to talk to a lot of musicians I really admire. I am very keen to hear musicians’ perspectives, those who generate their own art. It’s fascinating and it’s exciting and it’s undervalued currently, so I was very motivated to participate in this project. It was a no-brainer to say yes.”
Each guest picks a “turning point” song in their career to discuss, and for the June 24 debut of “The Jump,” Perfume Genius chose his song “Learning,” the first cut off of his first album by the same name, in fact, the first song he ever wrote.
Big Boi was an interview Manson was nervous about, thanks to her Outkast fandom. “I was really shaky at first, but he’s such a joy that I quickly forgot my nerves. I came away really buzzed, and sort of inspired. I find the whole thing incredibly fulfilling in ways I didn’t imagine.” She notes that at the end of each interview, nearly every guest spoke about the two collaborating musically. “Karen O and I were talking about this; it’s so rare that you get to spend time with someone who’s had a remarkably similar experience to you. Being a successful musician can be quite isolating in a strange way. You’re surrounded by people all the time, but you’re never necessarily one on one with someone who knows exactly what it’s like to walk in your shoes,” Manson explains. “So, it was kind of funny how it was a we didn’t want to let each other go kind of thing at the end of the podcast.”
Courtney Love was one of the first episodes she taped (most were in person; two were remote). “I love her and we’ve been peers and I have a lot of tenderness in my heart for her,” says Manson. “I was very excited and honored that she would consent to doing this with me. Have I spent a lot of time with Courtney [previously]? No haven’t. Do we text each other? Yes, we do. Do I love her? Yes, absolutely. I think she’s really misunderstood, so it was a great thrill to have her in my clutches.”
That said, Manson is adamant about staying away from “gotcha” moments in her interviews. “I want people to feel safe. Having been heisted myself by so many journalists over the years I’m not interested in that. I’m not there to break a story. I’m not there to create scandal. I’m there to hear about the artistry of being a musician.”
While she laughingly admits she’s never listened to a podcast, she was and remains a big fan of radio and the art of the interview, so “to be on other side of that exercise was fascinating for me. I wasn’t very good at it at first, to be honest. I wish I could do Courtney all over again. I started to sort of understand, ‘oh, actually being an interviewer is way more complex than I ever expected it to be.’ By the end of the seven I felt like I began to get into the swing of it much better. At the beginning I was like, ‘Oh f—, I’m way out of my league, like, f—ing hell!’”
Her bosses had no doubt about the singer’s capabilities as a host. The Jump is produced by Mailchimp Presents in partnership with Little Everywhere, with executive producers Dann Gallucci (of Modest Mouse and The Murder City Devils fame), Jane Marie (This American Life), and Hrishikesh Hirway (Song Exploder). Hirway, who’s had Manson as a guest on Song Exploder, was thrilled to have Manson on board, as an admirer of her “zero-tolerance policy for bullsh– in any aspect of life. You might not expect someone so glamorous to be utterly sincere up close, but that’s what you get with Shirley.”
Plans for a second season have not been announced, but Manson would “absolutely” be excited return to as host.