When Shirley Manson was asked to audition for a rock band named Garbage back in 1994, the fiery haired singer, who left behind her native Scotland for Madison, Wisconsin, was certain she flunked her tryout big-time.
“It was embarrassing,” the 51-year-old front woman told Fox News. “It’s a miracle they ever called me back… I’ve been in a band for a decade... On paper, any normal person would assume that I had a lot of experience. And I did have a lot of experience in terms of live performance. But in terms of working in a studio? I had no experience at all.”
Manson, who initially told Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson she was a songwriting pro, actually had zero experience. She was put to the test on that ill-fated day when the bandmates played some music, expecting Manson to come up with lyrics. She was stunned.
“I’ve never done it before,” recalled Manson. “I was practically mute. I was so petrified. I didn’t believe in myself… So of course, nothing came out!”
However, the musical connection and friendship Manson developed with the group helped her secure a second chance. She managed to join Garbage, which became one of the best-selling bands in the ‘90s, earning double platinum in the U.K., U.S. and Australia. Their six studio albums have collectively sold over 15 million copies worldwide.
Garbage chronicled their musical journey in a new coffee table autobiography, “This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake.”
That awkward encounter wouldn’t be the last incident Manson managed to fumble through over the years. When Garbage was nominated for Album of the Year at the 1999 Grammy Awards, Manson decided to wear a dress featuring the artwork for their sophomore release, “Version 2.0.” However, she didn’t realize the album’s cover art didn’t completely cover up her body.
“I absolutely had no idea it was completely see-through,” she insisted. “I was sitting in a dark hotel room and then I was outside in bright sunshine… but at least my body looks good! I’m grateful my [breasts] were young and perky, so it doesn’t look bad, but I literally had no idea.
"It was only when I was going through photographs when I stumbled on one from the Grammys and went ‘Holy s--t, that’s completely see through!’ Nobody, absolutely nobody, up until like this past month, has ever mentioned it to me. So it came as a sort of a surprise.”
As for the fate of that infamous ensemble?
“I probably dumped it in a garbage bin knowing me,” said Manson. “I dumped everything in a garbage bin.”
Another shock Manson experienced was when Garbage decided to take a break at the end of 2005. The plan was initially for a year, but the hiatus lasted for five.
“It was something that came at a bit of a surprise to all of us, but I think we’re all grateful that we took that time to just refuel and find a different way of looking at things,” explained Manson. “When you’re in a successful band, you get locked in a bit of a bubble for a while and your growth — your emotional growth and your intellectual growth — gets stunted.
"But when you’re released to the wild, so to speak, you can adventure again, be curious again, be around other people and get challenged and raise questions as a human being… I’m grateful we took that break, although it was painful at the time. We all missed each other and we all missed being creative.”
As for going on another break? Manson joked “I think we have that conversation every night,” while also lighting up at the memory of the group reuniting in 2012 for the album “Not Your Kind of People.”
“It felt like no time had passed,” she said. “We just locked back into our relationship as it had been without some of the gripes and some of the… little resentments that we all have been harboring a few years. That all went out the window and the dynamic in the band has been good ever since. It was a legal separation and it worked for us. It was good.”
While Garbage continues to tour across the country, there’s one thing fans won’t be shocked to see: Manson happily embracing getting older in front of cameras and audiences.
“I feel it’s really important because you’re only as interesting as how authentic you are as an artist,” she said. “I had this realization when I hit 40. I was looking at all of these artists and thinking, ‘Why aren’t there any women talking about the experience of being an elder, being unashamed of their experience and their past… I really couldn’t find as many female artists who were willing to investigate that side of being human… I just wanted to have the courage to go there.”
Manson admitted it’s not easy being a female artist scrutinized over her looks before their talent, but she has zero interest in looking like any other pop star. Her goal, as it’s always been, is to make good music.
“… I understood that I could try and be a sad, sort of fake version of myself, thus keeping myself inside a cage, or I can break out from the cage and start to form a future for myself and build my own career based on being an authentic musician,” said Manson. “And that’s what really what I was interested in.
"I really don’t care about being a famous person. I don’t care about being sexually objectified or being famous for my looks or lack of looks. I just want to write something that somebody right between the eyes or into their heart. And if I can do that then I’ve done my job. That’s what I’m here to do.”