When Shirley Manson began hosting The Jump last year — a podcast in which she interviews artists on one song that represents their artistic moment of truth — she was incredibly nervous. “It caused me a lot of stress, truth be told,” the Garbage frontwoman tells Rolling Stone. “The first season, I felt like I wasn’t qualified and I had no right to be sitting in that position as a host talking to these amazing artists. But I absolutely loved the experience.”
On Tuesday, Manson will release the second season of The Jump, co-produced by Mailchimp Presents and Little Everywhere. The season features artists ranging from George Clinton to Liz Phair to the National’s Matt Berninger. Manson spoke with Rolling Stone about her experience as a host, as well as her time in quarantine and the future of Garbage.
“I want to hear what someone has to say in the moment because, of course, your feelings and your opinions change on a daily basis,” she says. “I try to keep it as fluid as possible, [and] I try and listen. It’s a dying art.”
How has your quarantine been so far?
Having the time of my life like everyone else. [Laughs] I really shouldn’t complain, but of course, I do. I read a thing today [with] Michelle Obama talking about low-grade depression and anxiety, and I’m like, “Well, at least I’m in good company.”
What is your day-to-day like?
There is no form to my day whatsoever. We’re in the middle of mixing a [Garbage] record, so thank God for that. It’s the only thing keeping us sane. I’m cooking a lot, walking the dog a lot. I’m reading a lot, which has been fantastic. I haven’t read this much since I was in adolescence. So that’s been one of the amazing things, I think, about getting time like this. But it’s hard. It’s like walking through an endless landscape with no hope and no dreams.
How did you first get involved with The Jump?
I literally got an email out of the blue from Hrishikesh [Hirway] of Song Exploder. He said, “I’m thinking of putting another podcast out there; I think you would be the perfect person.” I knew Hrishi from Dangerbird Records a long time ago; we became friends. The opportunity was offered to me, and at first, I really didn’t want to do it. And it was actually my manager, Paul Kremen, who was like, “You need to do this. You’d be good at it. You’d love it.” After much wrestling with him, I eventually said, “OK, I’ll give that a try.” And here I am, on my second season.
How natural does it feel for you to host now that you’re in the second season?
To be honest, I am such a nerd and music fan that I don’t think I’ll ever feel particularly comfortable. I have a lot of respect for the craft of music making, and I feel like it’s been something that has been overlooked and undervalued and underappreciated for at least 20 years. So I come at every interview with a lot of trepidation, I have to say. And having done thousands and thousands of interviews myself, I know what sitting through a bad interview is like, and I never want to subject the interviewee to that. So I’m sweating the whole time. [Laughs] At the same time, I’m enthusiastic. I really love listening to all these incredible artists, and I get lost in that.
How much research goes into each episode?
I do a lot because I was somebody who was berated by their father growing up about never knowing enough and never doing well enough. So I like to be prepared, and I want to show respect to these people who have blessed me with their time. They don’t need to do that. They don’t need to come in and spend an hour talking to me.
So I try to do a lot of studying. Not so much research, because I just want to have an idea of what’s been happening in their lives. I don’t want to have expectations, and I certainly don’t want to direct the interview. A lot of journalists have that style when they talk to musicians — they have a direction and they drive the interview. And for me, I just don’t want anyone to feel railroaded. I want it to be a different kind of interview if possible, so I try to come to the table not knowing. I don’t want to be a know-it-all.
Is there anything from the first season that you took with you into the second?
Oh, God. I go back to that idea of listening. Like, really listening. Not anticipating the end of the sentence. I really have to try hard to not try to worry about what my next question is going to be. I had to sit and listen, so that I was able to respond to the end of the sentence, rather than thinking ahead and not really paying attention to what they were saying. It’s very difficult; it sounds so simple. You know this better than me.
Yes, it’s a very hard thing to master.
It’s horrible. [Laughs] And yet, if you are a good conversationalist — I can talk to anybody, literally, about anything — so I’m not particularly shy; I’m not introverted. And I feel like if I just listen … I will have a question. It may not be the best question, but it will be a question that follows. So I try to lean into that more than having a whole list of questions of where I decide I want to take this interview.
Is there an artist that you’ve been dying to have on the show that you haven’t gotten to yet?
There’s like a billion of them. I’m really lucky that I am an enthusiast and I like a lot of different types of music. Talking to Esperanza Spalding on the first season, she’s such an accomplished jazz musician. It’s so different from talking to Laura Jane Grace, and yet there’s such commonality between them. I find that I have things revealed to me that I didn’t necessarily expect. I didn’t know much about Dave [Macklovitch] from Chromeo. It was actually the production team that was like, “You should speak to him, he’s interesting.” And I knew a couple of his songs, but I didn’t know anything about him. And then when I actually sat down with him, I really had an amazing interview. I came away buzzing. He was so interested and funny and smart.
Interviewing George Clinton was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I expected him to be a bit of an eccentric train wreck. He looked resplendent, and he had on this incredible outfit and was really exuberant. I was just going to go with the crazy, right? [But] he was so smart and so thoughtful and so insightful and sharp as a tack. And that really surprised me, and it was really just one of the most glorious hours of my life. It was wonderful.
You also had Liz Phair on this season. Next year, you’ll join her on the rescheduled tour with Alanis Morrissette.
That’s the plan, although the ‘rona might have different ideas about that. But we’ll see. For the time being, we’ll just have to assume that in a year’s time, we’ll be going back out on the road. But until there’s some treatment or vaccination, we’re fucked like every musician under the sun. It’s really alarming. Governments don’t value musicians in the way they do business people. There’s no support and economic help. We’re just left to rot.
If you went on The Jump as a guest and had to pick a song, what would it be?
Every day it would change, but today it would definitely be “No Horses,” which had a strange prediction of what’s happening currently. It’s a song I’m really proud of, and it was a jump for me in many ways. I could never have really written overtly political, expansive lyrics before. And I feel like “No Horses” is like that. So it changed the way I felt about my writing.
What’s the future of Garbage?
A bright future. The sad thing is, we were looking at the most fun year we’ve had in quite some time. We’re restructuring our business and changing the way we release records from the way we have in the last eight years. We have a lot of touring lined up, which of course we can’t carry out. We have a new record being mixed as we speak that’s going to come out next year. We’ve got three more songs to go and then we’re done. And then we’ll concentrate on the artwork and start planning for next year. We were really excited. We were talking with our team this morning, and things are still looking hopeful.