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'It Changed My Intent': Shirley Manson On Garbage And Growing Up

Shirley Manson of Garbage. The band's latest album is <em></em><em>Strange Little Birds</em>.
Courtesy of the artist
Shirley Manson of Garbage. The band's latest album is Strange Little Birds.

Even for an alt-rock band coming to bloom in the 1990s, Garbage had a pretty unforgettable name. The music stood out as well: Singles like "Only Happy When It Rains," "Stupid Girl" and "Push It" vaulted over the influence of grunge to make use of industrial and electronic elements, some synth-pop sheen and singer Shirley Manson's unmistakable voice.

But by the mid-2000s, Manson says, something felt out of alignment: Garbage's music was out of vogue, and the members were under pressure from their label to make something that would find a foothold with pop radio.

"And we didn't really want to do that, so we kind of just took a break," she says. "And luckily for us, in that time, we really found our own voice again as a band, and we lost a lot of our contractual obligations. So we found ourselves in a really great position to launch our own record label. It just felt right: We had something to say, and we needed to be together."

Strange Little Birds is Garbage's latest album, released on Stunvolume, the label it collectively founded in 2012. It comes just ahead of Manson's 50th birthday, and she says that her 20-plus years of performing have had a profound effect on both her instrument and her outlook.

"I mean, when I first started out, I didn't even think of myself as an artist: I just thought of myself as a lucky girl who got a lucky break," she says. "It took me a long time, arguably a decade or more, before I thought, 'Actually, I am a musician, and I need to make music in order to be happy.' And once I figured that out, I realized that I was a creative artist, and that changed the way I approached making music. It changed my intent, for want of a better word."

Shirley Manson spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin; hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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