Shirley Manson: ‘I now feel maternal towards my fans’

Shirley Manson
Shirley Manson
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Scottish rock icon Shirley Manson has revealed she feels maternal instincts towards her fans after discovering her music has helped some of them deal with the impact of murder, rape and changing their sexual identity.

The Edinburgh-born singer, who has fronted the band Garbage since 1995, admitted she once felt “muddled, weird and uncomfortable” meeting fans.

She also feared she would be criticised – as Sheena Easton was – when she returned to Scotland having found success in the US after leaving local band Goodbye Mr Mackenzie.

Speaking ahead of the opening of Rip It Up, an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland charting the history of Scottish rock and pop, Manson discussed the “profound” impact letters from fans have had and how her relationship with them has changed over the years.

Interviewed by broadcaster Vic Galloway for the next instalment of a BBC Scotland radio series linked to the exhibition, she insisted nothing has “fazed” her in the industry after she toured as a teenager with Goodbye Mr Mackenzie .

Manson said: “As I’m getting older I feel more and more maternal towards the fans.

“When you first emerge they are almost your peers – it is very uncomfortable.

“But I am in this glorious phase of my career where I feel maternal.

“I feel I can take care of them, help them and lift them up.

“I feel more and more than I want to be in service of our fans.

“When I first started out I wanted to show off, I wanted to be listened to, I wanted to be paid attention to.

“It is really muddled, weird and uncomfortable. But if you are lucky enough to be around long enough it changes.”

Manson has spoken previously of her experiences of being bullied at school.

She added: “I think the most profound thing for me is some of the letters we’ve received from people on what our music has done for them.

“It’s literally got them through deaths, rapes, murders or sexual transitions.

“I got a note recently from a father who was thanking the band for certain songs in our roster that helped his daughter make the transition from a boy to the women she is.

“The father was saying thank you so much because her mother and I didn’t understand what was happening.

“Your band did and your band saved my daughter’s life.

“If I die tomorrow I will have serviced mankind for that alone. It sounds like a cliché but it is the greatest privilege of my career.

“I know how much my musical ‘Joan of Arcs’ meant to me. When I met Patti Smith I burst into tears.

“You can’t put it into words what it is that they give you. They give you something that nobody else can.”