Locked and absolutely loaded with a powerful voice that will tug at your heartstrings, yet lift you up to the music heavens at the same time, Ms. Shannon Turner has certainly proved that she’s owning Philly’s fast rising cabaret scene and then some. Tomorrow night, the dazzling local songstress will take her talents to the L’Etage stage for her one-of-a-kind Glitter & Garbage residency (which you can sort through all the fabulous details right here ), for a night that will be full of life, those absolutely undeniable vocals and most likely one or two David Bowie numbers since she’s a huge fan of the dearly departed music legend.
I got the esteemed chance to spill with Shannon about her love for the late, great David Bowie, as well as how she got her cabaret start and just where, oh, where she came up with the name Glitter & Garbage from..and it’s quite a Philly-centric story.
Kicking off our music tea, spill for everyone on how you got your start in music. I went to school for musical theatre and halfway through the program, I was really unhappy and I didn’t like being told what I could or couldn’t sing. One of my teachers, who I didn’t really even like, suggested that I do cabaret style songs and shows. So, I took that to mean whatever I want to sing, whatever tells a story and is relatable. It took me going out to piano bars in NYC, doing mini few cabarets and a few musical theater productions in different cities before I was comfortable as a performer. I did my first professional show when I was 21 with The News In Revue, which were a political/musical sketch comedy group. I learned a lot from the people who I worked with in terms of how to connect and deal with an audience that maybe doesn’t care or is full of senior citizens that are falling asleep, or maybe they’re offended by what we’re up there doing. I went on to sing and perform with a troupe of burlesque dancers in NYC called The Love Show. I wouldn’t classify them as simply burlesque dancers because the choreography is so strong, intricate and beautiful. It really tells a story. I learned a lot from working with them.
Now, going back to your theater group. What kind of political and musical material would you put out? That was before DOMA was repealed, so there was musical number called “Institute.” It was about a family full of moral high ground–the daughter was pregnant and the son was gay and was”recruiting from the audience” and was also Boy Scout. They sang a song about how the institution of marriage can never be corrupted, but meanwhile the parents were getting divorced and their in denial that their son is gay, the daughter’s running off and getting pregnant behind their back. It was the juxtaposition of these two ideas that brought the show to life. Audiences loved it.
Okay, so another reason I wanted to spill with you was because I straight up got to witness your brilliance singing the dearly departed David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” at The Eric Jaffe Show a few weeks ago. Now, I know you’re a huge Bowie fan, so what was that experience like for you? I think that when most people think about David Bowie, they probably think about ” Life on Mars.” It’s just one of those iconic songs, so I thought of it as a send off to him, you know, like we’re just sending him back to the stars where he came from. And “5 Years,” that is a song that’s extremely personal to me that I’ve been singing for years. It’s a song that has helped me through a lot of difficult transitions in my life and that number ended up being sort of saying goodbye to him, but also looking back at the moments where he has made himself present through his music. His message made itself clear that no matter what transitions happen, you’re still you and you can be you at any point in time. It was really nice to say goodbye to him that way.
Moving on to your fabulous L’Etage residency, I just have to know–where did you come up with the name Glitter & Garbage from? The trash pick up didn’t come and I saw that there was all this glitter and confetti in our garbage that we hadn’t put there. I didn’t even know where it came from, it wasn’t a holiday, it was very strange. So, I came inside and looked at my roommate and I said-‘There’ all this glitter in the garbage.’ Then it clicked, and I thought, ‘that would actually be an excellent name for a cabaret show.’ It happened during when I was still navigating my way through the scene in Philly, so I put a pin in the name and took it from there later on when I was planning everything out. It’s part of that whole John Waters aesthetic; Filth being just as important as glamour. You’ve got to spin your shit into gold!
That is absolutely true. Sometimes you have to trudge through the garbage to find your glitter Oh, yeah, It can be easy to get bogged down in things. For me, I’m partially paralyzed in my right arm after dealing with an illness several years ago. It took me a long time to recover and I still have paralysis. First I was like, “How am I gonna navigate a mic?” “How am I going to stand?” What am i gonna do?’ I really thought, I’m not going to do any of these things because of this. But you learn to face things head on and you just have to use what you have. It was something I felt could be a barrier but it’s definitely not! You have to break down those barriers and make things happen for yourself. Truly, nothing but good comes from it.