Max Sharam's career in gothic, theatrical pop music followed an unusual arc, from success on the stage in Europe, to a major-label contract in Australia via a talent show, and back to the stage in a variety of plays and one-woman shows. Sharam was born in the small country town of Benalla near Ballarat in Australia. After graduating from performing arts college, she bought a plane ticket to Germany -- the cheapest part of Europe to fly to at the time -- and spent her late teenage years busking from country to country with an acoustic guitar. In Florence she caught the right person's eye and landed the lead role in a rock opera called Forza Venite Gente, which led to several years of work in Italian theater and the recording of a dance album called I'm Occupied.
From there Sharam moved to Japan, where she studied taiko drums and played with a band in Hiroshima before returning to Australia. In Sydney she performed with techno/house act Fleshworld and a band called Minx, as well as doing solo acoustic gigs and comedy, performing new songs to the tunes of popular classics. While watching a talent show called New Faces, which was the Australian Idol of its day only with more jugglers and line dancers, she was disappointed by the sameness of the music and decided to enter herself. Her first song was a version of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" -- rewritten with lyrics about the variety of ugly names popular for girls in Australia like Charlene, Pauline, and Geraldine -- which won the heat. At the final she performed an original song called "Coma," an operatic love song about obsession and stalking. She changed the song's lyrics about "hoping to catch me an eyeful of you and your love doing porn" to "you and your love popping corn" for the sake of television, though her goth-punk Tank Girl image wasn't toned down. Neither the song nor Sharam was anything like the rest of New Faces, and she won the grand final.
After her television appearances, several major labels made her offers and she eventually settled on Warner to record with. The Coma EP made it into the Australian Top 20 in 1994 and the album that followed a year later, A Million Year Girl, made it into the Top Ten before going platinum. After traveling to America to promote the album, she settled there, but a dispute with Warner prevented her from recording more music. Instead, she concentrated on a return to theater, comedy, and a string of successful one-woman shows.