Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. passed away last weekend, due to complications from a prolonged battle with alcoholism. Almost inevitably, whenever someone dies, it seems like people come out of the woodwork to extol their virtues. It’s natural to almost doubt the sincerity of those statements, coming from grieving hearts, pure as the intentions behind them are. It’s as if tragedy obligates the outpouring of emotion.
Well, this is that kind of post. Though I feel no obligation to declare this to the small number of people who read this blog: Jason Molina was probably the nicest musician I’ve ever met. I’d guess it was about ten years ago that I met him, at a Songs: Ohia, Damien Jurado and TW Walsh show at the now defunct Go! Studios in Carrboro, NC. I really wasn’t there to see his band, but the other two that played before Songs: Ohia, who was the headliner. At the Go! Studios, there was a little loft area with a few very worn couches and a relaxed atmosphere. If you got there early enough, and the show wasn’t super crowded, you could grab a great seat up there. You could relax, and even half ignore the band playing, if that was what you wanted to do.
As TW Walsh played the first set of the night, my wife and I talked to Jason. I wanted TW Walsh merch and he acted like he was in charge of it. He was so enthusiastic about peddling T-Dub’s stuff that you would have thought he was part of the band, or had some kind of stake in it. I didn’t realize who he was but he was clearly a fan of Tim Walsh’s music and just stoked to be talking to someone else who felt the same way. I was struck by his kindness. In the years since, before his death, I’ve thought often of him and how easy it was to talk to him. Independent musicians aren’t rockstars, but sometimes they can be just as inaccessible. Jason was just the opposite.
Another reason I remember that night is that we left about two tunes into the Songs: Ohia set. We were tired, unfamiliar with the music, and just feeling the tug of our warm bed which was still a fair length drive away. The side door where you exited the Go! Studios was in full view of the stage, and I remember feeling terrible walking out on this guy who had been so welcoming to us while he was playing his songs. I suppose that’s part of why his kindness sticks in my mind.
I never did get into Songs: Ohia, but I liked what I heard by the time Jason had changed the band name to Magnolia Electric Co. If you’re not familiar with the man’s work, I’d highly recommend What Comes After The Blues. Start off with “The Dark Don’t Hide It” and “Leave The City” and just leave them on repeat for a while. I dare you to not be struck by their simple country-influenced sounds and naked examination of the sadness of living in a fallen world. Then, feel free to grieve with the rest of us for the passing of Mr. Molina.
Update - Another post on the kindness of this man and his commitment to music.