Tag Archives: Jason Molina

Songs: Ohia And The Working Man Blues

Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia

Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia

Songwriter Jason Molina Restlessly Searches For The Unknown

Belching steel mill smokestacks, sooty coal mining towns, busting cities. These are images that define the working man, the simple man. They’re all well-known, easy to understand images.

But while most of the proletariat live these images by trudging along, scraping together their day’s wage, occasionally a few starry-eyed poets manage to escape from that drudgery. These poets are always restless, always searching for more. Jason Molina, the brains and voice behind Songs: Ohia is one of them.

Songs: Ohia records — of which there are at least 11 of them depending on how you count — are defined by this sense of scraping through life. They’re about simple themes: loneliness, restlessness, change. They’re lullabies for the working class.

“I don’t know where that comes from,” says Molina. “It has always followed me. I know that it has something to do with people knowing where I grew up — Northern Ohio in a steel manufacturing town, a shipbuilding town. And in southwestern Virginia, which is sort of a coal mining kind of world.

“It absolutely informed every word out of my mouth. Either in songs or just in my day to day life outside of music.”

Molina’s world is one filled with dark adventure, a scowling, nomadic existence. Despite the roadblocks of an impoverished upbringing, Molina got into fancy art school Oberlin College. He then met up with the Secretly Canadian record label as well as like-minded musical souls Will Oldham, Arab Strap, Cat Power, Steve Albini and assorted other indie record store idols.

The latest album, The Magnolia Electric Co., is the closest Molina has ever come to a populist recording. Loaded with tales of love and those same workmanlike images that inform his world, for this one Molina employs a rollicking backing band. The Bob Seger-esque result is quite unlike the darkly atmospheric Ghost Tropic, the urgent balladry of The Lioness or the Crazy Horse-inspired live album Mi Sei Apparso Come Un Fantasma.

For a man who’s obsessed with the theme of change, there’s one constant that runs through Magnolia and literally every song Songs: Ohia has ever recorded: loneliness. We’re not talking about a transparent, girl-left-me emo loneliness, but a soul-deep world-weary melancholy.

“I hadn’t consciously tried to put that in there,” says Molina. “But reflecting on the material on that record, I think it’s more working through loneliness when you’re surrounded by people who love you and respect you. Somehow this feeling that there’s something you’re not able to take away from situations where you’re physically not lonely, but somehow you feel that you’re not able to take what people are giving you.”

At the risk of playing amateur psychiatrist, that sense of incomplete has a root cause in one thing: travel. Molina’s furious touring and non-stop hopscotching from town to town have permanently infused his outlook with a sense of wanderlust. But it’s that very same wanderlust that makes each new piece of Songs: Ohia music exciting.

“I move around a lot. I’ve never been able to settle down. Maybe I’m part gypsy or something,” says Molina. “I don’t mean to be, because I certainly love places. Even if I’m there for a night or a day being on tour. Since I’ve been on tour for a long time I’ve moved quite a bit. Before I was a touring musician I really had to earn to absorb as much as I could, good or bad, from a place while I was there instead of always worrying about the final resting place. Maybe there’s not going to be a final settling down for me.”

With that, Molina then tries to count the different locations he’s lived.

“I’d say maybe 20 places easily. Twenty different towns. Right now I’m in southern Indiana, a town that’s just outside of Indianapolis called Bloomington. Indiana University is here. It’s also where Secretly Canadian is. But tomorrow morning I’m leaving for a big European tour and when I get back I’ll be moving again… to parts unknown.

Songs: Ohia “The Big Game Is Every Night”
from The Magnolia Electric Co., 10th anniversary edition

This story originally appeared in the May 2003, #146 issue of Chart Magazine.

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R.I.P. Jason Molina

Jason Molina

Jason Molina

On March 16 the man who we named this site after, Jason Molina, leader of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co, passed away due to organ failure.

It’s been a pretty huge bummer to the Risky Fuel household considering the many, many hours we’ve spent with his music over the years.

I wrote an obituary on Molina which you can find over at Spinner. For one that’s a little deeper and more meaningful, do consider checking out our sister site Awesometism.



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Jason Molina Is Alive

Jason Molina

Jason Molina

Two years ago Jason Molina, the leader of Magnolia Electric Co./Songs: Ohia and titular inspiration for this site, disappeared.

Considering Molina’s prolific recording history and road warrior touring ethic, the totality of his vanishing act had a profoundly disturbing effect on his fans. In the Magnolia Electric Co bulletin board there were vague allusions to some serious health issues, but mostly there was uncomfortable silence punctuated by the occasional “Where’s Jason?”

Now we know why. Molina has surfaced. Sort of. And the reason for his time away has become clear, according to a statement from the Molina family:

Many of you have inquired as to Jason’s whereabouts and well-being since he canceled his tours with Will Johnson in 2009.  Over the last two years Jason has been in and out of rehab facilities and hospitals in England, Chicago, Indianapolis, and New Orleans.  It has been a very trying time for Jason, his friends, and his family.  Although no one can be sure what the future holds, we feel very encouraged by the recent steps Jason has taken on the road towards becoming healthy and productive once again.  Unfortunately, because he has no medical insurance, he has accrued substantial medical bills.  We are asking all friends of Jason’s music to come together with a showing of financial support for him.  Please consider a contribution to his medical fund.  Feel free to forward this to any and all appropriate parties.  We are hoping to raise whatever funds we possibly can for Jason.  He is currently working on a farm in West Virginia raising goats and chickens for the next year or so, and is looking forward to making great music again.  Please also show your support and well wishes by sending letters and postcards to:

Jason Molina
P.O. Box 423
Beaver, WV 25813

If you do not wish to use paypal, please make donations out to Ashley Lawson at the same address.

With our sincere thanks, The Molina Family

It’s not like Molina fans couldn’t see the cry for help barely sublimated in his music — “The Dark Don’t Hide It” from What Comes After The Blues, the line “while you’ve been busy cryin’ about my past mistakes, I’ve been busy trying to make a change…” from the song “I’ve Been Riding With The Ghost,” the confessional descent into depression that is the whole Didn’t It Rain album.

Now, I may be destitute and marginally employed myself, but I think it’s only fair that I help how I can considering how much Molina’s music has given me over the years. If you’re a Molina fan, consider doing so, too.

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What I Call Music Podcast Is Now Up

What I Call Music

What I Call Music

A couple weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down to record a podcast for What I Call Music, the home base for my good friend and one of the most musically knowledgeable cats on the planet, Paul Kehayas.

We ended up talking for a verrrrrrrrrrrrryyy long time, so Paul had one helluva time shrinking it down to something of a dignified length, but for anyone curious I think it’s solidly entertaining. As such, if you’re bored, please give ‘er a listen HERE.

Some of the things we discussed were:

* The origin of the name Risky Fuel.
* Sloan still being credible 20 years later.
* Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co./Jason Molina.
* How I used to make my own music charts as a kid and my related favourite song of 1988.
* The infamous story of seeing Brian Jonestown Massacre play in a bush at the Wilderbeat Festival during the Blackout of 2003.
* The cultural awareness built by discovering The Clash’s Sandinista album.

The playlist includes: Songs: Ohia, Black Sabbath, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Clash and Raphael Saadiq.

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