Remembering Jason Molina: Jerry DeCicca’s Tribute

Photo by Jodi Miller

Photo by Jodi Miller

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

In this “edition”, Jerry DeCicca from The Black Swans, writes about the time he met Jason while opening for Magnolia Electric Co. in Des Moines, Iowa. The Black Swans also covered Songs: Ohia’s “Two Blue Lights” for Farewell Transmission. You can listen to their steamy version replete with billowing lap steel and hypnotic vocals below.

Photo by Will Claytor

Photo by Will Claytor

I first met Jason when The Black Swans opened for Magnolia Electric Co. in Des Moines, Iowa in 2006. He paid for my beers as we shot pool, fist pumping when he liked a song on the jukebox, and constantly name-dropping his more famous friends the whole time. Out of nowhere, he said, “You know, I know Jeff Tweedy.” I’ll never forget that. And when I scratched on the 8 ball, he smiled and said “A win’s a win! You buy the next beer.” That night, I understood Jason was the perfect rock star: he owned every stage he stood upon and was uncomfortable in his own skin– a recipe for artistic greatness.

–Jerry David DeCicca, The Black Swans






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
The Black Swans: Website; Facebook; Twitter
Jerry DeCicca: Website; Facebook; Twitter

Remembering Jason Molina: The Avett Brothers’ Tribute

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As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

In 2009, The Avett Brothers did a few shows with Magnolia Electric Co.. As friends and fans, Jason’s work has left an indelible impression on both Scott and Seth. After Jason’s death, the band sat down backstage in Dublin, Ireland and paid tribute with “Hammer Down” in Avett Brothers fashion. They have also provided Common Folk Music with statements regarding their dear friend, Jason Molina.

Photo by Dylan Long

Photo by Dylan Long

Jason Molina wrote and sang from the same haunting and brilliant spirit that Townes Van Zandt did. His brilliance was the kind that isn’t learned but lived. We all want to be that way, beautiful simply because of who we are. Jason was. – Scott Avett

I am drawn to Jason’s music by the sheer unguardedness of it. There is no fear in his songs. They can bounce or shine or hypnotize or rock or connect you to your own darkness or joy. There is a glorious lack of ego in it; it is music for anyone with a desire for honesty in both tone and poetic verse. – Seth Avett






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
The Avett Brothers: Website; Facebook; Twitter; Youtube

Remembering Jason Molina: Wes Tirey’s Tribute

Photo by Emma Master

Photo by Emma Master

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

As we have read and heard over the past few weeks from other songwriters, bandmates, and fans, Jason was extremely skilled at capturing place, space, and time in song. He’s probably best at this writing technique than any songwriter any of us have ever heard. Fellow Ohioan and songwriter, Wes Tirey, continues this theme in today’s memorial post. Wes, who is no stranger to the Midwestern landscape Jason so brilliantly writes about, talks about his introduction to Jason’s music, how Jason brought him closer to a girl, and the Midwest. And, if you stick around till the end, you can listen to the original song Wes wrote for Jason after his passing.

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As a songwriter and performer, there’s some material that I prefer to just leave where it lay. That is, there are some songs whose power, beauty, and honesty is so raw and intense that I don’t feel worthy enough to even attempt to capture it. Instead, I observe, honor, and respect. Indeed, it’s a long list––and it includes about everything penned by Jason Molina.

I was 19 when I heard my first Molina song. A friend and band member had just picked up “What Comes After the Blues” and played me “Hammer Down” in the parking lot of Gem City Records in Dayton, Ohio. I was struck immediately by the simplicity, subtlety, and Midwestern grit that the song contained. “Sometimes I forget that I’ve always been sick/And I don’t have the will to keep fighting” sings Molina. But this isn’t the trite and boring tortured artist cliché––nor is it some kind of melodramatic existential paranoia. Rather, it’s a deep and honest confession of searching for meaning in what may be a meaningless world. “I saw the light” he sings later. A simple phrase––yet still a glimmer of hope.

On a first date with an ex-girlfriend, I asked her what kind of music she liked (original––I know). It’s easy to understand the excitement of any Molina fan when the response to that question is Magnolia Electric Co. Riding on I-75, the fractured skyline before us and behind us, the perpetual air of Midwestern-melancholia––a scene fitting for a Molina song. My point is that you don’t casually listen to anything written by Jason Molina. His songs demand attention––so when meeting other Molina fans, there’s an immediate respect that comes with it. Despite being heartbroken by the news of his passing, it was inspiring to see the outpouring of love from friends and fellow musicians across the world to honor his legacy in the aftermath.

As a fellow son of Ohio, my respect and admiration for Molina’s material goes beyond his status as a “songwriter’s songwriter.” Indeed, the Midwestern landscape––the vast and endless cornfields, the rusted out silos and old farm equipment, the forlorn highways, the abandoned factories and skeleton freight yards––makes up the better part of my conscience. It’s a world I can’t escape. “Leave the City,” another track from “What Comes After the Blues” is a song––a masterpiece of songwriting, really––that, for lack of a better word, slays me on each listen: the blue-grey toned trumpet, the stark and evocative lyrics, the heartbreaking vocal delivery.

It’s a song that I return to often, with the same kind of wonder and amazement that I had on first listen. But no matter how much the song makes me miss home, no matter how much I’m reminded of failures and missed opportunities, no matter how much bittersweetness it stirs within me––it always “makes me thankful for the blues.”

I have Jason Molina to thank for that.

– Wes Tirey






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Wes Tirey: Bandcamp; Facebook; Dying For Bad Music

Remembering Jason Molina: Peter Schreiner’s Tribute

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As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

Today, Magnolia Electric Co.’s Peter Schreiner shares some personal thoughts on Jason and his music as well as how he met and came to know him. When I read Peter’s words, I cried. I did not have the opportunity to meet Jason, but his music and this very special piece from Peter makes me feel closer to Jason. It encapsulates what I wanted from this tribute project — the impact Jason made on songwriters, music, fans, and the people who knew him.

Peter and his Memorial Electric Co. bandmates also contributed two songs for Farewell Transmission — “Arm In Arm” and “Trouble In Mind (Fade To Blue)”. Peter provided the vocals for “Arm In Arm”, an upbeat eulogy that Peter wrote on his way to Jason’s funeral celebrating his life and epitomizes the solidarity of Magnolia Electric Co. And, as I listen to that particular song and read the written tributes from some of the bandmates and collaborators, I realize and feel an overwhelming sense of love, support, and camaraderie. It makes my heart swell and break at the same time. I feel very honored that Peter and other Magnolia Electric Co. bandmembers have agreed to contribute to this memorial project and tribute album.

I should also mention that Peter provided a cover of “North Star.” And, if you’re not already moved by the end of Peter’s guest post, the cover will definitely bring a tear to your eye.

I got my driver’s license at sixteen and would take my dad’s old pickup an hour into Chicago for shows and then cruise home east on I-94 out of Chicago, way after midnight, listening to Dick Buckley’s Archives of Jazz and Steve Cushing’s Blues Before Sunrise on the radio. The expressway cuts through the wasteland of East Chicago and Gary, which are home to the hulking sooty black monstrous steel mills and refineries that employed my friends’ dads and were just welcoming my generation into their crippling jaws. Flames burnt blue from smokestacks and glowed orange in the thick wet mornings against the pipes, smoke, towers, blinking lights, steam vents, contraptions, and rigging that expanded over endless acres of gray chemical soil, dead meadows, and muck swamp (If you’ve never been through there, check out John Landis’s mesmerizing opening shots from The Blues Brothers). It was a majestically inhuman view from the highway, but on the inside men were night-slinging molten steel to pay the bank and get another six pack. Thirty years previous it might’ve been Freddie King in there, but now he was on the radio fighting highway noise with the windows down. These nights driving home left me with a deep emotional sense of time and place, highway longing, and a Midwest home, as my corner of the country was ever grinding against the mindless gray machine of industrial blue collar life, with a soundtrack of ubiquitous blues and classic rock.

When I heard Songs: Ohia’s album, Didn’t It Rain, with it’s incantations about the “bridge out of Hammond,” the “blue factory flame” in the “Midwest’s heart,” I was blown away. The album gave voice to heavy humid rust belt regret, burnt realization, and hinted suspiciously at a foggy hope. The narrator spoke to me emotionally but geographically too; I grew up near Chicago’s rusty steel industry and Jason, Cleveland’s. And now, living in Carl Sandburg’s “City of The Big Shoulders,” Jason was articulating hard truths and unearthing sentiments for himself and consequently everyone else. Furthermore the recording sounded like the music I had heard driving through Hammond late at night—the sound of people playing in a room…crackling amps, tape-damped drums, reached-for notes left in…all part of the song. Put to magnetic tape like in the old days when the take was paramount, and overdubs unlikely. The voices, words, guitars, drums, and amp buzz all together making a sound in the real moment, against, but deeply in sync with, whatever darkness we humans live in.

I was hooked in a new way, having taken to earlier records too, and listened to Songs: Ohia ad infinitum. I looked forward to Jason’s solo and band performances and got to know him a little through playing with other Secretly Canadian artists. Soon after the Magnolia Electric Co. album came out I started playing with Jason (on drums at first, then bass). It was a pleasure playing with him because I loved the songs and he rarely told musicians what he “wanted” them to play. His basic idea, I think, was if you’re playing the drums, play what you think is an awesome drum part, meanwhile he’s doing his thing, other players are doing theirs, and the song will be awesome—he didn’t need to define the parts. Sometimes that can be difficult when you’re trying to honor a songwriter’s vision but it gives you great freedom, which breeds musical adventure, and Jason wholeheartedly embraced that. I loved playing live with him for the fact that songs could be vastly different night to night. Lyrics, tempo, key, length, structure, solos, tuning, and instrumentation were all up for grabs tour-to-tour. That musical openness was really satisfying on the road, where the particular day’s trails and trials would influence how the songs would manifest on stage. The studio held similar excitement because we’d generally do live takes, so the band had better be on point, contributing to the real-time creation. Vocal delivery changed take to take, each one having it’s particular emotional bent on the lyrical truths which remained constant.

Over my ten years playing with Jason I was privileged and often awed to hear “the new one” he’d written that morning at six a.m. after crawling out at four to collect bones and metal detritus from the train tracks. To hear my man’s voice trying out a fresh tune on it’s first day; to play Jason’s songs with my Magnolia brothers and sisters every night; to see fans appreciate his gift for reckoning with human frailty and probity, are experiences I treasure and will never forget. Jason was a funny, thoughtful, troubled, and complicated man. He rode out a lot of highs, lows, and in betweens but he was always present in life, even if he lived in his own world. He was tuned to the soul of the moment, and at the same time hardwired to the infinite. I am still inspired by Jason’s song writing and guitar playing and often reference his musical gusto when I’m feeling nervous about getting on stage, writing, or singing. Put something real into the song and the song will give it back. I miss him and am ever grateful for our time together.

“North Star” was one of my favorites to play with the band, and with Jason gone, the autobiographical nature of the song is incredible. He knew a lot about the struggle and still couldn’t beat it, but he was trying. The understanding is there in the music, and so may it still help all of us.

– Peter Schreiner









Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Thousand Arrows (Music From Pete Schreiner): Facebook; Bandcamp

Remembering Jason Molina: The River Has Many Voices’ Tribute

The-River-Has-Many-Voices

As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

The River Has Many Voices (a.k.a. Matthew Payne) has added a written-word tribute and cover of “The Dark Don’t Hide It” to the Molina remembrance project. Matthew who is no stranger to struggles discusses his “brotherhood” and shared influences with Jason. Both are songwriters who write from dark and painful places about their personal trials. Conscious of their tribulations they wrote to express and understand their feelings and thoughts, however Matthew found healing while those who loved Jason hoped that he would find healing in creating music. Sadly, Jason never did.

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“Jason Molina was like a brother to me as a songwriter. I felt an immediate kinship when I heard him sing for the first time. It seemed like we listened to the same music. Had similar influences. Then his words got me. Like all the best songwriters – and I would put him up there with the best – he puts everything on the line. And the song is the line. He is missed. But we all still have him around, don’t we?”

– Matthew Payne






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
The River Has Many Voices: Website; Facebook; Twitter

Remembering Jason Molina: Wooden Wand’s Tribute

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As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the new album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

Today singer-songwriter Wooden Wand pays tribute to Jason and discusses an initial hesitancy toward the Songs: Ohia / Magnolia Electric Co. conversion which ultimately grew into love and respect. Wooden Wand covered “Don’t This Look Like The Dark” for Farewell Transmission and it’s one of the best tracks on the album. It’s a great cover that expertly balances the distinct sounds of both Wooden Wand and Molina.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must admit I didn’t really connect with Magnolia Electric Company’s music right away; I owned some Songs: Ohia albums that I liked, but when Molina transitioned to MEC (including the Songs:Ohia album by that name), I thought it was a little too close to outright Neil Young worship. It took a friend playing me that limited LP release, Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go, for me to really understand what I’d missed. After that, I went back and re-listened to the Magnolia Electric Company album and it was like hearing it for the first time. The songs are captivating, of course, but what continues to strike me when I listen to it are the vocals. To this day I don’t think Molina receives nearly enough credit as a singer and stylist. Listen to his delivery of the line “the whole place is dark” to set the scene for the album; a million great singers could interpret that line a million different ways, but I don’t think any of them could have done it better than Molina does. As for my conversion, well, I believe it was complete the day I cashed in a Mason jar full of pennies and dimes to buy the Soujourner box set (which rules, by the way) instead of groceries. No regrets, Molina.

–Wooden Wand






Purchase Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Wooden Wand: Website; Facebook; Twitter

Remembering Jason Molina: Pickering Pick’s Tribute

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As part of a series called “Remembering Jason Molina,” I’m collecting stories about Jason and his impact on songwriters, musicians, and music writers. These are all individual tributes, on how Jason has affected their music, their perception of music, or just anecdotes on meeting him or seeing him live. Each story is being posted to surround and promote the release of the upcoming album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, which not only celebrates Jason’s music, but will also help the Molina family and MusiCares with its proceeds.

This week, singer-songwriter Pickering Pick shares his thoughts on Jason. Pick who embodies his music and writes from the heart as much as Jason has offered up a world class version of “Didn’t It Rain”. A reverent, piano-driven interpretation, Pick brilliantly transforms and uplifts the song without losing the quality of Molina’s original.

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I was first introduced to Jason’s music by Arp Cleveland of Archie Bronson Outfit, who dropped the Songs:Ohia moniker one evening in a pub in Bloomsbury while we were talking about American folk singers. That was 2001 I think, before I moved to California. I didn’t actually hear his music until late 2002, when I found a copy of Didn’t It Rain at a small (and long-since defunct) record store in Sacramento.

The production on that album is extraordinary: the space and dynamics, the hollow feeling which surrounds each player, and the open-ended, meandering songs. The first bars of Didn’t It Rain reach out from a chilly, claustrophobic loneliness; a stormy and hellish place which constantly shifts shape. There is no way to describe the experience of hearing Jason Molina’s voice for the first time. His uncommon pitch and phrasing, the subtle rhythms which ride along above big, deliberate guitar chords. The disjointed, midwestern imagery. Many artists are good at conjuring half-remembered devils; Jason played like a man who was standing right in front of The Beast.

Didn’t It Rain is the eighth Songs:Ohia album, and it is my favourite of Jason’s recordings. After hearing it, I went back and bought everything that came before it – and it is an astonishing collection – but I don’t think he was ever as compelling as he is on this album, and on the title song in particular.

Last year, when I first heard he had passed, I wrote about how utterly sad and angry I felt at his loss. I feel exactly the same way now. In his music I found inspiration and courage, but I am also a little bit afraid of how deep he went. Heroism comes in many unusual forms, and for me, Jason Molina was heroic. When he died, we lost an artist of rare power, and one whom I will miss terribly. I am so sad he’s gone.

–Pickering Pick






Pre-Order Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina: Amazon; iTunes
Jason Molina: Website; Secretly Canadian; Graveface Records
Magnolia Electric Co.: Website; Secretly Canadian; Facebook
Pickering Pick: Bandcamp; Facebook; Twitter; Yer Bird