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

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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.

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

Remembering Jason Molina: Jeremy Squires’ 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.

Today’s tribute comes from singer-songwriter Jeremy Squires. Jeremy’s music doesn’t differ too much from Jason’s in the fact that both are dark, sullen, but not oppressive. Both also sing in a very personal and honest way from a dismal place of depression and mental illness making Jeremy one of the first I contacted for this remembrance project. And, when Jeremy agreed to participate he sent a few words with his outstanding interpretation and spin to Jason’s “No Moon On The Water.”

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“I just want to say that Jason Molina was one of the most talented songwriters and not in the way that a person would normally think of. His voice was one that is so fragile and his playing style was different from any other songwriter I had ever heard. You honestly could not box him into any genre and that is what I loved about his music. I remember the first time I really (really) listened and loved him was on a very rare and now out of print 7″ No Moon On The Water (I guess it was for Chunklet magazine.) I thought it was so fucking dark and he sounded like he was in pain and to me that is what was so special about his music. (Because he was)

April was so kind to ask me to write about what Jason Molina’s music meant to me. Here is a cover of “No Moon On The Water.”

– Jeremy Squires






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
Jeremy Squires: Website; Facebook; Twitter; YouTube

Remembering Jason Molina: Matt Bauer’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.

Today’s tribute comes from singer-songwriter Matt Bauer. I asked Matt to participate in this remembrance project because he contributed a stellar cover of “I Can Not Have Seen The Light” for the upcoming album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina. I wish I could post the track, but I can’t. I guess you’ll just have to pre-order the album or wait for it’s release on April 22nd to hear it. But, in the meantime, you can read what he has to say about Jason.

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There’s very little music I’ve been introduced to in my adult life that has moved me and even changed me the way that music could when I was growing up. Like, say, hearing Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade when I was 14 and just having my idea of music turned upside down in the best way possible. Or going to a fiddle festival in Virginia in my late teens feeling so moved I didn’t know what to do with myself. Like there was nothing else that mattered but finding out more about his kind of music.

When my friend Nathan from The Last of the Blacksmiths first introduced me to Songs: Ohia, it made me feel like I was a teenager again. In that way where a piece of music seems impossibly moving and important. In that way that music can sometimes make you feel like you’re not alone, like someone has put to words something you’d been waiting for someone to say your whole life. I know I sound over the top, but that’s the point. I was a grown man wildly moved and nearly evangelical in a way only a crazed teenager can be.

I didn’t know Jason. Can only speak to the music and what it meant to me. It’s been a huge comfort to me over the years. I think a lot of what gets me about it is in the title of one of my favorite albums of his, What Comes After the Blues. Good god he had a struggle, but he always seemed to be trying to find the light beyond it.

– Matt Bauer



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
Matt Bauer: Website; Facebook; Twitter; YouTube

Remembering Jason Molina: Barzin’s Tribute

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Every week (maybe twice a week) before and after the release of upcoming tribute album Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, I will post a written word tribute or story to celebrate his life and music.

After seeing Barzin’s cover of Magnolia Electric Co’s “Blue Factory Flames”, I knew I had to include him in this project. The bio on Barzin’s website describes the singer-songwriter’s music as “slow and melancholic, introspective and confessional”. This descirption is could also be used when describe most of Jason’s music. This week Barzin recalls seeing Jason live and talks about his songwriting.

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“I came to Jason’s music in a slow and cautious way. When I first heard about him, it was years and years ago when he had just come into the scene. Few had heard of him, but there was a buzz around him in the underground scene. I remember going to see him play at some shitty bar in Toronto. He was late. He had driven something like 8h from Chicago to Toronto and barely made his set. Weirdly enough, the things I remember from that show were not the music, but little things like the way he wore his baseball cap so low, as though he was trying to entirely cover his eyes with it. And I also remember the way he chewed his gum through out the set. He had this almost animated and intense way of chewing his gum that was hard not to notice. At one point in the set, he spit out the gum and kicked it into the audience while still playing his song. Funny what we remember of certain performances.

But that was a long time ago, and I have come to have a great respect for Jason as a songwriter. He shed all the comparison to Will Oldham and showed himself to be a great songwriter. When it comes to writers whose works can be defined by their honesty and sincerity he is amongst the finest. There are musicians who dig deep and bring out gems, but he was able to dig just a little deeper and pull out some very very honest material. And maybe that’s what happens when you tap a little too much into yourself — you open something in yourself that is hard to close. I still continue to go back to the album Didn’t It Rain. One of the albums that continue to stand the test of time. Love the rawness of the recording and the performances on that album. The songs are so simple yet so memorable. And the lyrics… Well the lyrics are quite something. Some of the best stuff he wrote in my humble opinion.

Jason Molina was a great, great songwriter. It is sad to lose him.

– Barzin






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
Barzin: Website; Facebook; Twitter