introduction by Chad Bidwell
I sent some questions off to Jason Molina, voice of Songs:Ohia, and received a few weeks later a hand-written letter on yellow legal paper. I haven’t included the original questions here as that would just be a bit redundant. I think I was expecting someone much different from the casual, if a bit disenchanted, recent college graduate. Molina’s songs recall a forgotten post-Civil War era which has been swept aside, and so I was expecting an individual caught in the midst of the desolation and dust of a rundown library. I also thought he would be every bit as sullen and sparse as his first self-titled album and his most recently released EP, Hecla and Griper, both of which are on Secretly Canadian Records. Here’s what he had to say…
The decision to record mostly solo, or with minimal instrumentation, just seemed to work best for the songs. It gets in the way of the simplest elements to add much more to the mix of it all. The players from all of the records, including the first two singles, are spread all across America and the world. Todd and Mike #1 are still in Ohio, Geof’s in Ohio as well, but the rest are all over the damn place.
It’s true that I get compared to Will Oldham and Neil Young, though it has really died down. So I have a high voice, so I have lyrics full of double meanings, I can look at these comparisons in a sad way, to know that certain critics will call it playing second best, but there are much worse singers to be compared to. It’s the songs that count. I can’t speak for him, but Will had the ear and the prior knowledge of my songs, voice and all, and he felt it important to release my records on Palace Records. As far as Neil — he’s yet to release any of my recordings.
I’m not in school anymore. I work in a lame-assed record shop and a café. Free time goes to music writing. I read technical manuals for old machines, especially for outdated things. I prefer to listen to Ella Fitzgerald or some other woman singer when I’m reading or just doing nothing. No way do I garden, I can’t even keep a plant alive because I move so much.
My songs are drawn out of day to day living. Some days are harder to live in and harder to write music in than others. It is never the same. I’m talking about livin’! Nothing crisis-wise worth mentioning. I have all the same gripes as many 20-something boys: debts, shit jobs, all the usual things. I’m lucky to have music and great people supporting me.
No, I’m not a history fanatic, but I do care about it, it’s something that is dead and gone by definition, yet that shortest version of history, memory, seems to be reborn again and again today.
By the way here’s news regarding Songs:Ohia:
• Dec. 15 release of Hecla and Griper EP.
• Feb/March release of EP on Happy Go Lucky Records.
• April/May release of second LP (featuring Julie from Rex and Edith Frost) on Secretly Canadian!
• 7″ split with Rex.
• 7″ split with Flying Saucer Attack and Lullaby.