I found Jason Molina’s music in my mid-20s while living in the Blue Ridge Mountains, eight hours away from my hometown in the Arkansas Delta and 542 miles from most of my family and friends, during a time when my teen angst was finally gone but I was slowly realizing the mild summers of Appalachia were no longer a worthy trade-off for missing people who share my dialect and affinity for chocolate gravy. I had a job that sometimes left me with nothing to do for hours, so I spent a lot of boring afternoons listening to Last.fm trying to find music that I hadn’t outgrown.
Songs: Ohia frequently popped up in my music stream, and it wasn’t long until I was captivated by Molina’s sorrowful, haunting take on heartland rock. The more I heard the more I craved, and soon I was doing what everyone does when they fall in love with an artist that was previously unknown to them — reading interviews, searching through discographies, emailing friends links so I wouldn’t be alone in my obsession. I tried to figure out the web of Pyramid Electric Co., Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co., and all the other iterations of Molina’s work and side projects out there. No matter what mood I’m in there’s something in his body of work that hits me in the guts and heart in the most perfect way, and even with albums on repeat for weeks I never tire of hearing them, I just discover new things that I somehow missed before.
Molina’s songs embody a warmth and roundness that’s familiar and nostalgic, full of heartbreak with a sliver of hope and a touch of gospel, but also an acknowledgement that sometimes everything isn’t going to be okay. I drive with the windows down listening to Magnolia Electric Co. at night, singing along with the steel guitar about horizons and crossroads and turkey feathers, feeling more like I’m in church there than anytime I sat in a pew being prayed for under fluorescent lights.
I was planning to see the Molina & Johnson tour in 2009, but sadly it was cancelled due to Jason Molina’s deteriorating health. I scoured the internet every few months to see if there was news of rescheduled tour dates, but I had just come to know his work too late. When news was posted that he was staying on a farm in West Virgina trying to recover, along with a request for letters and postcards, I started to write to him, but nothing that came out seemed to adequately convey what his music means to me and how much I hoped he’d get better and overcome his addictions and demons. Now I wish I’d sent that letter, inadequate as it may have been. I’m devastated that Jason Molina is gone, but I’m so thankful for the body of work that he’s left behind.
Fans can help Molina’s family by contributing to Jason’s medical fund as a memorial gift by via PayPal.