Last week I was once again blown away by Magnolia Electric Co. at the High Noon Saloon. I think it’s definitely fair to toss Jason Molina’s name into the hardest working man in music category. His albums, whether they be put out under Songs:Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co, or his name alone have always gotten heavy play on my turntable. The 2005 live album release Trials & Errors was one of our top 10 favorite albums of last year. However great we find his recorded work, those don’t do nearly as much for me as taking in one of his live performances that are just so raw and wonderful that you really need to experience one yourself in order to understand my point.
Jason was kind enough to take some time to answer 5 questions with us after his recent tour stop in Madison.
Q. You released two albums this year one with your band Magnolia Electric Co. and the other under your name. Were there any tracks that could have crossed over from one album to the other, and was it difficult to know what tracks would end up where?
There are a few on Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go that I think could have been on the Magnolia record. The songs for the LP “Let Me GO” were all written at the same time. I had never really felt comfortable about breaking them up and was finally able to come up with what I thought was a coherent group of songs that lyrically and thematically were united by the recordings themselves. There were similar considerations with each of the sessions that “Fading Trails” were taken from. I think the choice of songs there give a good look into the whole of the individual sessions.
Q. What music is going to be keeping you guys company on the road? Are there any albums that you care to recommend?
I’ve been listening to a lot of shortwave radio on tour. If I can find a roof or a big parking lot I am able to find some wonderful things around 3 in the morning. Great guitar music, songs in languages I’ve never heard before, weird instruments that are gone just as soon as I tune them in.
The tour only EP by Bottomless Pit. They are a wonderful band from Chicago, we did some touring with them and they are working on a new record now at Electrical Audio. These songs on the EP are amazing and pound for pound the playing, arrangements and lyrics are some of the best damn things I’ve heard anyone doing these days.
Q. The Internet has dramatically altered the way band’s can reach an audience. With things like blogs/myspace/etc, what are your thoughts on the power of the internet in terms of helping your music reach a larger audience?
I think that people who have followed my music over the last decade are willing to come out to a show, willing to buy a record at their local shop, or at least order one through the mail. I do understand that getting music to people is important. It is wrong for people to come up to me and say, “well, at least your music is getting out there.” People assume that this is the point to making music. It may be the point for someone, it may be the point for most music makers, I don’t know. To me there is no “point” to making music or anything creativity manifests. It is true that there is an intense demand from old fans to have new music, to have access to it, as well as at least a chance to have the old or out of print things. This is all part of a fluctuating non-formula. It’s end result is that I get to be on the road with the band if you buy our records, I have a way to pay my rent that is not a soul crushing job. I’ve done all that, and don’t plan on going back. Illegally downloading is the same as stealing anything. It sucks somehow down the line. If you pay for it it’s one thing, and it’s a few shades better than stealing music. As long as I am able I will put out the records in the format I intend them to be listened to in. For me it’s vinyl all the live long day.
After a tour with Magnolia Electric Co., you are heading to Australia for some select solo shows. Have you ever been there, and will these shows be just yourself accompanied by a guitar?
These will be solo shows, I’ve toured there before and it is wonderful. I have some really interesting things planned for these shows. We have a lot of friends there and they know how rare it is for a band like us to get over there. These solo shows are hopefully another step on the path to getting the whole Magnolia band over there.
Both you and your band spend a large amount of time on the road. Are there particular places that you always look forward to playing and what do you enjoy during your downtime on tour?
I always look forward to playing at home in Chicago, there are lots of out of the way places that are always a good surprise. Each of the guys have their own favorites.
I usually like a place one part more if there is good food nearby. Also, if there are lots of good friends it makes the shit venues bearable. For me there is no down time on tour.