The prolific musician, who had struggled with alcohol abuse for years, stepped away from his career in 2009 to address his longstanding addiction. After canceling a tour with fellow collaborator Will Johnson that fall, he bounced in and out of rehab facilities and hospitals. Since then, he had spent time working on a farm in West Virginia, raising goats and chickens as he attempted to get better.
Besides a Secretly Canadian post and a candid plea from Chunklet's Henry Owings in 2011, there had been few updates on the songwriter and his subsequent progress. Last fall, Graveface Records released Autumn Bird Songs, a stunning and stripped-down eight-song collection.
In December, I sent Molina an email asking him if he wanted to talk about how he stepped out of the limelight to address his struggles with addictions as well as his time in recovery. On Jan. 7, Molina replied:
Max, happy new year. Yeah, too early and too much for me even now. limelite! me? ha ha ha. Keep pestering me and I'll come around
I was surprised he replied to me. I sent him a line back and simply asked him: "how are you doing?" Later that day, he said:
Doing o.k. mentally not ready to do much other than watch John Wayne movies. Writing is slow but improved. All the best, JMo
That was the last time I heard from Molina. His longtime label Secretly Canadian confirmed with CL that the songwriter died on Saturday. They will have more information and an official statement. Earlier this morning, Owings wrote:
Jason was great by himself, but once he had the touring entourage that became Magnolia Electric Company, he really shined brightly. Maybe too brightly.
What many of us were slow to find out is that Molina had a pretty significant drinking problem. This disease, which snuffed out his life, controlled Jason for most of the last decade.
What made Jason so endearing was his lack of pretense. For as intense as he wrote, he was a goofball. But maybe, just maybe, his music was eluding to what was fighting inside him. The demons. The ghosts. The pain. The disease.
In one of his last interviews, Molina talks about his song "Farewell Transmission." It's a captivating work in its own right, but to hear him speak about the recording with Steve Albini and friends offers much more insight into the songwriter's process:
"Farewell Transmission" must be one of the most heroic recording moments of all time, because I called in people that were not already scheduled to be in the band and I was like, "Oh, now we're going to have a violin player, and we're going to have an extra singer." I called out all of these things, much like a conductor does - and trust me, I'm not a conductor. I'm the break man. I will not fuck you up if I am the break man, I just don't want to move anymore.
We put, I think, about 12 people in a room and recorded that song live, completely live, and unrehearsed. I showed 'em the chord progression, they had no idea when it would end, and we just cut it.
Steve [Albini] did a beautiful job. I noticed that at one point when it was a little too loud or a little too soft he came and opened a door to make it work, because it was just an ambient recording. When you hear that song kick off everybody knows it, and what's so disturbing to me is the way that I ended it is I was dictating to the band and Steve - I go "Listen. Listen. Listen." And then at one point they all stop. It's great.
I got all my favorite friends from Chicago, and my favorite, good musicians and we just did this record, and it has lasted. It's got weight, I'm talking 500 pound weight; something you ain't going to be able to lift too easy. You have to understand we're working on a string, and Steve is throwing us a bone, giving us the studio and everything, and we are terrified about how expensive it is and he just went the extra mile. That's the way it works and that's where I come from. You get the job fucking done.
Nashville has more dive bars than ATL now that sucks. tbh i think that new…
*Christ, Lord sorry
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.