What Glen Hansard Learned From His Friend Jason Molina Molina impressed Hansard in two ways: His songs were great, and he answered fan mail. Hansard discusses meeting the late songwriter and making a new tribute EP in his memory.
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What Glen Hansard Learned From His Friend Jason Molina

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What Glen Hansard Learned From His Friend Jason Molina

What Glen Hansard Learned From His Friend Jason Molina

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's been two years since singer-songwriter Jason Molina passed away. Now his friend and collaborator Glen Hansard releases a new EP this week in his memory. It's called "It Was Triumph We Once Proposed: Songs Of Jason Molina." Hansard is known for his work as the front man of the Irish band "The Frames" as well as "The Swell Season." He joins us now from Dublin. Thanks so much for being with us, Glen.

GLEN HANSARD: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: So how did you meet Jason Molina?

HANSARD: I was in Birmingham, Ala., and I was in a record shop. And sometimes you buy a record just for the cover. And I remember seeing this record with what looked like a hare jumping through some kind of pagan hoop on this cover. And I remember thinking I'm going to buy this. And it just said "Songs: Ohia." And I just thought what a lovely name. And I bought this record, and somehow it just caught me. It caught me in the right way. And so I remember on the back of it, it just had an address if you want to write, like, a mailbox in Bloomington, Ind. And I wrote a letter to this address saying if you wanted to tour in Ireland I would be so happy to host you with my own band. And we could make...

MARTIN: Whoever you are.

HANSARD: Exactly, whoever you are.

MARTIN: Let's listen to another track off the EP. This is called "Farewell Transmission."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAREWELL TRANSMISSION")

HANSARD: (Singing) I will try and know whatever, I'll try. I will be gone. But not forever.

MARTIN: This was one of Jason Molina's biggest hits. What does this song mean to you? What do you connect within this song?

HANSARD: Well, I remember Jason was always recording records, like even when he was here. We would sit around. We'd make tea. The mood would be right, and he'd say should we do a little bit? And it was just - he would make an appointment with the muse, you know? He would say it's time, let's do some work. And then he told me about making this record called "Magnolia Electric Company." And he was very happy with it, and he sent me a copy. And I guess the first song on it was "Farewell Transmission" And my goodness, it just hit me between the eyes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAREWELL TRANSMISSION")

HANSARD: (Singing) Mama here comes midnight, put the dead moon in his jaws. Must be the big star about to fall.

MARTIN: He passed away a couple of years ago as we mentioned. And he died from alcohol-related complications.

HANSARD: Yeah.

MARTIN: I understand that was something that he struggled with for a long time.

HANSARD: For a long time. But when I met him, he was quite straight edge, really. You know, he didn't really drink. And then I remember getting letters from him, and he had moved to London. And I remember him saying that when he went to London he kind of got a serious dose of the blues. I think London had kind of really knocked him for six. He didn't really know many people there. And I have a feeling that it was around that period where he started drinking heavier. And I'm so honored - honored is maybe the wrong - fortunate. I'm so fortunate to have met and been friends with an artist who really truly sat down and really worked his craft and wrote these incredible songs that now seem quite prophetic because he was always talking about going to the dark and always talking about this will be the last time. And, you know, and he really - I mean, you know, not to kind of in any way romanticize his life and passing. But, you know, he was the real deal.

MARTIN: Let's listen to a bit of another song. This one is called "Being In Love."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEING IN LOVE")

HANSARD: (Singing) Being in love means you are completely broken then put back together.

MARTIN: It's a beautiful song, but it's also - there's a sadness there. And there's a kind of melancholy to a lot of his songs.

HANSARD: Yeah. There is a deep sorrow in what he does. And it's - he really connects to something out there. He really connects to something other. And the reason - the choice of these songs was all lyric-based. I mean, there's lyrics in all of these songs that just completely devastate me. I mean, in that song is a wonderful lyric - and being in love means you are completely broken and put back together. But the one piece that was yours is beating in your lover's breast. She says the same thing about hers. I remember when I heard that first. It just devastated me. You know, the insight - that little piece of you that you cannot find. It's beating in your lover's breast, and she says the same thing about hers. My goodness.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEING IN LOVE")

HANSARD: (Singing) And I am proof that the heart is a risky fuel to burn.

It's incredible. Even the day that we spent - because we only spent one day recording these songs - even that one day made me a better songwriter - singing his songs like that with his friends.

MARTIN: Let's listen to one more track. This is a track called "Hold On Magnolia."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOLD ON MAGNOLIA")

HANSARD: (Singing) Hold on Magnolia. I think it's almost time.

MARTIN: That's a lovely song.

HANSARD: Yeah.

MARTIN: You talk about wanting to expose the truth of something in a song. And as someone listening to this song, you can hear that what feels like the truth is that you are singing not just for your friend but to him in a way.

HANSARD: Absolutely. And if you listen to the original version, it feels like Jason is singing to himself which is, you know, he's like "Hold On Magnolia," and you can see, you can tell that here's a man who's aware that he's going down. And he doesn't know how far it's going to take him. But, you know, it's like whatever we've learned in this life, whatever we've gathered and all of the friendships and all of the wisdom that we've gathered through all the mistakes, you know, there are definitely times where you hit a vulnerable patch. And you could - it can be touch-and-go. And you might just go down. And so when Jason sings "Hold On Magnolia" to the station bell, there's definitely a sense that death is near. And the game is nearly up. I mean, it sounds pretty intense and pretty dark, but this man was writing, absolutely, with his heart and soul on his sleeve.

MARTIN: Glen Hansard - his new tribute EP is called "It Was Triumph We Once Proposed: Songs Of Jason Molina." It comes out later this week. Glen, thanks so much for talking with us about Jason.

HANSARD: Thank you. Thanks, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOLD ON MAGNOLIA")

HANSARD: (Singing) Hold on Magnolia. I hear that station bell ring. You might be holding...

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