We’ve been following Mike Molaro since he was a one man act playing coffee shops in San Francisco. Since then he’s been perfecting the sounds of folk ‘n roll with his band, Molaro for Illinois.
The Austin, Texas-based four-piece have recently released their first full-length album, self-titled Molaro for Illinois. It’s 10 solid tracks of folk ‘n roll, full of songs with catchy choruses and lyrics that seem simple enough, but pack a punch.
Below is the first track off the album, titled Brooklyn. It’s one of our favorites.
You can buy a digital copy of the entire album on CD Baby (and iTunes, BandCamp, et al.).
Molaro for Illinois is:
Mike Molaro on vocal and guitar
Thomas Damron on upright bass
Tony Rogers on cello
Joe Sundell on banjo
All songs on Molaro for Illinois written by Mike Molaro, with the exception of Leonard Cohen’s One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong.
From the cold streets of Chicago, Illinois, Mike Molaro has been bringing the musical thunder for years. Now transplanted to the musician-friendly town of Austin, Texas, Molaro recently released try swimming, arguably the greatest album name and cover ever which is bound to appear among the top of Pitchfork’s reviews.
Molaro graciously provided Ice Tubes with a song from try swimming called “Soil and Soul” which can be streamed below. If you want more, try swimming is available on iTunes and CDbaby.com.
Listen to Soil And Soul by Mike Molaro
So who is Mike Molaro? Read more about the guy in our Q&A with him below.
[IT]: Describe “Try Swimming” to someone who’s never heard you before.
[MM]: Well, up until this point all of my solo albums have been bedroom releases. This is the first Mike Molaro project that is, well..it was still recorded, mixed, and engendered in the bedroom. But I think it’s a turning point. I think finally on this album I have really honed in on that ‘mike molaro’ style. What is that style? I dont know. Some kind of Folk. Folk in the true sense of the word. Folks are people. I’m a person. This album has a lot of sentiment coming out of one guy. And i suppose that’s folk music. But i dont intend for it to adhere to any tradition. Inspired by the old and processed anew, I suppose. Really it’s to be enjoyed by art appreciators. Not just music fans or finger picking buffs or whatever. Its something you should set time aside for. You dont look at a Picasso while driving. I have a bit of beef with the passive listening concept…but that’s a whole different ramble, so anyways all the tracks on Try Swimming were written over the course of about a year. I had this great apartment with a third floor balcony of the Chicago skyline. I did a lot of heavy drinking and finger picking on that balcony. So i have the balcony and the predominantly Miller High Life on the rocks to thank for what i think are going to be some lasting songs in my career.
What’s with the album title, “Try Swimming”?
Oh, come on. That’s a loaded question. Do you really want to spoil the album with this interview?
Inspiration, where do you get it?
When i’m not feeling creative…i learn as many songs as i can. i’ll sit down and learn a whole Townes Van Zandt album, or learn to finger pick a Mississippi John Hurt tune note for note. and i guess i subconsciously take note of these chops and ideas. But when i do feel that creative drive..just ready to pour out of me, well i hope i’m inspired by my life, the people around me, my emotions, the things i feel and do. I hope i’m learning the craft and skill from the greats while trying to create something original and unique with that skill set. …and of course, i have to give a shout out to my old metal and punk roots. flotsam and jetsam, anthrax, slayer, the misfits, megadeth, I hope i still have some edge that puts me in a different category than your Sweet Baby James’ folkies.
You packed up your life in Chicago for Austin, TX. What’s the musical difference between the two cities?
i’ve played in rock bands in chicago. and they were always well received. and i have a lot of love for that city. But what it comes down to is people go to a bar in chicago for one activity. and that activity is not listening to music, or playing pool, or meeting new people, but it is to drink. So unless you’re an upbeat act, or playing in line with chicago history and doing blues and jazz, if you’re not doing that…than, well. I dont think people get their head around it. They dont know how to listen. And i dont blame them. When i’m at a bar in chicago I’m drinking too. And i dont want some whiny kid with a guitar ruining my consumption experience. in Austin, its absurd. after my first open mic here I was floored. People are coming up to me saying specifically i liked this lyric or that. talking to me about my chord changes. I mean, that’s unreal. that is some musical kinship.
What bands are you listening to now?
Most everyone i listen to is old and grey or dead. Leonard Cohen John Hurt, Towns Van Zandt, Dylan, the Beatles, I guess Nick Cave is still relatively young. …the new ones i’m spinning are the National. A band that has a drummer who can make you weep is pretty incredible. Also this kid of out of Chicago Stephen Hiro is pretty talented. I’m slipping into the gentle hard rocking Beach House. Joanna Newsom is someone to look out for as well. I think she’s the new Bob Dylan. i know every up and coming song writer has been given that label by somebody, but man, this girl can really transform the sonic landscape.
Have you ever smashed a guitar?
Oh, yes. it wasnt on stage though. And i believe it was partially Fernet inspired. I was in a terrible drought of some sort of depression…and i was walking downtown in chicago with my guitar. and right there in front of tons of people, workers and tourists..children..haha, the whole spectrum of people…i realized and felt victum to my music. sometimes you put in so much goddamed time and effort, and there are days when you feel musically worthless, like you havent created much, and that you’ll never really make it somewhere with it.. and so, I suppose i took my metaphorical chain and i smashed it against a telephone poll. Not one time, but repetitively…a sinister like smile washed over my face i think…and then i cheerily stumbled away.