Jason Molina was born in Lorain, OH. He grew up listening to a large amount of Black Sabbath and began his musical career playing bass in heavy metal bands around Cleveland. Always a songwriter, Molina eventually decided to perform and record solo with help as needed. He developed a method of tuning his guitar that complemented his voice and worked with his background as a bass player. Finding his niche in indie rock circles, Molina made home recordings under the names 'Songs: Albian', 'Songs: Radix', and 'Songs: Unitas' to pass out at live shows.
Settling on 'Songs: Ohia', Molina released a single on Palace Records in 1996. The first 'Songs: Ohia' full-length followed in 1997; released on the Secretly Canadian label.
By 2001, Molina had given his tenor guitar a rest in favor of a regular six-string instrument and had put together a full band to back him. However, 2002's Didn't it Rain saw Molina working with members of neo-bluegrass outfit Jim & Jennie & The Pinetops, achieving an almost gospel sound that was a vast departure from the dense feel of Ghost Tropic. Constantly recording and writing new songs, Songs: Ohia released a handful of singles and EPs in 2002, including a split EP with Louisville's My Morning Jacket and a collaborative EP (under the name Amalgamated Sons of Rest) with Will Oldham and Alasdair Roberts. Pyramid Electric Co. and Magnolia Electric Co., originally conceived as a double album, were released separately in early 2003. The former, a sparse solo album, was recorded with Mike Mogis (from Lullaby for the Working Class) while the latter featured a full band and was recorded by Steve Albini.