“I’ve never thought about it like this before. But really, it was that season of loss that has led to so much beauty, and to so many things that are shaping our lives right now.”
Chris Molitor is sitting on a stack of two-by-fours in a dusty church attic. The bright day outside is shining in through an ornate, translucent window. He’s thinking and talking through a tumultuous last couple of years. For Chris and his wife Lauren, an exciting-yet-exhausting season in Los Angeles came to an abrupt end in late 2016.
They were just scraping by, with Chris working as a graphic designer by day and as the lead singer of The Wilder Society, a folk rock band, by night. He’d always been a singer-songwriter, but the natural collaborator in him led him to form the band with friends (along with a couple musicians found through Craigslist). After years of hard work playing gigs and releasing an album (Lion’s Den), the transitions started coming all at once.
“I lost my largest graphic design client that was helping pay our super-high rent. Then Lauren needed to move out of her job, and our band’s drummer got some major gigs in his work as a film director,” he remembers. “So in a hurry, we went from initial conversations about moving to the Northwest to giving our landlord a 30-day notice and packing our things.”
Heading north, Chris and Lauren felt the full weight of just how stressful their time in L.A. had been. Their destination was Portland; but first: a brief holiday stay in Spokane, where Lauren grew up.
“We’ve never left,” says Chris with a laugh.
Spending some much-needed rest time that winter at Lauren’s family cabin on Diamond Lake, Chris recorded a dozen songs just to get them out of his system.
“We were really beat down, and I was sort of feeling done with music after LA,” he said. “I’ve had some success licensing my music for films and commercials, so I just wanted to finally record all these songs I’d written over the years, and send them off to my distributor and be done with them. After that, I really didn’t know if I’d pursue music.”
Then, unexpectedly, things started to change. The cabin recording project was a cathartic experience in many ways, and by necessity, it forced Chris to learn some new skills.
“I didn’t have thousands of dollars for studio time, but I did have plenty of time on my hands,” he says. “So I learned how to record music, getting some equipment and watching as many tutorials as I could. Then I did the same for producing and mixing.”
His deep-dive into the technical side of music uncovered a new passion, and it paid off. When a Portland music distributor listened to the resulting album, Coming Home, he asked who produced and mixed it, because he loved the sound. At first, he didn’t believe that Chris had done it himself.
Back in Spokane, Chris was surprised by something he hadn’t expected. “I just started making connections in Spokane’s music scene, with [singer/songwriter] Marshall McLean, and with Karli and Caleb Ingersoll, who own the Bartlett. I found this supportive community of artists that I wanted to be a part of.”
With these encouraging developments, and after Lauren found a great job, the Portland plan fell away. In the past several months, the couple has purchased their first home (“that wasn’t happening in LA or Portland,” laughs Chris). After the release of Coming Home, Chris was voted Spokane’s best local singer/songwriter at the Bartlett Awards. He’s already booked a spot in the 2018 Inlander Volume Music Festival.
And now, the space we’re sitting in is being transformed into a new recording studio. Stacks of drywall and lumber are strewn about this upper room within New Community Church (in the historic Central United Methodist building), on the corner of 3rd Avenue and Howard Street in downtown Spokane. With a shared vision to help young and emerging musicians record their music, Chris is partnering with Shane Thompson, who mentors teenagers through Youth For Christ. They want the studio to be a resource for kids trying to get their music out into the world, and to empower local musicians who, like Chris, can’t afford the typical recording and post-production process.
Circle Window Studios (a working name) is under construction and a little messy, but the potential is there. And for that reason, Chris sees the room as a perfect metaphor.
“This space reflects this chapter Lauren and I are in right now. We were a little beaten down, busted up, paint chipped... but there’s something really beautiful here. And with a little bit of time and a little bit of love, something amazing will come out of this.”
As a proud supporter of local artists, INB was excited to use Chris Molitor’s music in the INB Road Trip video, an exploration of the people and places that make this region unique.