Toronto based singer/songwriter Dallas Green aka CITY AND COLOUR just released his fourth studio record The Hurry and the Harm and, currently, is on a flying visit to play a few shows on German festivals. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION met him to talk about beer, stubborn fan, human mortality and of course hope and passion.
You have your own beer now. Pretty neat to have his own beer. How did that happen?
Dallas Green: Well, there’s this really cool brewery from near my hometown. The place is called Barrie, Ontario, which is one hour and a half from where I grew up. The brewery is called Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery. It’s a small Canadian micro-brewery and they’re really big fans of music, who started doing this thing of limited collaborations with bands they like. So they approached me. And I met them and they are wonderful people. The way the owner Peter talked about beer was exactly the way I feel about music: The passion that he has for making his own beer. And they always have this wacky design and trying to stand out. So I was like yeah, let’s do it! Plus, I like to drink beer, so do most people and I thought it would be fun. I haven’t taste the finished product yet, because it was done while I’m on tour. But first thing I do once I’m back in Canada is: taste it!
Let’s talk about your new record “The Hurry and the Harm”. You said that it was weird for you to finally have your face on a cover. Why is that?
Dallas Green: Well, I’ve never used a photo of myself in or on a record. The only time we did something like that was on a special edition of Bring Me Your Love, where we put studio photos inside the booklet, which isn’t necessarily the same thing. And even with ALEXISONFIRE we never used photos of ourselves… I think it even goes back to why I didn’t call the project Dallas Green, but CITY AND COLOUR. I always wanted it to be about the songs, not about me. Does that make sense?
Kind of. Still, I’m wondering because as a singer/songwriter obviously the focus is entirely on you…
Dallas Green: You’re right, but I never wanted it to be about Dallas Green as a person, but about the music. You know: Just listen to the songs. But then, if you include ALEXISONFIRE records, this is my 8th record. And I’ve never done anything like that. So, this time we figured it’s kind of new and everyone knows what I look like now anyways. I just wanted to do something different. Plus, it’s only half of my face.
In this respect, is it easier as a member of a band to keep the focus on the music instead of the people behind the instruments?
Dallas Green: It definitely is, I think. Sort of you all huddle around the umbrella of the band. No matter how many members you are in a band, you kind of become this one synonymous thing. But then, if you step out on your own, it’s obviously just about yourself.
Do you miss ALEXISONFIRE for this umbrella sometimes? On stage for example.
Dallas Green: Of course! I mean, I went out and saw GALLOWS play last night. And I got to watch Wade singing and playing.
Was it weird?
Dallas Green: No, it was great! It was awesome, but I couldn’t help but think to play on stage with him. Because, you know, we’ve been playing together for ten years. Obviously I miss that occasionally. But the band I am having now and the songs that I’m playing now mean just as much to me. And I’m having just as much fun. It’s just different.
There are always kids that want me to just put out the first record. (Dallas Green)
To me, the sound of “The Hurry and the Harm” appears pretty clean. Just like your previous record “Little Hell” was as well. Is this to large extend due to Alex Newport? How strong is his influence on the final sound of CITY AND COLOUR‘s latest musical development?
Dallas Green: Alex has such a wonderful ear of getting really good sounds and, secondly, he has all the faith in me that I don’t have in myself. He’s able to sort of get the best out of me and keeps me going. He doesn’t come in and change the songs, but really he’s just there to push me, tell me I can do better than that. And the thing with the cleanliness has to do with me being a better musician and a better singer than I was before. And all of the guys that I had playing with on the record are just incredibly good musicians. So it just made me want to become better in what I do, having them play.
How was the fan’s reaction towards the new record?
Dallas Green: So far, I think most people like it. I mean, there are always kids that want me to just put out the first record again.
Probably also former ALEXISONFIRE fans…
Dallas Green: Yeah, and you know what: that’s fine! You’ll always have the people that are not going to like what you’re doing right now. I think people forget about the emotional connection that you can have with certain records that last far beyond any other thing that a band might put out. You could have such a moment with, let’s say, a band’s first record and it could be at such a completely different part of your life that when you’re older, you dislike the new music. But it’s not necessarily because they changed that much, but you’ve also changed. And nobody looks at it that way. They’re just quick to shit on the bands’ new record, not even really listening. If I would think about that when I’m writing, I would lose my mind. So I just write songs that I like and hope other people like ‘em too.
Thematically, did you find your direction home? I’m just thinking of “Of Space and Time”…
Dallas Green: No! I don’t think I will ever find my direction home. I’ll always be searching for something else. So there will of course be more records in the future.
Is that what drives you when writing songs?
Dallas Green: Yeah, I think so. I’m trying to find it: Trying to find the perfect melody… Trying to find the perfect chord progression, which you never will as a singer/songwriter. Honestly, I would hate to look at a song and say that’s the best thing I could ever write. Because then, what’s the point of continuing on? I hope to always be searching and always looking to be better.
Mortality is the one thing that links us all. (Dallas Green)
What’s that thing with you and death? I mean, Body in a Box is just one song out of many where you deal with people’s mortality. “Death Song”, which is the last song on “The Hurry and the Harm”, is another example.
Dallas Green: Well, with Death Song it’s different. It’s a song I wrote about the idea of me not doing this anymore, moving into something else. As a musician and a songwriter you can’t help but think what would happen if this just all went away tomorrow. Within the music business, almost everybody reaches a point where people just stop listening and move on. There is only, what, a handful of bands that can go for fifty years.
PET SHOP BOYS?
Dallas Green: Right! ROLLING STONES. NEIL YOUNG. But think about how many bands there have been over the past 50 years that put out a record and then faded out to nothingness. Death song I wrote about this. About the idea of what becomes out of me when you stop listening. Where would I go? What would I do? Will I find something else, if that ever happens? BUT, I do write a lot about death, because I do thing that death is the one thing that everyone in the world has in common, you know?! Mortality is the one thing that links us. Everyone likes to think that they are different and so very special, but in the end we are all born and we all die and we’re all fucked up. That’s why I like to write about it.
Last one: What do “hope” and “passion” mean to you?
Dallas Green: I hope to still be able to find the passion in what I do in years to come, because I struggle with it. I struggle to find hope in that it’s ok to feel the way I do. Sometimes I think about the death song and about moving into another direction, because of not being able to find that happiness. So, I hope that there will always be that sort of passion in me to look for whatever that happiness is.