CITY AND COLOUR …AND THE FU­TURE OF ALEXISONFIRE, AS DAL­LAS GREEN OPENS UP

From hard­core hero to acous­tic solo artist, DAL­LAS GREEN is a man on a jour­ney. As he re­leases CITY AND COLOUR’S new live al­bum, he re­flects on con­tin­u­ing to dis­cover him­self, mov­ing away from Trump, and keep­ing on keep­ing on…

Kerrang! (UK) - - News - Words: TOM SHEP­HERD PHO­TOS: Vanessa Heins

“When this comes out in the mag­a­zine, you’ll be able to flip through the pages and see a lot of guys who think that they’re rock stars, and then you can look at me and go: ‘Nope, he’s not one.’”

Dal­las Green is per­fectly fine with not be­ing a rock star. In fact, he says he tries his best to avoid the spot­light as much as he can. He even ex­plains that the rea­son he came up with the City And Colour stage name 15 years ago was be­cause he wasn’t com­fort­able with the thought of per­form­ing un­der his own name. “I started think­ing about the idea of art­work or T-shirts that said ‘Dal­las Green’ on it, and it made me sick to my stom­ach,” he ex­plains.

Yet it’s easy to see why some­body might con­fuse Dal­las Green for a rock star. With City And Colour, the 38-year-old sells thou­sands of tick­ets wher­ever he goes (his last trip to the UK fea­tured a two-night fi­nale at Lon­don’s 3,000-ca­pac­ity Troxy), while his earnest pop-folk songs are so deeply af­fect­ing that peo­ple of­ten like to get mar­ried to them. Mean­while, his role in post-hard­core cult he­roes Alexisonfire, who re­formed once more last sum­mer to play a sold-out O2 Academy Brix­ton, proves that he can get as heavy and rau­cous as any­one.

Speak­ing to Ker­rang! on the eve of the re­lease of City And Colour’s new live record, Guide Me Back Home, it’s clear that one thing Dal­las does want to be thought of is as a good mu­si­cian. Which he is. Recorded across a 28date Cana­dian tour, it in­ti­mately cap­tures what makes the man such a ta­lent, while tak­ing the un­usual step of util­is­ing record­ings from dates spread through­out the tour. Still, it’s an al­bum that ar­rives after a cou­ple of years of turmoil for the singer, and its re­lease finds him in a re­flec­tive pe­riod of his life.

Like a lot of mu­sic in 2018, Dal­las ex­plains that this new record was partly in­spired by Don­ald Trump, al­beit in an un­con­ven­tional way. The song­writer has re­cently moved to Toronto, re­turn­ing to his home coun­try with his wife, Cana­dian tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter Leah

Miller, and his dog, Alabama. The move 800 miles north from their home of four years in Nashville, Ten­nessee was in di­rect re­sponse to the ap­point­ment of the 45th pres­i­dent of the United States. Dal­las re­calls the feel­ings that rose up in­side him as he sat on his couch while watch­ing the elec­tion re­sults roll in.

“I just thought: ‘I have to get out of here,’” he says. “I just felt strange [about] the lack of hu­man de­cency that this man was por­tray­ing. And then I thought to my­self, ‘He’s be­ing so bel­liger­ent to im­mi­grants, and here I am, a white, straight man, who’s also an im­mi­grant, liv­ing in a coun­try that’s not mine, and I’ll be fine be­cause I don’t fit the bill of the peo­ple they’re afraid of.’ That just didn’t seem right to me.”

When asked if he sees him­self as a par­tic­u­larly po­lit­i­cal per­son, Dal­las ex­plains that his re­ac­tion had more to do with be­ing a de­cent hu­man than gov­ern­ment poli­cies.

“I’m not specif­i­cally out­wardly po­lit­i­cal most of the time,” he of­fers. “I think that is some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent than a po­lit­i­cal view. I think it goes back to hu­man de­cency. That’s the di­vide that we are try­ing to grap­ple with right now as a hu­man race. And I think that’s what I mean about Trump: it’s not pol­i­tics, it’s just a shitty old white per­son just try­ing to hang on for his last dy­ing breaths. For me, that is dis­ap­point­ing.”

These events also left the man who grew up in St Catharines, a city not far from Canada’s bor­der with the U.S., with a raw sen­sa­tion that he wanted to bet­ter un­der­stand and ex­plore his own coun­try, which ex­plains what he did next. In the spring of 2017, Dal­las em­barked on a coast-to-coast tour of Canada, tak­ing in 28 venues across 25 cities. He vis­ited towns he’d never seen be­fore and places he hadn’t played in years, while the venues were kept small and in­ti­mate: movie the­atres, churches, uni­ver­si­ties, and in one in­stance the up­stairs of a brew­ery. It was a change of pace that left him in­vig­o­rated.

“There were a cou­ple of re­ally cool places,” he says. “I re­mem­ber we played in a town called Pic­tou, Nova Sco­tia, and I woke up, got out of the bus, and we were parked right on the At­lantic Ocean, and so I just went right into the ocean. It was freez­ing, but things like that don’t hap­pen ev­ery day. A lot of the times when you tour, if you’re lucky you play these big cities all over the place – and a lot of the venues kind of feel the same. [But on this tour] there were a lot of mo­ments where you’d just wake up and you’re in the mid­dle of nowhere, and you have to fig­ure out what the lit­tle town’s about. That was a lot of the fun of it.”

At this point, Dal­las still had no idea that he was mak­ing his next record. Still, some­thing in­tu­itive in his head said it could be worth record­ing these stripped-back shows, which were oc­cur­ring in venues far smaller and qui­eter than the ones that tend to hold his name above the door. It wasn’t un­til a short re­cess from the tour after a cou­ple of weeks that he re­alised how good these ver­sions sounded, and how fruit­ful these shows could be. He de­cided to make a doc­u­ment of the whole tour, with tracks from al­most ev­ery venue mak­ing it on to the fin­ished live al­bum.

“It’s be­come this spe­cial thing where it’s not just a live record,” he ex­plains. “It’s not live from a cer­tain venue, it’s live across this en­tire coun­try, which is a pretty big coun­try. I like the idea that the whole record kind of sounds like it could be one show, but the first song is from Wolfville, Nova Sco­tia, and the sec­ond song is from Sur­rey, Bri­tish Columbia, which are 6,000km away from each other.”

As an in­tro­duc­tion to City And Colour, Guide Me Back Home pro­vides the full works. There are toasty anec­dotes be­tween tracks – one at the start of Friends, where Dal­las ex­plains how he got locked out­side of a venue hall into the ad­ja­cent high school is par­tic­u­larly good – and del­i­cate re­work­ings of some older cuts, with Hello, I’m In Delaware turn­ing out to be par­tic­u­larly haunt­ing. Ev­ery track feels as though it of­fers a pre­vi­ously un­seen shade to its com­poser, while as a whole they of­fer a glimpse of the per­former at his most nat­u­ral.

Dal­las has re­ferred to the record as his love let­ter to Canada, but con­cedes that such is the clar­ity of the record­ings that it al­most feels more like a Best Of… com­pi­la­tion. So, with his work laid out in front of him like this, does he see him­self de­vel­op­ing as a song­writer?

“I think so,” is his re­sponse. “I think I write a cer­tain way. I think I’ve de­vel­oped into a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what that is. Whether or not there are peo­ple that think my first record is the best record or they like the new record, for me it’s all about: do I feel like I’m mov­ing for­ward? Do I feel like I’m evolv­ing and get­ting bet­ter? And I do feel that way, in my heart. I do feel that I’m the best singer that I’ve ever been and the best player I’ve ever been and the best writer I’ve ever been. And that’s all I need.”

Dal­las’ re­cent re­turn to Canada and home turf has also meant that he’s back liv­ing closer to the other mem­bers of Alexisonfire. He re­veals that the five friends have been jam­ming with each other when they can (see panel, op­po­site page), while fans will have no­ticed the group have been mak­ing a scat­tered re­turn to play­ing live shows since the start of 2017. While he’s still un­cer­tain about the fu­ture, it’s a tran­si­tion that the singer be­lieves wouldn’t be hap­pen­ing now had he not walked away from the group seven years ago, when he had grown ex­hausted from jug­gling both his full-time band and his solo project.

“I just had a lit­tle bit of a ner­vous break­down and re­alised that I couldn’t nec­es­sar­ily do both at the same time, as much as I wanted to,” he says. “Mu­si­cally, it’s not that I wanted to get away from heavy mu­sic – I just couldn’t write those songs at that point. Ev­ery time I tried to pick up a gui­tar and write songs, the other thing was com­ing out of me more. And so it just sort of made me feel like that’s what I needed to pur­sue.”

Still, Dal­las de­scribes the day that he in­formed the other mem­bers of his de­ci­sion as the hard­est day of his life.

“It had noth­ing to do with be­ing solo or leav­ing the band and hav­ing the spot­light – it had noth­ing to do with that. It was just, cre­atively, I felt like I had other things that I needed to ex­plore. I think they, after a while, all un­der­stood that, and that’s prob­a­bly why we’re back play­ing again – be­cause we didn’t break up, I didn’t quit the band be­cause we hated each other, it was just that I needed to do this other thing.”

As what feels like a sea­son of tran­si­tion draws to a close for Dal­las, it’s un­clear, but nev­er­the­less in­trigu­ing, what his next project will be. He’s re­cently taken up his first role as a pro­ducer, some­thing that he says he’d like to pur­sue fur­ther, while Guide Me Back Home is the first re­lease on his own record la­bel, Still Records, an im­print on Dine Alone Records. What seems cer­tain is that the singer will take things at his own pace.

“I’ve al­ways just wanted to write a bet­ter song than I did be­fore,” he says. “And I think I still ap­proach it that way – I don’t re­ally let any of the noise of ei­ther be­ing suc­cess­ful or not be­ing suc­cess­ful get in the way. I’ve al­ways said that suc­cess to me is the abil­ity to just con­tinue do­ing it.

“I have a good friend who’s a writer here in Canada,” he con­tin­ues. “She said to me once, ‘You know, Dal­las, the world needs rock stars, but the world also just needs singers of songs.’ And she was like, ‘That’s what you are, you’re a singer of songs.’ And I was like, ‘Oh. Thanks.’” He chuck­les be­fore mak­ing a con­fes­sion. “And I’m fine with that.”

“I’M NOT PO­LIT­I­CAL, BUT I CARE ABOUT HU­MAN DE­CENCY…” DAL­LAS GREEN CITY AND COLOUR ’S GUIDE ME BACK HOME LIVE AL­BUM IS OUT NOW VIA STILL RECORDS

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