City and Colour's Dallas Green Takes on Trolls, Death and Quitting Alexisonfire on 'The Hurry and the Harm'

City and Colour
Vanessa Heins

City And Colour's Dallas Green, the man with the haunting voice and poetic words who used to do double duty in Canadian screamo band Alexisonfire, is always hard on himself. It drives him. 

For a guy who writes such gorgeous songs on his new album, "The Hurry And The Harm" -- a record rooted in self-reflection and the search for contentment -- he doesn't seem to have a perspective on just how good he is.  He's just one of those artists; some declare how brilliant they are and others are more humble and self-deprecating.

I don't know, I just don’t have faith in what I do, and I think it allows me to continue to try to be better — and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Music sales, ticket sales, reviews, and certain opportunities speak volumes. City And Colour’s 2008 album, “Bring Me Your Love,” reached the ears of Pink who asked him to open for her 2010 UK tour and again for three U.S. dates in early 2013. Biffy Clyro had him out on their sold-out U.K. arena tour in March. Green was still promoting 2011’s “Little Hell” at the time, which debuted at No. 28 in the U.S.,achieved gold status in Australia, top 40 in the U.K. and platinum at home in Canada, where he also earned a 2012 Juno Award for songwriter of the year.

The “Hurry And The Harm” — produced over two weeks in Nashville by Alex Newport who also did “Little Hell” — as a body of work is his best yet in terms of flow and focus and message.

“I recorded it in November so I’ve been sitting with it for while and I kind of go through periods where I stop listening to it because I was beginning to overanalyze it and wonder if it’s good,” he explains. “So it’ll be nice when it’s actually out and I can stop talking about it so much and people can decide whether or not they like it.”

It is out now. Well, in fact, as Green pointed out, it was leaked before its official release on Dine Alone Records this week. “Thirst” is the first single, a song he originally intended for New Zealand-born, Australian-based singer Kimbra, so he has less connection emotionally to the lyric.

The rest, whether it’s “Commentators” about online gossips and trolls (he is married to a high-profile TV presenter in Canada and people take swipes) or “The Golden State” about how he’s not enamored by California and will stay with the four seasons of Toronto, are more personal. Besides those two songs, Green tends to write about the future, searching for that intangible thing that will make him happy.

He took a big step towards that in 2011 when he decided to leave Alexisonfire, a platinum-selling act in Canada he started in 2001 with his good friends. “The Hurry And The Harm” — the fourth full-length under his solo moniker City And Colour — is the first he has made without having to go back to Alexis or fit it in between obligations.

In “Paradise,” he sings, “I’m searching for a paradise that I just can’t seem to find” and in “Two Coins,” “I’ve got no destination / No place to call home” and in the closing number, “Death’s Song,” wonders upon death “what becomes of me…Do I disappear into the silence…collapsing into this place of ease.” And in the one song he admits is about the inner conflict he felt before leaving Alexisonfire, he sings: “I’m roaming through the hills / All alone / I’m trying to find my direction home.”

Green says he didn’t expect to have a full album out so quickly after “Little Hell,” but he found he had a lot to say when he left Alexis.

“Whenever I tried to sit down and pick up a guitar, in my spare time, these are the songs that would ultimately come out of me,” he says, “which then proved to me that I did make the right decision about leaving the band. Because what I feared most was that I wasn’t going to be able to input anything creatively into that side of myself anymore. I was worried that this was where my heart and soul was headed, at least at this point in my life, and I think this record and these songs prove that that’s exactly what happened.”

Now, he’s home in City And Colour, with a new band lineup — Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs, Dead Weather) on bass, Dante Schwebel (Hacienda, Dan Auerbach) on guitar, Doug MacGregor (Constantines) on drums and Matt Kelly on pedal steel guitar and keys — and extensive touring that presently has them over in Europe, then Canada and the U.S.

“That’s why I do it, you know? Mix the record and then go play it and sing it for people,” says Green. “That’s my favorite part of this whole thing that we’re doing.

“Again, it’s a very transitional period in my life, but it’s a good one, and I couldn’t be happier with the guys [in the band]. At first, I was just like, ‘Let’s try to find some really great players’ and I did that, but I also happened to find a bunch of wonderful people at the same time. Everyone is great. Everyone’s a great musician. Everyone seems to be interested in treating the songs and the band like it’s their own. That’s all you can ask for really.”


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