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More About “City and Colour”
City and Colour is the recording alias for Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green, who was also the guitarist and vocalist of the post-hardcore band Alexisonfire from 2001 to 2012. He plays melodic acoustic and folk music and is often accompanied by a rotating number of Canadian indie rock musicians, such as Daniel Romano and Spencer Burton of Attack in Black. The name City and Colour comes from his own name: Dallas, a city, and Green, a colour. His reasoning for the name was that he felt queasy “putting the album out under the name Dallas Green”. Green said that he had been writing material since he was around the age of 14. Regarding the songs released on his first album, Sometimes, Green said that he had been writing material for it as early as when he was 16 years old, and finished writing songs for it in 2005.
Green began releasing City and Colour songs on the Internet for fans to download. Eventually, he compiled and rewrote several of these songs to make his first album, Sometimes. The full length debut was released on November 1, 2005 to a good reception, described by one reviewer as “dynamically gentle and vulnerable”. The cover art was designed by Scott McEwan, in a tattoo-esque style; Green “still may decide to have some of them inked at a later point in time”.
Green indicated that his view that the “best music for [him] is sad music”, influenced the type of songs he created. He also said that he “love[s] music to sort of escape to” and the idea of sad music that people could identify with. Green said of the album that, “a lot of those songs are written on some of the experiences I’ve been through and stuff and that’s just how I deal with it. I just write songs when I’m bummed out and I feel happier.” Sometimes was re-released on Vagrant Records on January 13, 2009, which was the first time the album was available in physical form in the United States.
Bring Me Your Love (2008–2009)
Bring Me Your Love is Dallas’ second full-length album. It was released on February 12, 2008 and features a wide array of instruments not used on his previous recordings (such as harmonica, banjo, drums and lap steel) giving it a more folk-influenced sound. The album also features collaborations with other musicians, such as Canadian musician Gordon Downie of Tragically Hip on the track “Sleeping Sickness“, and additional instrumentals done by Matt Sullivan and the members of Attack in Black. The lead single, “Waiting…“, was released on Green’s official MySpace page for the first time featuring a “making of” video.
The album is named after a short story by Charles Bukowski. It is also a line sung in the closing track, “As Much As I Ever Could.” Green has stated in interviews that he has troubles writing a lot of his lyrics and he saw Charles Bukowski‘s book in a book store while on tour with Alexisonfire and adopted the title for his new album.
On September 26, 2008, City and Colour embarked on their first American tour, in support of Bring Me Your Love. On the tour, the band supported Tegan and Sara along with Girl in a Coma. This tour was followed by a headlining tour of the US in January 2009, with support from William Elliott Whitmore. In October 2008, Dine Alone Records announced a special 2-disc limited edition of Bring Me Your Love to be released on December 2, 2008. Only 6,000 copies are available; 5,000 in North America and 1,000 in Australia. In Canada, when the record label put up the album on pre-sale on November 20, 2008, so many fans tried to pre-order it that the store’s website crashed.
Little Hell (2010–2012)
In January 2010, City and Colour embarked on an additional US headlining tour, again supporting Bring Me Your Love, with supporting act Lissie, and an additional UK tour in June 2010, supporting P!nk, along with Butch Walker, along with a few headlining dates. On these tours, Dallas Green has performed two new songs by the titles of “Silver and Gold” and “Oh Sister”, as well as a couple of never-played-before covers – “Murderer“, originally by Low, and “Grinnin’ In Your Face”, originally by Son House. In an interview with Alter the Press, Green has revealed that he has written a bunch of new songs and he just needs to record them for his next record, hinting on a possible early 2011 release date for his third studio album. He said that there are 15 songs that he really likes and he expects around 10 to appear on his next album.
On September 2, 2010, it was announced on MTV News Canada that Dallas had been in the studio with Polaris Prize nominee Shad working on a remix of a Shad song as well as an original song to be released as a 12″ vinyl single. Dallas was quoted as saying “I’ve always wanted to be the Mary J. Blige to somebody’s Method Man“. The remix is to Shad’s song “Listen” from his latest album TSOL, and the new song that Dallas co-wrote is entitled “Live Forever”. On September 30, 2010, it was announced that Dallas Green planned to start recording his third studio album in January 2011, after demoing 14 songs. “There are a lot of musically unusual songs.” Green has said about the record, “There’s a lot more piano on these songs, keyboards and stuff. And there are a couple of songs almost I would say a bit rockin’, if that makes any sense, not in a heavy metal kind of way, but just a little bit more upbeat than what you’re used to hearing from me.”
On November 9, 2010, Dallas announced via Twitter that he would be releasing a new single on iTunes called “At the Bird’s Foot” which will be on a compilation album called Gasoline Rainbows, which also features new songs by such artists as Damien Rice and Amy Kuney. The song was written by Dallas in response to the oil spill in the Gulf. All proceeds from the album will go directly to Global Green USA. “At the Bird’s Foot” was first made available for 48-hour streaming on the Gasoline Rainbows Myspace page on November 23, 2010, and features Amanda Zelina of the band The Coppertone on vocals. In an interview with Reverb Magazine’s Sean Frazer, Green spilled news of an upcoming 2011 album release, saying “Hopefully I am going to start recording in January so I’m hoping that there will be another album by next Summer/Spring.”
On February 15, 2011 Green performed a specially recorded version of “Northern Wind” on the Valentine’s Day episode of One Tree Hill. On February 23, 2011, it was officially announced on the Dine Alone Records website that City and Colour’s third album will be titled Little Hell and is set for release in June 2011.On March 23, 2011, the official track listing was posted on City and Colour’s official website. Release date for the album was set to June 7, 2011. In an interview with Radar Radio’s Reegan McLaughlin, Green said ‘I look at people like Bob Dylan back in the day and he’d have pages of lyrics and would have to decide out of seven, eight of nine verses which three were the best. I think to myself, I have to struggle to get two verses I am happy with in a song’ Green also said ‘I think melodies come relatively easy to me because I’ve been singing so long but lyrics, it’s a battle to get to a point when I am happy with a song.’
On March 27, 2011, City and Colour performed Neil Young‘s “Old Man” as part of the four song tribute to Toronto during the Juno Awards of 2011. On April 5, 2011, “Fragile Bird”, the first single off Little Hell was released to the radio. The song had its world premiere on Australian radio station Triple J, where the band was touring a sold out tour at the time. The single became City and Colour’s highest charting single, reaching No. 1 on the Canadian rock/alternative chart.City and Colour has been announced to be performing as part of The Voodoo Experience 2011, which is held at City Park in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 28–30. On August 5, 2011, Alexisonfire announced their break-up. George Pettit wrote a message on the band’s official website saying Dallas had been planning to leave to focus on City and Colour, as balancing the two bands had become too difficult.
As of November 2012, Green is back in the studio recording the follow up to Little Hell.
On December 17, Biffy Clyro announced that City and Colour would be the main support on their massive 2013 arena tour, in support of their new album.
The Hurry and the Harm (2013)
City and Colour announced the release of the new album entitled The Hurry and the Harm to be released on June 4, 2013. The song “Of Space and Time” was released on March 11, 2013 prior to the announcement of the new album. The track listing includes 12 songs; the special iTunes deluxe version, available for pre-order in April, will include 3 extra tracks for a total of 15 new songs. The song “Thirst” was released on April 1, 2013 on City and Colour’s Soundcloud page. The album was unofficially leaked on May 22, 2013.
“I just wanted to make an honest record.”
So says Dallas Green, otherwise known as City and Colour. He’s not really talking about confessionals (though that might happen, too) but truthfully incarnated music: organic songwriting, natural process and sincere moments captured in the studio. Captured—not manipulated. For his fourth LP, The Hurry and The Harm, Green not only wanted to present an honest album, but an honest version of himself. To do so, he had to leave some things behind, confront others and let the rest simmer.
Green wasn’t quite prepared to make another album so soon. On tour to support his last album, Little Hell (2011), he couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something was unbalanced, uneasy. “I was being pulled in two different directions,” Green recalls. He was mentally near the end of the road with his former band, Alexisonfire, but couldn’t yet share the news with his fans. “I wanted to be in one place, but I didn’t want to let my friends down.” He started reading poetry— specifically the Kentucky-born author Wendell Berry, and his work “The Peace of Wild Things.” “I come into the peace of wild things, who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water,” it goes. Those lines made Green “excited about words again,” and comforted him in a time when things didn’t seem too peaceful. The songs came—quickly, even.
It’s no surprise, really. City and Colour’s music is exactly that: peace, in wild things. There’s a calm, dulcet tone to the songs, the melodies crafted to provide restlessness amidst a sonically complex journey that both soothes and rustles. The record’s first leaked track, “Of Space and Time,” showcases Green’s voice as it dangles in his own special kind of falsetto, set to a chugging drumbeat and subtle strum. “I’m roaming through the hills all alone,” he sings. “I’m trying to find my direction home.” Maybe he didn’t know it at the time, but home is City and Colour—it’s not simply a “solo” project from an otherwise accounted-for band member, but is Green, his primary entity, and his honesty.
The Hurry and The Harm is the first City and Colour album recorded outside of Canada—Green took his process this time to Nashville, Tennessee’s Blackbird Studios. “I’ve never gone anywhere else to make a record,” Green recalls. “I think it worked out, and it was a wonderful experience.” He recruited an excellent team of players to round out the songs, including Jack Lawrence on bass (The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather), Bo Koster on keys (My Morning Jacket), Spencer Cullum (Caitlin Rose) on pedal steel and both Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, Fiona Apple) and James Gadson (Bill Withers, BB King) on drums. Green once again found great kinship in producer Alex Newport, who has worked with such varied and dynamic artists as At The Drive-In, Death Cab for Cutie, Bloc Party and The Mars Votla (and more notably with Green on Little Hell).
The resulting album is a journey through a state of mind, exploring everything from Green’s struggles to leave his previous band (“Of Space and Time”) to his distaste for gossip media (“Commentators”). Musically, the artful evolution can be felt in the crushing, sweeping rush of the first single, “Thirst,” with its aggressive vamp and both acid instrumentals and tongue: “after I’m gone / once I finally leave / you will be left alone to the wolves and the thieves.” There is a longing in the words but a certain direction in the songs, such as on “Two Coins” which balances a quiet folkiness with an unexpected guitar solo, searching through the play in his voice and the introspection of the ironically upbeat strums of “Harder Than Stone.” “Lyrically, now that I look back at the record as a whole, there are a lot of songs that deal with me searching for something,” he says. “And I know now that I wrote those songs near the end of Alexisonfire.”
“I don’t have a lot of faith in myself, so it is hard for me to have a lot of faith in something I have created,” Green says. “But I’ve never been happier or prouder about something that I have done.”
Green began recording as City and Colour in 2005, with Sometimes, followed by 2008’s Bring Me Your Love and 2011’s Little Hell and has experienced huge success both on the charts and the road. All three previous studio albums have achieved platinum status in Canada, while Little Hell is also now Gold in Australia. Additionally, Little Hell debuted at #1 on Canada’s Top 200 Chart, #28 in the U.S., #2 in Australia and top 40 in the U.K. Moreover, almost every show in 2011 and 2012 sold out (including the famed Royal Albert Hall, a two night stay at the Roundhouse in London and New York’s Terminal 5). In support of The Hurry and The Harm, City and Colour will once again embark on a wide-ranging set of dates across North American and the world. The tour will feature a brand new touring band including 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.
Playing guitar since age eight and crafting songs since his teenage years, Green has always known he wanted to write music and sing: mostly for himself, to find peace and clarity amongst the chaos. He thinks it’s kismet that others happen to like to listen. “At the end of the day, when I write a song, it has to make me happy,” he says. “I have to want to sing it again. And then the hope after that is that somebody else will like it.”
And they do, because it’s the peace of wild things.