Q&A: City and Colour

Photo courtesy of media.npr.org
Photo courtesy of media.npr.org

Dallas Green of City & Colour answers the UCSD Guardian’s questions before heading back on tour with a new album and a different bluesy-alternative sound.

Photo courtesy of media.npr.org
Photo courtesy of media.npr.org

Guardian: “If I Should Go Before You” opens with “Woman.” Where did that sound arise? And the idea for that intro?  

Dallas Green: That built on a sound check we just used to do. At first I never really thought it would become a song. But then I started thinking, “Why can’t it become a song?” I don’t have anybody telling me what I should and shouldn’t do. I’ve worked my whole life in order to have that creative control. So it felt good and I wanted to do it, and I think we turned it into a beautiful song.

G: Of course, the writing on this album is very contemplative; where do you find your thematic influences?

D: When I write, I always start in moments of introspection. When I’m having fun, or smiling and thinking of good times I rarely feel the need to sing or write about it. But it’s those moments when I’m laying awake at night having conversations with myself about my own feelings or my observations on someone else’s situation: that’s when I feel like writing a song.

G: Do you take anything from your days in Helicon Blue or Alexisonfire? And have they had any influence on “If I Should Go Before You?”

D: I don’t know that I consciously do, but I think subconsciously I must. I have to, since those were experiences I had that were big moments in my life that helped me. I don’t know that I would ever think of it that way but I learned a lot doing that for that long.  

G: This time you decided to produce the album yourself. How did that impact the final product?

D: I think that the situation I put myself in was really helpful. I had a very good band and my friend Karl [Bareham] who engineered and co-produced it with me. It was just a big family trust that none of us were going to let anybody make a bad record.

G: How did being the producer affect you as a musician?

D: I think it works for me; I don’t know that I would be able to go produce somebody else. I have a pretty clear vision of what I want things to sound like for my own music.

G: How does the new album go hand-in-hand with your live performances?

D: Playing live is my favorite part. It’s a chance to go out there and just have fun. Recording to me is good; it’s also a snapshot of where you are at that moment. I really use the record as a stepping stone to then go out there and play and get better every night, to sing the song better than I did the night before.

G: How has playing with a full band changed your writing style? Have you found that you are writing for a group now?

D: Definitely this time around. I fully contemplate the songs with myself in mind, but this time around I definitely wanted to write these songs for the guys in the band.

G: How have your live performances fostered your relationship with the band?

D: When I first hired these guys to play in the band for the last record, I just wanted guys who were good at playing. I didn’t realize that they were going to be such great people as well. The music relationship we’ve developed over the last couple years also helped personal relationships that we developed with one another and then they build upon each other. Ultimately, you’re playing for each other, you’re not just playing for yourself.

G: Where does Nashville come into play? What is like recording in a city with such history and are we seeing that in this new album?

D: Yeah, we moved to Nashville last November just to change pace; we’ve been in Toronto for 10 years. All the guys in the band live down there and we started to fall in love with it. We ended up writing the whole record in my house there and it feels like home now.

G: As you begin your latest tour, would you say you prefer to be on the road playing live shows versus in the studio recording?

D: Absolutely. It’s all I know. I’ve been on the road for 15 years. It feels more like home than home does.

G: Do you have a favorite song to play live?

D: Right now we’re about to play our first show of the tour, we’ve been rehearsing for a few days now and I’m really excited to play “Woman.”

G: What was it like to collaborate with P!nk on the album “You+Me?”

D: It was unbelievable. She’s one of my best friends. She’s an unbelievable worker and songwriter and it was an absolute privilege to say I was a part of that.

G: Of course, “The Girl,” your most well-known song at this point, has a great dual nature with the change in the middle.

D: The quieter part came first. That was the case of trying that song with different rhythms and I ended up liking both of them a lot, so I thought, “Well let’s just make it a two-parter.”   

G: For the singer-songwriter fans out there, are acoustic solo projects from “Sometimes,” “Bring Me Your Love” and “Little Hell” gone? Have you moved on completely?

D: They’re not gone. This is just where I feel like I need to be, creatively. It’s not that I don’t want to play acoustic music or quieter songs. I don’t sit down and try and write songs everyday, I just wait and hope that something presents itself. Right now, this is where I feel most comfortable: playing these songs with these guys.

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