Dallas Green is City and Colour. It’s a softer project for Green, certainly compared to his hardcore origins in Alexisonfire. The Canadian-born musician was named for the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies after they won the 1980 World Series, and when the time came to launch his solo project, he didn’t feel comfortable going with his own name. Instead, he chose the name City (from Dallas) and Colour (from Green).
He attained massive play in the U.S. with “Lover Come Back” from the 2015 release “If I Should Go Before You.” Before his forthcoming visit to Birmingham, he spoke about his transition from hardcore to softer music.
Weld: How did you make such a sharp turn from hardcore to a folk sound so quickly?
Dallas Green: Publicly I guess it seemed like a sharp turn, but I was always playing quiet music on the side when I was younger. When I started playing music in front of people, it was actually in coffee shops and open-mic nights and things; just me and a guitar. When the band we started, Alexisonfire, got popular, that became what people assumed I was into. But really, I was doing acoustic music at the same time. Before I was in Alexis, I had made demos that I would sell at coffee shops or what have you, and once Alexis got popular, those things started finding their way onto the internet and that became the genesis for, “Why don’t I make a record that sounds better than these basement demos?”
Weld: As an aspiring young musician in your teens or 20s, when you were driving in your car around town, were you listening to softer stuff or harder stuff?
Green: I was listening to both. I think the best part of growing up in the ‘80s and early ‘90s was the ability to listen to so many different styles of music. I was a kid when the grunge explosions happened, so I loved Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Alice and Chains. I loved how loud it was, but I loved the melody, too. I don’t know if that was just because I was a guitar player, but I was also becoming a singer.
I was always attracted to the pretty side of the darker music. Alice in Chains was a very aggressive, dark band singing about heroin addiction, but I loved the harmonies in that band. Later I got into aggressive music — out of grunge you wanted to know what their favorite bands were. So I got into the Melvins because Nirvana liked the Melvins. I got into Quicksand and some more hardcore stuff. But at the same time, I went and saw Neil Young play for the first time. So I guess I was a sponge for all different kinds of music. There’s nothing like playing a guitar really loud — but also, it’s nice to sing quietly.
Weld: Do you find that fans at City and Colour shows know you as both or are those two audiences completely separate?
Green: I think there’s a lot of crossover. In the U.S., there’s more City and Colour fans that don’t even know I was in this other band. And I think that’s because the last Alexis record came out in 2009, and I’ve been doing this mostly full-time since then. But in the places around the world where Alexis was a bigger deal, a lot of people know me from both or know me from that first.
Weld: Have you ever or will you ever reimagine any Alexis songs as City and Colour songs?
Green: Yeah! I do it all the time! I take little bits and pieces of songs and sing them during City and Colour shows. Sometimes, I’ll play a little piece of an Alexisonfire song on the piano and just sing George [Pettit]’s screaming part.
Weld: You wrote the song “At the Bird’s Foot” about the oil spill in our gulf. Do you have a personal connection to the area?
Green: No. I was watching the news when it happened, and I remembered seeing the pictures of the water on fire. It was such a vivid image. I was in Toronto, Ontario, so it was far away from where I was. Rarely do I write songs about such a topical subject, but I remember writing the line, “There’s a fire in the ocean.” And I just kind of wrote from there. It was a vivid image that just caused me to write about it.
Weld: How far away are we from the next record?
Green: I really don’t know. Every time I make a record, I got on tour for about two years. Around the year-and-a-half mark — which is about now — I have a couple of songs and I’m not really thinking about it, and I tell myself, “Maybe I’ll take a break after this tour.” And when that time comes, I’ll take that break, and I’ll end up with a whole bunch of new songs, and I’ll make that record. So really, I have no true answer. I could lie to you and tell you I am going to take a break after this one, but I don’t know.
Weld: Do you have anything new you’re trying on the road?
Green: No, I don’t try them on the road because they just end up on YouTube or Instagram later that night and it defeats the entire purpose.
Weld: Who is the Canadian artist that most inspired you?
Green: I’d have to go with Neil Young. People forget he’s Canadian sometimes because he’s been in America for so many years. But he’s had such a long career doing whatever he wants to — whether it be with a band or solo. That’s the goal — the ability to have the career that you want. Sometimes you lose people along the way, but when people trust that you’ll make a record that they’re going to dig. That’s what I mapped my path after.
City and Colour comes to Iron City on Monday, March 6. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 9 p.m. Greyhounds opens. Tickets are $40 at the door. For more information, visit ironcitybham.com.