“I want records to flow and tell a story…” hmv.com talks to City and Colour
As he releases his new album If I Should Go Before You (you can preview and purchase it on the right-hand side of the page), we sat down with Dallas Green, a.k.a City and Colour to find out all about making his new album and why he isn't so solo anymore...
How are you feeling right now with the album about to come out?
“I’m just glad to be able to talk about it. I’ve been listening to it so much since we finished it, listening over and over and over because that’s what I do before it comes out. Then I’ll probably never listen to it again.”
What’s the litmus test for a record being ready to roll?
“I do the headphones thing and the car and the iPod. I don’t know that there’s ever a moment when I say ‘This is done.’ There’s always something that can be redone. But there does come a moment when it feels like something isn’t mine anymore. Personally, I like to get to a point with a record where it’s a great reference for someone to come and see the band play.”
So what kind of songwriter are you: a guy who sits down to write or a guy who pieces together bits and bobs accumulated while you were touring?
“More the latter – a snippet guy. If I’m reading a book and a line sticks out or a melody comes to my head… but I never decide to make a record. I’ve just always made records constantly. It’s never a situation where I finish a tour and ‘OK, it’s time to make another one.’ I am not a bulk songwriter by any means. I haven’t picked up a guitar or written a song since I finished this record was finished back in June. And I probably won’t start until a few months from now. Once I record is out and I finally stop obsessing over it, that’s when I might start writing again. This one too was a bit of a surprise coming after the You + Me record (2014's quiet smash, Rose Ave.) I thought that I had drained the well. But I started writing, got super-stoked about my guys and here we are.”
How did you end up recording in Nashville with your touring band?
“When I made The Hurry and the Harm (City and Colour's last record from 2013) I was hoping to go out on the road with a new band. Jack Lawrence played bass on that record so I asked him to play with me. It started there. (Guitarist) Dante Schwebel I knew from a previous tour City and Colour had done with his band Hacienda. It was actually his wife who suggested I ask him to be in my band. Then I started thinking about drummers.
"The Constantines are probably my favourite band of all time and I had met Doug MacGregor a couple of times and I knew that band wasn’t active. When I asked Doug to join the band he said he wanted to audition first which was really funny because in my head he already was in the band. And then Matt Kelly is just our little prodigy. I put them all in a room and it was just unbelievable. It all just came together and I knew I really wanted to make a record with them. I trusted they would take good care of my songs because they had been doing so for two years.”
Do you envision a time when you might write with these guys?
“I don’t like to think too much about the future. Ten years ago when I was making the first City and Colour record I never would have believed that 10 years later I’d be making a record with this band. What I know is we’ve made a great record and we’re going to go on tour for a while and have just as good a time. And hopefully when we’re done there will be a bunch more new ideas, whether I’ve written them or we’ve written them together. I just want to be still doing it however that presents itself.”
You mentioned the You + Me (Green's project with singer P!nk) association. What impact did that have on your songwriting?
“It allowed me to clear myself of the quieter, more subdued moments so I could go and feel really good about making a full band record. Plus it was a really collaborative record as opposed to me building all these songs alone in the basement.”
The sequencing on this new record is pretty eclectic: you open with this woozy, epic, nine-minute opus, ‘Woman,’ then the record gets kind of twangy in the middle and poppy at the end…
“That’s exactly it. Initially I thought ‘Woman’ would go at the end because that’s traditionally what you do – put the long song at the end. But it didn’t make sense when I put that song last. So I tried it first and it made perfect sense to me. It’s a nice building intro rather than an epic closer. The rest of the album just seem to unfold the way it should. I am very, very, very conscious of making a record whether or not someone is going to listen back to it that way. I want records to flow and tell a story.”
Can we just say the guitar on ‘Killing Time’ is awesome...
“Yup, that’s Dante. I play a bit of guitar on the bridge but other than that, that song is me singing and my kick-ass band behind me. That was a cool moment for me and I’ve never had that. I mean, I’ve been a singer in a band but I’ve always veered off to the right and played guitar. The confidence the band gave me to just be a singer is something I am really proud of.”
Any especially meaningful compliments over the years?
“I always love it when I come off stage and people tell me I sound better live than on record because I do try my absolute hardest to be good and to sing well. So much stuff is computerized and fake and people just don’t care. I care so much about singing well and being good live that when people notice that, it makes me feel really good.”
City and Colour's new album If I Should Go Before You is out now.