Answering the phone in Toronto to have a chat Dallas Green spoke of how grateful he is that after 10 years, 5 albums and 3 different projects later (Alexis on Fire, City & Colour, You + Me) he is still able to create music that he loves in an ever challenging way. Preparing for Bluesfest, Dallas can’t wait to hit Australian shores for his 15th time, expressing how much he loves our beautiful country and our loyal fan base.
So Dallas did you have any training as a musician or self taught?
When I was very young, my parents got me guitar lesson’s, when I was about 8 years old. So I took lesson’s for a couple of years as a kid, and I stopped around the age of 11 or 12. I stopped because I didn’t really take to the musical theory very well, my brain wasn’t very good at memorising the notes and things like that so once I kind of had a good enough grasp of it and sort of thought my ear was kind of developing to the point where I could listen to my favourite songs and pick it up, that’s when I kind of started playing moistly for myself and teaching myself.
Where does all this emotion come from and the ability to keep creating these tracks that are so meaningful...What is your writing process, do you lock yourself away or....?
Sometimes I try to force myself to sitting down and trying to write something but that never really goes well. I sort of just wait around and hope something, weather I’m reading a book, or watching a music, listening to music, or something and maybe at work, maybe something jump started me and I’ll write it down in my book or phone and then as far as musically, I’m kind of just always playing my guitar at home and usually something will kind of presents itself, then ill either kind of fiddle around with it or tuck it away and wait until I sort of feel that mood strike to write something.
A lot of your songs are based upon a big female influence in your life.... what the hell would you do without your wife for inspiration...she definitely deserves 80% of the profits haha....With such a personal song writing style you must have experienced quite a hard ship?
Haha yeah she does... Yeah I think everyone experiences some sort of hardship whether it’s lost love, lost relationships or just trying to figure out the big answers to the big questions.. what it is to be a human being and everyone deals with that differently, Whether or not you keep that inside or express too much of it, I think everyone goes through that. I guess a long time ago when I was quite young just realised the best way for me to deal with whatever I was going through was to write and sing about it. I always loved music and I always hoped that people would listen, really the first thing I used music for was to get what I was thinking out and use my words to convey that. So It is interesting that all these years later I’ve made a living out of that but I still approach music the same way and usually just try to write about what I’m, feeling and hope that translates to at least one other person.
After ten years performing under the alias City and Colour how important to you was the last record ‘If I Should Go Before You’? I read that this record you really consider a band record and were able to connect more to your band mates...It must of been hard to create something that is completely different to what you’ve been doing for so many years... recording live and transforming it straight to studio?
Yeah well for me it’s always important to find new ways to make things exciting for me. And if I can make it exciting for then hopefully we’ll, you know if I can get something in a song to a point where I’m happy with it then hopefully we’ll be able to move on and go from there and it will take on a life of its own. And so you know going into it, It was the 5th record under the whole city & colour thing, but for me that’s an accomplishment in itself, it’s hard to get to 5 records no matter what you’re doing. So for me I wanted to make sure I was making something that I NEEDED to make not just because it was time to make another record and you know I wanted to try a different process. It was very exciting and I’m glad it worked out. But it was ahh a bit daunting at first... to go in and make the record with my band and my friend Carl who we had never worked together in a studio before. So there was a mild risk and it could have back fired but I think we all had a good sense of trust in one another and that we weren’t going to let each other down and it’s something that we’re proud of.
Do you find it hard to capture the essence of a live show and transform that into the studio or vice versa?
Actually what was good was as a band we started playing together a couple of years ago with all of my old material, so for a couple of years we were on the road creating these new versions of my old material together. So I think the guys have a good understand of how I kind of write songs and what I’m looking for musically. So for me having spent two years watching how they took care of my old songs, I think we had a really good understanding of one another and it made the process a lot easier knowing that we had spent so much time playing with one another and kind of playing off one another, that it the studio we made the record in like ten days and I’m glad to say it was quite a simple process you know. Not to under play or downplay the work we put into it but it did come quite naturally.
Obviously your songs are very emotive, do you ever feel like you can get affected by them during a live performance....?
Yeah I mean there’s certain song’s... so far as I’ve been singing these new songs it hasn’t been too bad. But most song’s I’ve been writing that way for a very long time so I know what I’m getting myself into I guess when I write. But there are certain older song’s that I don’t necessarily play live because of the emotional kind of attachment to them or maybe it just doesn’t feel right or the same as I thought it did when I wrote certain songs and sometimes that can be upsetting to certain people you know, they’ll come up to me afterwards and ask why I didn’t play that certain song and ill just kind of tell them that I didn’t really feel comfortable playing that one. I think most people kind of understand that because of the nature of the song that sometimes I can kind of find myself in that situation but most of the time I’m pretty good at just you know... to me there’s a reason why I wanted to write those songs and write them the way they are and I like signing them and re-living in the moment because it’s just another way to kind of work through it.
In an interview you mentioned that Two Coins was one of your favourite songs...Is it still your favourite? The song speaks of an escape from the bad things in your life...how did you come about writing this one? Was it a hard time for you at the time?
Yeah it was, I remember specifically I was in a kind of hmmm... I was touring on the Little Hell cycle four to five years ago and I wasn’t in that good of a head space, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, and I was probably drinking too much and not maybe really being as happy as I should be. And I remember writing most of that song in a basement in a theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was just one of those rare moments for me where I knew what I needed to say and It just all came out, which is rare, usually it takes me quite a long time to write music and word’s but I think that this one just sort of needed to come out and I think that’s why it means so much to me because it was a true moment for me where I turned to music to help me get through something.
You’ve had such a diverse career from hardcore band Alexis on Fire to City and Colour, then to creating an album with PINK, which you have said has meant a lot to you... How did you and pink become connected and get the idea for the You + me project?
Well we met a long time ago, sort of through a mutually friend, an Australian actually. And we played a show in Los Angele’s and she came to it, we met and kind of hit it off straight away and built a relationship then. She invited me to open for her a couple nights and we went and played for her then over the year’s kept in touch. Every once in while we would talk to each other about one day trying to do something together because obviously we respected each other musically but we could also see it as a friendship and it would be nice to see if we could build something from that and so that was really the origin of it. We both took some time off and I decided I would go up there and visit her, we sat down and just started pluggin it and it just worked so well that we made a record and it’s something I’m really proud of and it was one of the best times in my life making music.
What is it about hardcore that you love? But then how does that differ to what you love about City and Colour?
Well for me I’ve never been too interested in the idea of conforming to one thing. You know there are a lot of people who just seem to get into one thing and just kind of stick with it. They tend to pigeonhole their listening and I was never like that, I was always as a young kid interested in everything that just felt right to me. So I loved heavy music but then I also loved melody. Just because my voice, this is the voice I have and I couldn’t help being attracted to melodic parts but I also really loved the aggression and the energy that came with playing really fast and really loud. So when we started Alexis on Fire it was really and compilation of all the things we were interested in. I love the idea of playing in a band with four guys when we’re all just basically trying to create as much energy as humanly possible in a room. And that’s something I will always cherish, even last year when we did the shows again, it was amazing to see that we could still conjure up that much energy. With City & Colour it’s kind of sometimes the complete opposite where I’m literally standing alone on stage in front of a bunch of people and I’m trying to be as quite as possible and get the room to a pin drop silence. I think there’s something really special about that too and I think I’m really lucky that I get to experience both. I just really love all that, all sides of it. I don’t know if there’s one thing about each that I’m attracted to, but right now this is where I feel creatively where I should be and where I feel comfortable being. The songs that are coming out now is what I’m doing. It’s interesting sometimes I think about trying to write songs like that again and I just don’t have it in my right now. Sometimes I wish I could write a really awesome riff again but for some reason I just don t seem to be there right now.
Who are you currently listening to at the moment?
I think I draw tones of inspiration from people, sometimes I feel like I’ve said everything I can say so right now I’m listening to this kid from Toronto called Daniel Caesar. He’s sort of like this young R&B, sort of like Frank ocean, Miguel but I think he’s way better than those guys!
So you’re coming to Bluesfest... This will be your first... what have you heard about Blues? Who are you excited to see?
I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about it so I’m really excited. I think we are coming the night before hopefully that we play so I can’t wait to see D’Angelo and Kendrick Lamar. D’Angelo I loved since the first record, Brown Sugar, I can’t wait, and I’ve never seen him play. And I think Kendrick Lamar is such an important musical artist right now in our lives and I’m so happy to be around to witness it so those are the two thing’s I’m really looking forward to.
So do you think Aussie fans differ from elsewhere in the world?
Well, I feel like nowhere really differs when you’re playing your music because there’s that cliché that music is the universal language but I feel like Australian’s are a very loyal group of people and If you come over there, their going to come support you. That’s something I’m very lucky enough to have that happen to me. I’m very excited it will be my 15th time over in Australia and I absolutely love Australia.
One last question, what would you say has been the most important lesson you have learnt over the years...have you discovered what lies between the water and that open sky?
I think for me I’ve realised the most important thing is the hang and the people you surround yourself with. I always say it’s all about the hang and I think that I’ve realised that more than the good or the bad because when the shows are good you need a good hang to celebrate them and when the shows are bad and you’re not feeling good about what you’re doing, you need that group of people around you to pull you back up. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learnt the most over all the years doing this is friendship and realising good people!
You can catch City & Colour this coming Bluesfest where he has assured me he will be delivery his best aussie accent!
Interviewer: Jariah Travan