High Hopes: City And Colour

A quick list of some things that Napster achieved in the late 90s: leading the way for the file-sharing boom; planting in the heads of an entire generation the idea that music could be free; royally pissing off Lars Ulrich…

Those pesky file-sharing programs helped launch City And Colour, the melodious offshoot project from Canadian post-hardcore group Alexisonfire guitarist/vocalist Dallas Green. C&C began as a series of demos recorded in a basement at the back end of the 1990s. Green thought no one would get to hear those songs, but then the MP3 explosion came along.

“After Alexisonfire got going, kids at shows would ask me about these solo songs,” Green says. “As Alexis became more popular, people began sharing my solo songs through this file-trading thing that I had no idea was even happening.”

Buoyed by the interest, Green went into the studio, polished the material and came out with a debut album, the lush acoustic folk of Sometimes. At the time, Green thought it would be a niche record that might appeal to a smattering of Alexisonfire fans. Ten years on he’s on his fifth City And Colour album. Clearly something clicked.

That fifth album is If I Should Go Before You, a soulful, darker and generally more mature take on the band’s folky pop rock. Recorded at Nashville’s Blackbird Studio, it’s blessed with head-melting treats such as the psychedelic swirl of Woman, a song that falls somewhere between Pink Floyd and Rival Sons, via Neil Young. A nine-minute masterpiece that sways deliciously in and out of your consciousness, it’s certainly not your conventional album opener.

“I’ve always been a fan of long, drone-y songs, whether it be Pink Floyd or Mogwai or whoever,” Green explains. “I didn’t think that would become a song, but I started humming that main riff a lot, and that led to a vocal melody. It’s an endless song about endless love.”

Woman, like so many of City And Colour’s songs, is carried by Green’s amazing howling vocal. “I pride myself on singing well because I call myself a singer,” he says. “People are paying to listen to me sing. I have this chip on my shoulder because we live in an age where you don’t know if the singer is Auto-Tuned, or if they are even singing or not.”

Green also takes great pride in the fact that he’s made it to five albums without the backing of a major label. He’s built up a strong following, slowly but surely, thanks to fans connecting with his tunes and lyrics, rather than to corporate money.

“City And Colour’s origin was just about people sharing my music, even when they didn’t know what it was. It’s more rewarding knowing I can sell more tickets than these bands that have had all this money thrown at them.”

FOR FANS OF: Jeff Buckley

“I was a grunge kid,” says Dallas Green, talking about some the music that has been an influence on him. “Back then I had been trying to sing up to that point listening to Alice In Chains and stuff like that. But then once I heard Jeff Buckley’s Grace, that was when I wanted to explore my voice. He was a big inspiration for me.”

Rich Chamberlain

Rich Chamberlain has written for Classic Rock, Musicradar.com, Total Guitar, Nuts, FourFourTwo, Billboard, Classic Rock Presents The Blues and Classic Rock Presents Country.