Dallas Green is no longer the elephant in the room. Or, perhaps more accurately, City And Colour isn't.
"The Hurry And The Harm," out June 4, is the fourth release for Green under the City And Colour moniker, and the first since his split from Alexisonfire. Green first came to prominence as the singer in the singing/screaming post-hardcore act, and his decision to quit and focus on his increasingly popular acoustic solo work precipitated the group's break-up in 2011. It was an awkward situation made all the more so by the fact that his departure was kept quiet for a year, first from his own bandmates, then from the public.
Green comes clean about his feelings on the whole affair on the break-up song "Of Space And Time," the first track leaked from The Hurry And The Harm, singing, "There's an elephant in the back of the room / and it's standing in plain view / everyone can see / that it looks just like me."
"I wrote that song in the thick of the decision," he says, "on the last Alexis tour that we did in the States, on a day I had off, somewhere else, by myself. I actually wanted it to be on [2011's] 'Little Hell,' but it was just not working, musically I was wrestling with it. So I gave up on that song. I made the record, I got through all the drama of the band breaking up, and all of a sudden one day I went down to my basement and changed the rhythm and it just turned into this beautiful song that it is now. It seemed so effortless. When I look back I think it's because I wasn't ready to tell everyone, you know? Because when I was writing that song, I knew I had left the band, but nobody else knew. I'm pretty sure that's what it was, my subconscious saying no."
Finally free of splitting himself between two different musical projects, Green set about making a record with a new band in a new town. He re-enlisted "Little Hell" producer Alex Newport (At The Drive-In, Death Cab For Cutie) and went to Blackbird Studios in Nashville, where they put together a supporting cast of players including drummer Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam), keyboardist Bo Koster (My Morning Jacket) and bassist Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs), who has stayed on with the touring band. With long-time guitarist Daniel Romano off making his own solo records, Green stepped up to play all the guitar parts for the first time. ("I feel good about that. That helped me build some confidence.")
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The Hurry And The Harm marks a number of other firsts for Green.
It's the first time his face appears on the cover art. (He gave photographer Dustin Rabin the lyric "I've always been in the dark, with light somewhere in the distance" as a guide; the photo presents him half in shadow.) And first single "Thirst" was originally written for someone else — Kimbra, the voice of Gotye's "Somebody I Used To Know." It was the first time that Green, who has won two Juno awards for Songwriter of the Year, was approached to pen something for another artist.
"My first thought when I was asked was, ‘I can't do this.' And then an hour later I wrote something," he says. After never hearing back from Kimbra's people, he decided to record it as his own. The final version is one of few upbeat, rock–oriented tracks in the City And Colour canon, propelled by keyboards and a chorus about being "gracefully cursed" that, for once, is not about Green's own life.
"'Thirst' proved to me, which is something that I've always struggled with, that I could write a song, a good song that I like, and it doesn't necessarily have to be about something horrible that happened to me," he says. "For the longest time, I didn't think I could write songs unless it was cathartic."
The rest of The Hurry And The Harm will be familiar to fans of City And Colour's past work: Green's mellifluous falsetto is up front, accompanied mostly by simple acoustic guitar (the occasional pedal-steel slithers in) and laid-back drums. Emotionally, there might be a clean slate at play, but musically it's business-as-usual. As he admits in "The Commentators," he's not trying to start a revolution he's just looking for a sweet melody. It's something he's quite good at, and his ability to make sad songs sound uplifting — pretty, even — has endeared him to a growing fanbase who can relate to his bummed-out lyrics but still want to feel good singing along to them. (He can count amongst his admirers pop star Pink, who once tweeted that his music makes her "feel calm.")
It's all a far cry from the intensity of AlexisonFire, and that's pretty much the point.
That whole chapter of Green's life has ended well it seems. Green and his former bandmates "rebuilt" their friendship and went on a successful, sold-out farewell tour last fall. Now City And Colour is preparing to spend the rest of 2013 on the road; North American and European tour dates, including the Reading Festival, are booked up to November. Beyond that, even Dallas has no idea. But he also has, for the first time in a long time, no worries either.
"A lot of the songs on the record deal with me searching for something," he says. "But I don't know what that is, and maybe that's OK. Maybe I'll never find it. I'd like to have a dream but I don't know what else there is to go for. My dream was always just to do this. And now I'm doing it."