Interview: City and Colour Helping Fans Cope With Their Own 'Little Hells'
Dallas Green is on a shopping mission for two things: Inhalers and spray paint.
No, the singer-songwriter has not developed a twisted addiction to huffing chemical fumes. The two items are quite unrelated. Yet, they are both necessary when it comes to planning for the cross-Canada tour that lies ahead and kicks off in Vancouver on Thursday.
First, the inhalers because Green suffers from asthma, something almost incredible considering the purity of his voice, which might just be one of the best and brightest around.
Second, the spray paint and letter stencils needed to tag some new gear City and Colour will be using on this tour, with an emphasis on instructions telling stage loaders not to tip certain items.
"Just to give them more of an incentive to tip things over," Green says with a chuckle via cellphone from Toronto.
Green is looking forward to getting back to the stage.
His latest album Little Hell, released last year, has just gone platinum in Canada. It debuted at No. 1 on the SoundScan Top 200 when it was released in June and was named Best Canadian Rock Album on iTunes Rewind 2011.
"I try not to really worry or care about stuff like that," Green says. "It's a big accomplishment obviously for me and for the people that work with me. But I don't even know what it means, you know? You go, 'OK, now where? The only place for it to go is now down.'"
"So I try to be proud of what I put out, and once it's out I try to not worry about how it's doing and just go play."
Little Hell is, as Green describes the album, "not just about the little hells in relationships, it's about the little hells in all of life."
Little Hell was recorded with the help of his backing band -- Daniel Romano, Dylan Green and Scott Remila -- at the same studio where he recorded 2008's Bring Me Your Love (Catherine North Studios in Hamilton, Ont.).
Green says the recording, tinged with lap steel guitar and a rockier sound, was initially difficult considering the recent sudden death of studio owner and longtime friend Dan Achen.
"Part of me thought I was trying to force it," Green says. "I was hoping just stepping in the doors it would be back, and it wasn't there. It was my first time working with Alex (Newport, producer) and it was my first time recording on tape. Those were the moments where I was really defeated and felt like I needed to stop and go do something else with my life. I think Dan was there in spirit to help guide us along the way."
The album deals with a variety of subjects close to Green's heart, from his sister's hardships ("O' Sister"), to his wife and So You Think You Can Dance Canada host Leah Miller's night terrors ("Fragile Bird"), to his own personal insecurities, the final track on the album ("Hope For Now") seeing him ask, "How can I instil such hope but be left with none of my own?"
"There are a lot of things I sing about where people wonder if I'm being a little too 'open book,'" Green says. "But I've always written that way and I think people who know me and are in my life know that and they've come to appreciate it's the way I sing and the way I make music."
That question at the end of the record is one on Green's mind on numerous occasions over the past few months as he was being approached after concerts by fans who told him stories of how his music had helped them cope in difficult times.
"That whole song sums up who I am," Green says. "This last year has been the first year where I've really toured with City and Colour and really had a chance to talk to people. To me it's an unbelievable feeling to have someone tell you that a song has helped them through their tragedies. But at the end of the day I'm still left with this sense of hopelessness in myself.
"Now I'm taking all these stories with me and there's no separation for me any more. I need to learn how to do that because it's really starting to weigh on me. I'm a part of these people's lives now. I feel almost a sense of responsibility: I need to write songs.
"Are the next songs I write going to be able to help somebody and should it matter if they do or not? I know it's my fault for writing such personal songs. I could just sit and write songs about Friday night and getting drunk. It's a fine, double-edged sword: On one side I feel so blessed to have made a difference for these people because music has been such a big part of my life, but on the other side I wish they didn't need to go through things like that."
City and Colour's Canadian Tour Dates Include:
Vancouver, Jan. 19 & 20
Edmonton, Jan. 25 & 26
Calgary, Jan. 28 & 29
Saskatoon, Feb. 1
Regina, Feb. 2
Winnipeg, Feb. 3
Toronto, Feb. 10 & 11
Montreal, Feb. 17
Fredericton, Feb. 22
Saint John, Feb. 23
St. John's, Feb. 25 & 26