When Dallas Green started releasing his solo music in 2005, the idea of people sporting T-shirts bearing his name made him sick to his stomach. Shirts for singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan or Neil Young — sure, those made sense. Not for Dallas Green. He even hated the thought of someone picking up a CD and seeing it labeled with his name. Hence, the recording alias City and Colour, a simple reference to Dallas — a city — and green — a color.
"It stems from a lack of confidence," Green said during a phone interview. "City and Colour is something I can hide behind."
For about 10 years, he played in the post-hardcore band Alexisonfire. Perhaps it was easier for him to hide amid the noisy screams of his old band, but with the folk-oriented City and Colour, it's nearly impossible. He tours with a full band, but half of the sets feature just him, front and center with a guitar, his high tenor voice slipping occasionally into a falsetto. His hope is that the performances always remain focused on the songs.
"I've always wanted it to be more about the song than it is about the person," he said. "It's not the applause that moves me. It's the feeling of the song, and hoping that people feel something from it."
He understands that as he has become more successful — winning three Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy) and topping the Canadian charts — the attention of listeners might inevitably shift away from the songs and more toward him as an individual. That reality seems to make him uneasy, but recent creative decisions have shown that he's not paralyzed by the idea. On stage with a band, he now stands in the middle, instead of off to the side. And the cover of his latest album, "The Hurry and The Harm," is the first to show his face — well, half of it.
"I'm a little bit more comfortable with myself now at 33 than I was at 23," he said.
As a confessional songwriter with a cathartic, autobiographical approach, his lyrics are intensely personal.
"I can't help but write about things in my own life or about the way I'm feeling at the time. It's a little selfish in a way," he said.
In the song "Two Coins" from "The Hurry and The Harm," the line, "I've always been dark, with light somewhere in the distance," stands out. When asked if he is, indeed, a dark person, he said, "Yeah, I think so. … I'm never really overly happy. I think I have moments of happiness, but the rest of them are kind of spent celebrating the negative. I work to hopefully not be that way someday."
His songs aren't completely filled with despair, though, and he pointed out that not only does it provide an outlet, it's also fun to sing sad songs. "I do think that there's always a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel in most of my songs," he added.
He's never tried to write a happy-go-lucky song, mainly because he learned a long time ago that forcing lyrics never turns out well.
"I'm sure that if I sat down and decided to write a song about my puppy dog that I love so much, which is the truth, I'm sure I could write a song about her," he said.
Despite loving his 4-pound Maltese/Yorkie mix named Alabama, he doesn't think he would like such a song, or that it would be any good. He clarified that he is not a dog lover; he just adores his tiny Morkie.
For fans of the loud, aggressive Alexisonfire, all of this emphasis on intimacy might seem strange. "Our goal was to try to get everyone in the crowd moving and as energetic as humanly possible," he said of his former band. "[Now], if I can get everyone to be pin-drop quiet, that's my goal."
He claimed it hasn't sunk in for him that he deserves the accolades he's received from fans and critics. He said he surrounds himself with people who keep him grounded to keep his ego in check.
"Every time I make a fuss about any
little thing," he said, "I get told to take the trash out."