City And Colour headlines Brisbane Festival's 2019 closing party (28 September).
Dallas Green goes by many names.
To some, the softly-spoken 38-year-old will forever be one-fifth of Alexisonfire, the post-hardcore band that burst out of Canada in 2001. To others, he is P!nk’s unlikely collaborator. Their pairing, as folk duo You+Me, resulted in 2014 album ‘rose ave.’, a commercial success undented by its implausibility as the musical offspring of a pop princess and screamo merchant.
Then there’s City and Colour, Green’s gentler, more acoustic solo project. It’s in this latter incarnation that Green will grace The Riverstage this September (as part of Brisbane Festival), in his only scheduled Australian date.
The show will be a triple celebration. He’ll be marking The Riverstage’s 30th birthday, closing the Brisbane Festival and soundtracking the pyrotechnics of Riverfire.
On the phone from his native Ontario (yes, he does pronounce about as aboot) Green explains he’s happy crossing continents for just one show. “I love Australia very much. I jump at the chance to go whenever I can.
“I’ve played [The] Riverstage a couple of times with Alexisonfire and by myself. As we get going with my new record it seemed like a nice way to come over. I’ll probably do some other stuff to see if people are still interested. Hopefully, I’ll come back next year with a full tour.”
That new record he mentions is 'A Pill For Loneliness', set to be released 4 October. Two teaser tracks, 'Astronaut’ and ‘Strangers’, have already been released. “I haven’t put new music out for a while. I wanted to ease into it,” Green says.
“'Astronaut' encapsulates a lot of what the new record sounds like. It’s very atmospheric and different from what I’ve done before. Everyone involved with ‘Strangers’ was unanimous that it would be a good single. It’s uptempo and different again.”
Uptempo is a striking adjective for an artist whose songs are characterised by melancholy. “That’s just the way that I like to write,” Green says. “A lot of people categorise it as sad. I don’t necessarily think it’s sad.
“When I’m happy or I’m in a good place, I don’t think about writing a song. It’s more when I’m either contemplative or wondering about life, that’s when I feel like writing. It’s to get out of my own head. Hopefully, I can put it in a song where it’s relatable to someone else.”
The new record has been ready since March, but on hold for an unlikely reason – Alexisonfire. “Because I was doing stuff with Alexisonfire, we wanted to wait. We put out new Alexis' songs and did a bunch of shows. Now that’s over, the [solo] record’s coming.”
Ironic, considering there was a time when City and Colour took precedence. Green’s pursuit of his solo project precipitated the break-up of Alexisonfire in 2012. Yet the break-up transpired to be a little more than a hiatus. The band reunited in 2015, differences resolved. As Green says, “it’s all timing”.
Is it a coincidence that City and Colour haven’t released any new material since Alexisonfire reformed? Green doesn’t think so, saying that in the interim he started a record label, Still Records. “And I produced an album,” he adds.
“I normally tour forever, so I toured for about two years on that last City and Colour record [2015’s ‘If I Should Go Before You’]. Then, I put out a live record [2018’s ‘Guide Me Back Home’].”
Touring has always been Green’s lifeblood. Throughout his two decades in the industry, Green has remained ahead of the curve, first in harnessing the Internet, secondly in recognising that connecting with audiences through live shows, not record sales, keeps a career afloat.
“Streaming has shifted everybody’s approach. Now people realise they have to tour to make money. I’ve always done that. I never really relied on album sales. It was always about playing. I make records so I can go and play the songs to people.”
Green sings the Internet’s praises, but has strong words for streaming platforms. “I’m a product of the Internet. After Alexisonfire started, people found out I had solo songs through file sharing.
"It has allowed a lot of bands to come back and have fan bases. You always have to adapt to the way people are digesting music. I appreciate all sides of that.
“My argument is more about the conglomerates that are controlling the rights to people’s music because there are no laws against it. People who work for Spotify make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It takes a million streams to even make a thousand dollars. The math on it is not reasonable whatsoever.”
Warming to his theme, his mild-mannered speech becomes increasingly animated. “I worry about young artists being able to make records, being able to sustain that. It’s a hard life to live when you’re not earning anything. I don’t think artists can last because people don’t pay for music anymore.”
Is he concerned he’ll face a Taylor Swift-esque backlash for speaking out against streaming juggernauts? “I’m an independent artist. I can say what I want. I don’t worry. Music stills means the same to people. The passion between [a] musician and listeners is as strong as ever. So that’s at least something.”
City and Colour plays Brisbane Festival (with The Jezabels and Asha Jefferies) at The Riverstage 28 September. His new album, 'A Pill For Loneliness', will be released 4 October.