City and Colour’s Dallas Green has been coming to Victoria for many years, and as a performer he’s come a long way in that time.
“I like touring across Canada in general but there’s a few places that I played very early on – not only with Alexisonfire, but when I first started doing the City and Colour thing – I remember playing a solo show in Victoria outside in this little outdoor theatre space downtown. I don’t know if it’s still there, sort of like a little square … it was very memorable,” he says.
Green is now used to slightly larger crowds, like the ones he played to during two sold out shows at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto last month.
“I’m from St. Catharines (Ont.) so I grew up going to that theatre, going to see shows there when I was a teenager … you couldn’t help but imagine to play in a place like that, but for me personally, I never thought that it was feasible because I have a bit of a, I guess, pessimistic attitude,” he says. “I set small attainable goals for myself all my life, always have, so the idea of playing there never seemed like it was a possibility.”
Green, who is well known for his work with Alexisonfire, released solo album, Sometimes, under the name City and Colour, a side project with a decidedly less hardcore sound than Alexisonfire, in 2005. Sometimes and Green’s subsequent Bring Me Your Love, Little Hell and The Hurry and the Harm all reached Platinum status in Canada. His 2015 release If I Should Go Before You spawned hits Wasted Love and Lover Come Back, debuted at No. 1 on the Canadian Billboard charts and received several Juno nominations.
“As a songwriter you want people to listen, but me being me, I never really follow what I assume people are going to like. I always sort of try to make records that I like and hope people are sort of following along with me.”
Green says his music has grown along with him as well. “I think all of the records are different – just because I’m different. I’m a different person than I was when I made that first solo record, 11 years ago now.”
“The thing too is, it’s my fifth City and Colour record and the fifth seems to be, in the history of bands and artists, a hard thing to get to. To get past that number four and continue evolving and moving upward and so I’m happy about that.”
None of it would have been possible without the encouragement of his 11th Grade English teacher, he says. Although he had been playing guitar since an early age, Green had always been too shy to sing in front of people.
“Mrs. Modolo heard me singing in the back of the class one day. I was listening to a mix tape I had made on headphones and I was singing along to it. She knew I played guitar and knew I was really interested in music and stuff and she heard me singing and said: ‘I want you to sing in front of the class,’ and I said, ‘no,’ and she made me,” he says with a laugh.
Years later when he was playing a show in Italy, she was in the audience. “I played at this 600 year old theatre and Mrs. Modolo got to come and see me play in this small town, in this beautiful old theatre in Italy and I told the story to the crowd of this woman who made me sing and it was a really beautiful moment.”
He always knew he wanted to be a songwriter, but never dared to dream he would achieve success.
“There was no dreams of being a tattooed guy on stage in front of a bunch of people. It was just, ‘this is what I feel what I might be good at.’ But to be honest, if I could have been a foot taller I would have tried to be in the NBA. That was my real dream because I love basketball so much but I was, you know, five-foot-eight and not very athletic,” he laughs again. “That dream went out the window real quick.”
The tattoos though are a reality and a visual reminder to Green of his dedication to performing.
“I’ve got a couple up on my left biceps, shoulder area that I got when I was about 17 years old, that’s where it started,” he says. “(I) started working my way down, as the band stuff started to progress I started to get more below my elbows.”
At 24, he went for the so-called job killers. “I got my hands tattooed and that was more of like, ‘OK this is it, I’m going to do this, so I have to try to work my hardest because I’m only going to be able to be a musician now.’ No one else is going to hire me for a real job because I have tattoos on my hands – and it worked out I guess.”