Dallas Green opens up about the profound grief and love driving City and Colour’s achingly intimate and beautifully raw seventh album, ‘The Love Still Held Me Near’ – an unfiltered and brutally honest exploration of loss in its many forms.
‘The Love Still Held Me Near’ – City and Colour
Let’s just forget the unforgiving presence of death and live wild and free; Godless or not, you can’t let the fear control your body…
Death hit Dallas Green when he least expected it.
“We were on tour in Australia and my dear friend Karl tragically drowned, and it threw just everything in our world into turmoil,” the City and Colour frontman recalls. “It was one of those things that you just never want or think is going to happen, but then it happens to you…”
Green’s best friend (and longtime City and Colour producer) Karl Bareham went swimming in Australia’s Gold Coast while the band was on tour there in September 2019, and he never came back. A few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic came to North America, and Green had all the time in the world and nothing to do but sit with his feelings; to process his loss, soak in his grief, and let it pour out of him.
During those early months of the pandemic, Green reconnected with his old Alexisonfire bandmates, and the group began writing and recording songs – just for fun, initially – for the first time in over a decade; their fifth studio album Otherness was subsequently released in June 2022.
“I was so rejuvenated and almost reborn by this experience of being in a room with my guys again just playing, writing songs, and not really knowing what they would become or even if there would be a future for us to present it. It was just in those early months of like, ‘let’s just do this ’cause we are able to,'” he says.
Green found himself inspired by this reunion, and began writing new material of his own on the side. These were more intimate singer/songwriter-leaning songs, many of which centered around themes of love and loss – some influenced by the ongoing pandemic, others reckoning with his dear friend’s still-recent passing. They didn’t quite fit the Alexisonfire mold, but they were perfect for City and Colour – the folk/rock solo “side project” Green first launched in 2005, and has been running with ever since.
“I think the songs I was writing by myself became this real magnifying glass on that one state of my being – the grief and the loss – but I had started to come around this corner of it,” Green shares. “Once a week, I was jamming with the guys, and we were making a racket, and I was coming home and working on those songs, but every few days, I would go back to these sort of journal entry songs. And really, before I knew it, I had a whole batch of songs for this other thing. It was weird – it was like I’d found myself back to the person I was when I first started in the band, and I had all these other songs, and it was okay that I could do both ’cause nobody knew about either of them.”
“I’d found myself in just this total joy of making music, this youthful exuberance of how I felt when I was a kid, and I was moved by records before it became my all-encompassing life. The songs were just pouring out of me, but I was also letting them; I was letting it be easy, I think, which I’d never really done before.”
Green began teasing new music of his own about five months after Alexisonfire’s album release; City and Colour’s seventh studio album, The Love Still Held Me Near, released on March 31 via Still Records, an imprint of Dine Alone Records. Sonically tender and emotionally turbulent, The Love Still Held Me Near is an unfiltered, brutally honest exploration of loss in its many forms: From the death of a loved one to the loss of his own identity as a person who made music and toured, Green held nothing back in creating an achingly intimate and beautifully raw expression of heartache and inner turmoil.
“I’d obviously dealt with some loss in my life,” Green explains. “I lost some grandparents early, and some close friends of mine had passed away, but nothing on this level – and in the middle of the loss of all these other parts of my life, where it was me and a magnifying glass on this devastating relationship I had built with myself. It was just really like, ‘Do I avoid all of that because it’s too personal or too heavy to talk about, or do I dive headfirst into it and try to use it as a tool to get my way through whatever I’m dealing with, and then maybe it will turn into something beautiful?‘”
Awake, awake, my darling
The moon is down
The waves, the waves,
they are crashing all around
What would you do?
What would you say, if I was gone?
Losing your breath
Toil and sweat
Just hold on
If you say it now
Leave no doubt
You’d shatter the earth
It’s where I will be found
‘Cause the love still held me near
Say it now
Then time will disappear
He wound up diving in headfirst, and the result sees City and Colour at his most intimate and his most intense.
Full of soaring, stunning highs and tearful, tragic lows, The Love Still Held Me Near is a visceral, profoundly personal journey through Green’s own unrest and upheaval. From the heart-wrenching, breathtaking album opener “Meant to Be” and the smoldering, no-holds-barred “Fucked It Up,” to the emotionally charged “A Little Mercy,” the impassioned, soulful eruption “Without Warning,” the soft acoustic ballad “Things We Choose to Care About,” and the fiery and spirited “The Water Is Coming,” The Love Still Held Me Near reads like a diary and sounds like a heavy soul unleashed. It’s rip-roaring and dynamic in some spaces, and incredibly quiet and subtle in others. Through it all, Green remains unapologetic and true, wearing his heart on his sleeve throughout an hour’s worth of powerfully emotive and cathartic songwriting. These twelve songs may range in sound and scope, but they are all the undeniable results of grief and love.
“What I will always, I think, take from it, is that it was a way to turn something painful into something beautiful,” Green says of making this album. “It was just proof that I could lean on the thing that has always gotten me through. It’s always been my saving grace, whether it’s listening or writing my own music.”
He ends the album with the soothing “Begin Again,” an uplifting ray of hope shining on the darkness. “Leave the worry a little while take my healing hand. When all is said and done, we will begin again,” he sings knowingly at the song’s end, a sense of serenity radiating through his warm voice. “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt peace in my mind, but there on the horizon, I can see the light.”
City and Colour will be head back out on tour, playing the West Coast and Southern states this August and September in support of The Love Still Held Me Near. Dive into our intimate interview below, where we discuss grief, death, and dive deep into the songs themselves, and grab tickets to City and Colour’s live dates here!
Dallas Green considers The Love Still Held Me Near to be the best thing he’s ever made, and it’s not hard to see why: Achingly intimate and beautifully raw, this album presents him at his most human and his most vulnerable: Fragile, devastated, but never fully alone.
As he sings in “Underground,” “Let’s just forget the unforgiving presence of death and live wild and free. Godless or not you can’t let the fear control your body.”
Dive into the depths of this beautiful, breathtaking album in our conversation below!
Did someone say that this would be easy?
Did they proclaim “this too shall pass”?
One thing I know you learn for certain
Is that the good times, they never last
But darling, you know I ain’t got the answers
But I sure as hell won’t surrender
It’s gonna be you and me ’til the end of time
Though we lost it all without warning
After dark always comes morning
You know we can make it one more night
– “Without Warning,” City and Colour
A CONVERSATION WITH CITY AND COLOUR
Atwood Magazine: So, Dallas, I wanted to actually start by thanking you – we're gonna just dive right in here. I lost my mother to cancer in 2017 when I was 25 years old, and I've been living with that loss ever since. Experiencing her death inspired me to live the life I wanted to live and to find happiness in my present. Writing with Atwood for nearly 10 years now, I've listened to and written about a lot of grief-related music, but nothing hit quite as close to home as this record.
Dallas Green: Well, first of all, I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m thankful that you were able to relate to what I was singing about. I think that’s what was part of the reason why I sort of dove headfirst into writing about a lot of the loss and the grief I was experiencing was because I knew that it would eventually help me get through it. And then, obviously, the hope was that it would be relatable because it was sort of like that understanding that even though it felt like the end of my world, it is not a singular experience. It’s something we all have to deal with at one point or the other. So I’m sorry for your loss but I’m grateful that you were able to get something from the songs.
And I yours. I understand The Love Still Held Me Near was inspired by the loss of someone dear to you. Would you mind sharing more about that experience and how it affected you?
Dallas Green: Yeah. I think, it’s funny, the record is definitely about that, but it’s also, I think, about loss as a whole. And I think right in the middle of a couple of things was an experience that I never thought would happen. We were on tour in Australia and my dear friend Karl tragically drowned and it threw just everything in our world into turmoil. It was one of those things that you just never want or think is going to happen, but then it happens to you and really just makes you believe that, oh, this happens to everybody. Maybe not necessarily like that, but oftentimes it’s way worse than that. And so then the pandemic started, and so I was sort of stuck with a lot of loss and grief. And I think the part of me knew that at some point I would start to write about it just because that’s how I’d always written, at least City and Colour songs had always just been this platform for me to ruminate in and around things that are on my mind.
Whether it’s deeply personal things or just grand observational things, it’s just this place where I felt comfortable getting things off my chest. But then there was a long period where I just didn’t understand how I would write about something like that. And even the other parts of my life that were going completely… You know. My personal relationship, the loss of who I thought I was. I was this person who made music and toured, and then I was in the middle of the pandemic going, “Well, maybe that’s not a thing anymore either.” And it was just this real sort of crossroads of, “Do you dig deep into the loneliness, or do you dig deep inside and try to figure out how to get through all of this?” And that’s sort of what I wrote the record about.
So you had this singular experience, and it just sort of unlocked the key to all these different ideas about loss and how it affects our lives.
Dallas Green: Yeah. I’d obviously dealt with some loss in my life, I lost some grandparents early, and some close friends of mine had passed away, but nothing on this level. And in the middle of, like I said, the loss of all these other parts of my life, where it was me and a magnifying glass on this devastating relationship I had built with myself, I guess. So, yeah, it was just really like, “Do I avoid all of that because it’s too personal or too heavy to talk about, or do I dive headfirst into it and try to use it as a tool to get my way through whatever I’m dealing with, and then maybe it will turn into something beautiful?“
You've been quoted as saying that The Love Still Held Me Near is about digging deep down into yourself and attempting to unearth hope and light in the things that can comfort you in times of unimaginable loss. I found this album to be full of both pain and light. What was your vision going in, in that regard? Did you have an idea for what you were hoping it to be in advance or did the songs guide you and tell the story?
Dallas Green: Yeah, I think the songs really did guide me. I think because I was writing… It was a strange period. It was like I’d gone through this, the first bunch of months of the pandemic were, I think like most people, filled with confusion and dread and just sort of fear of the unknown of this thing that we were all collectively going through, but also just completely going through on our own. But then a few things sort of like sparked my creative brain, and things started to turn around where it just sort of kind of exploded. But because I was starting to jam with Alexis and we were starting to write songs for that new record at the same time, I was so rejuvenated and almost reborn by this experience of being in a room with my guys again just playing, writing songs, again, not really knowing what they would become or what it would become or even if there would be a future for us to present it. It was just in those early months of like, let’s just do this ’cause we are able to.
But in doing that, I think the songs I was writing by myself became this real magnifying glass on that one state of my being, the grief, and the loss, but I had started to come around this corner of it. So it was just sort of like I just started writing these other songs. Meanwhile, once a week, I was jamming with the guys, and we were making a racket, and I was coming home and working on those songs, but every few days, I would go back to these sort of journal entry songs. And really, before I knew it, I had a whole batch of songs for this other thing. And it was weird. It was like I’d found myself back to the person I was when I first started in the band, and I had all these other songs, and it was okay that I could do both ’cause nobody knew about either of them, and it was just this…
Two totally different scenes.
Dallas Green: Yeah, right? But it was like I’d found myself in just this total joy of making music, this youthful exuberance of how I felt when I was a kid, and I was moved by records before it became my all-encompassing life. So I think it was really just the songs were just fucking pouring out of me. But I was also letting them, I was really just letting it. I was letting it be easy, I think, which I’d never really done before. I had always sort of made it really difficult on myself, for whatever reason.
How do you mean?
Dallas Green: All I ever wanted to do was make music, and I got to do that, but the way it happened, and the two bands, and it actually working, and people liking it, and all of this other stuff, it’s been a very confusing experience for me.
The story of how you've done it is a lot easier to tell than how you actually did it in the moment.
Dallas Green: Yeah, exactly. All I had was time, and I’d always said if I had double the amount of time or if I actually worked on music as much as I thought about working on music, then I would have twice as much. And there you go. In five months, I had written and recorded two records.
Alexisonfire's Otherness is very different from this album, I will say.
Dallas Green: Yeah, I know.
How did this record’s creation compare to, say, that of A Pill for Loneliness or If I Should Go Before You?
Dallas Green: Oh, they’re like much different. I think the conception of them, it was a strange… Like I said, it was sort of this crossroads where I went from not thinking I was gonna write much or sort of like losing who I thought I was, to all of a sudden a switched turned where I was like, “What am I doing?” This is just what I do. I write music and sing songs, whether I get to do that for a living or not anymore has no bearing on the ability that I have to just write and make songs. So once that clarification hit me, I just went full force into it. But so much of it was written alone. And the City and Colour songs were really birthed from a lot of just isolation, whereas the Alexis jams, when they started, we had a place we could go to where it was a private building and we would wear masks, and we could go in there and not be around other people. And it was just, it’s a space. But the City and Colour record was made with the hope that by the time I was gonna record it, my band would be able to fly from Vancouver to Ontario.
Dallas Green: Yes, they were, thankfully. But even that, we recorded both records out at a studio where we could just live there and not really be in the public. So that really helped us. We knew the people who owned this place. But it was just such a strange time to make music, but I think, again, we don’t need to focus too much on the fact that I made it in the pandemic. But I do think both records have this real joy to them, and I think it’s because the people who were making music in that room at that point hadn’t really been in a room of people in a long time. And I’m sure a lot of records that were made in that first few months of being able to kind of gather again, I think ultimately just ended up having this real beautiful sense of joy to it because for people who do that, people who gather for a living and make music with other people, it’s a real life’s blood for us, I think. So I know I was just happy to be there. I was obviously grateful to be making music, and I’m so appreciative of still having that in my life but, man, just being in a studio with some other human beings was like… You know. After six months of playing to a drum machine, playing music with an actual drummer, it was just like, oh. You know?
Oh, I completely understand. It, of course, magnifies the meaning of the album as well. Do you feel Karl's absence in this record, and/or his presence in terms of the effect? I know he was producer, part of the live bands and engineer, so he had a big role in the City and Colour family.
Dallas Green: Yeah, it was the first record I had made without Karl since before If I Should Go Before You. So I think it was strange for all of us ’cause everybody who was a part of the record knew Karl or worked with Karl before, too. So when we all went to make the record, we all knew what we were doing. It was like everybody knew what I had been through to write all of these songs because they were all with me. They were all my friends or either parts of it or family. So it wasn’t just like a bunch of strangers working on songs I had written. We all knew what we were trying to capture. And it’s one of those strange things where I don’t know if a lot of the songs exist without what happened happening, but I also don’t think the record is the way it is if I don’t have the experiences I’ve had with Horse. So he is deep in the fabric of this record. Whether he’s there or not, he’s there in it.
That's nice. And I understand exactly what you mean. There are things that happen to us that completely alter our lives, and you'd take it all back in an instant. I know I would. We can't, that's not the way it works, so we just have to keep on going forward.
Dallas Green: Absolutely.
Why the title of The Love Still Held Me Near?
Dallas Green: Well, obviously, it’s a song on the record but I usually like to think of a phrase that just sort of encapsulates the group of songs. And for me, as much as that song is sort of like specifically… The song itself is specific in what it’s about but I just sort of kept leaning on that phrase because I think it was the thing that truly did help me get through the troubled waters was that I just was hanging on to the good. And whether it was the fact that I was alive so I better use my time wisely or the fact that I didn’t let the darkness take over, and I tried to, like I said, use my time wisely and create something beautiful out of the darkness I was experiencing. And it was that. It was the love and it was the light and it was thinking about the good things that kept me pushing forward, like you just said.
I spoke to your Canadian brethren, Stars, last year about the record they put out, From Capelton Hill, and it had a similar light and love and just passion in it. A lot of records released over the past couple of years home in on what matters most. It’s awful that we have to experience this collective trauma in order to do that, but it makes these albums hit closer to home than they might have otherwise, because we do have something that will, unfortunately, connect an entire generation. It's all of our lived memories.
ON THE SONGS
“I don't believe this is how it's meant to be; the church bells, they ring; you can hear the mourners sing; they still believe this is how it's meant to be,” you sing in the album's opener and the lead single, “Meant to Be.” The song aches with loss, and I can relate to that dissociative reality we were just talking about that you seemed to be going through in the song, that sense that you're experiencing some alternate world that somehow isn't the right timeline. Can you talk about this song and why it sits at the top of the album?
Dallas Green: Yeah. I think when I was writing a bunch of the songs, I don’t want to say it was tiptoeing around the idea, but I was sort of waiting for it to hit me, whether it be a certain line or a melody that just made me realize like that’s going to be the song I write about this specific feeling. And I remember the night that it just kind of presented itself. I was working on something different, and then I just was fiddling with chord progression and then the line “the sun, it kept on rising” just kind of came to me and it was just one of those moments where I kind of just knew that was gonna be it, this was gonna be the song. And then when I wrote it… It’s funny, I’ve had the line at the beginning of the song “when I grew up I had big city dreams; I wondered if the Bible was wrong”, I’ve had that line forever and I’ve just never wanted to put it in a song or just never worked in a song or it’s just been written down in numerous versions of my books forever. And then all of a sudden that night, it just started unraveling itself, and I knew I was gonna write about Karl.
But I was also gonna write about the fact that I was born and raised a Catholic and went to Catholic school my whole life and was taught a certain way of living or a certain version of what life is supposed to be or is according to certain things. And they all just sort of smashed into each other in that evening when I wrote the song. And it was this way for me to sort of eulogize my friend, my lost friend, but also question a lot of what I’ve been taught or what I had been taught, which is what I like about music. That’s what I always try to do with songs. I like to write simple songs but I’m having big deep conversations about things in myself when I’m trying to put it together. You know what I mean? And that’s the beautiful journey of writing a song is you can put so much into it and then it leaves you and it could be anything to anybody else.
There's real thought there, though.
Dallas Green: This is how I choose to write.
And it speaks volumes. I think that's why people listen… You've written about death before. You literally have a song called “If I Should Go Before You.” This time, it just felt different.
Dallas Green: Well, ’cause I think it was I’ve never been shy about singing about that kind of stuff because I ruminate on it a lot, and that’s why I’ve always written openly about death or the idea of what it is or what happens. We should all be enamored by it. It’s the one real truth that we share is that we’re all gonna die, and we need to figure that out. I don’t know. But this one is just specific because it’s about an actual death.
I went to an exhibit in a museum once about Roman Pompeii, and I remember learning that at this point in time in Roman history it was not uncommon for Romans to have a little skull on their dining room tables. The skull represented death, and it was a reminder to take every day, to live every day to the fullest. I think they were leaps and bounds beyond us in many regards, but it's not easy to ruminate on these things, and I think that sometimes once we do write it down, listen to it, there's something nice about getting it out of our system… but it never leaves.
Dallas Green: No. And I think that was part of why I felt okay about writing that song was I knew it was gonna be sad, but I think that’s okay. And, like I said earlier, what would holding it in do? I will be honest, though, right before it came out, I did have a moment of panic where I was like, “Is this ridiculous. Am I being ridiculous by singing about this?” And I called my friend Juice, who’s another one of my long-time crew member family members, who literally was in the room with me when me, him and our friend Dante had to identify Karl. I called him and was like, “Am I being ridiculous?” And he was the one who reminded me that, “Well, no, I can’t write a song about this. But I was there, and it’s not singular to us. It’s something that happens to everybody.” And then I also listened… I don’t know if you’ve listened but Nick Cave recently put out a book called Faith, Hope and Carnage, and it’s just a long-form conversation with him and a writer, Irish writer. It’s really beautiful but, man, does Nick ever speak so beautifully and poetically about grief and his own grief and writing about it and sharing it. Listening to that audiobook, that conversation really helped put it into perspective for me too, is that you’re numbed by this thing when it happens. He puts it, I think he says, you’re obliterated by grief. And for so many people, it’s like the words haven’t even been invented yet on how to speak about it. It’s really beautiful. Even if you like Nick Cave’s music or not, it’s really just a beautiful book.
You do go on to sing, “It ain't enough just to be alive; we've got to lean into the love a little before we die,” on “Underground.” I love that line, as well as just the warmth and color of that song. I love how this album is certainly one that's born from grief, but it is not one that I think dwells in it. I think that you kind of turn toward the light, to use a hackneyed expression.
Dallas Green: No, that’s okay. I think that there’s nothing wrong with simplifying something, so it’s understood. And I think, yeah, that’s exactly what it is. That’s what the title is. I’ve never been shy or shied away from just writing simple songs because sometimes I think that’s the easiest way to get your point across. But I think with that line, I was just thinking a lot about those… I wrote that song in the real depths of the pandemic, and I was thinking about how there was this narrative coming to play where it was like, well, just be happy with being healthy and being alive and just stay inside and all that. And I appreciated all of that too and I was doing my part, but then I started to think, at some point, we have to be alive. We do have to be alive. And it’s not an anti… It’s not like a political pandemic song by any means. It was just sort of magnifying this idea that you have to try to do something with your life.
“Let's just forget the unforgiving presence of death and live wild and free; Godless or not, you can't let the fear control your body.” Do you think it's possible to live wild and free once we've known death?
Dallas Green: Well, I do. I think, like you said, you carry it with you, but it’s been there the whole time, right? It’s been there the entire time that you’ve been alive. You’ve known that this is possible. And like I said, it’s like one of the first things you learn when you come flying out of the womb, and they’re like, “Okay, let’s make sure it’s breathing because it could immediately die.” You don’t even have a life yet. But it becomes this thing that nobody talks about, and we’re all terrified of it. And I think for me, I’ve always felt like I lived that way. I always felt like I’ve tried to follow where my passion takes me, for better or for worse. But, man, there’s nothing like losing someone to make you remember how fragile it actually is.
I wanna lighten things up a little bit in our conversation: “F***ed It Up.” What I found with that song, and the more I listen to the entire album, is just how unapologetically direct you are in your songwriting. This is about as honest and straight to the point as it gets. “We had everything we wanted then we f***ed it up.” I know it’s often easy and safe to sit in metaphors… Was it hard to write so directly, or was it a relief? Was it easier this time around?
Dallas Green: Oh, yeah. I feel like I’ve always been pretty open in my songwriting, always been pretty direct. I think when I was younger, being in Alexis and writing really strange music and songs about whatever we could think about was an avenue for that part of my creative brain. And City and Colour, like I said, always just became this sort of direct journal entry rumination of what I was feeling at the time, putting it to music. I’ve never really changed that approach. But I think this time around, too, it’s like I just knew exactly what I needed to say. And “Fucked It Up” is just basically, is simple. I mean, it’s a simple playful song about how complex and fucked up relationships can be and how, if you plan to try to be in a relationship with somebody for a very long time, it goes up and down constantly, and that’s where the line “ain’t it strange how we keep fallin’ in and out of love?” comes from.
That’s simple as it can be. But if you’ve been in a long-term relationship, you know how complex it is and what I’m actually saying when I’m saying that. I was talking to somebody recently, there was a bunch of married people. We were talking about marriage, and this girl said, “It’s crazy how I’ve been in like six or seven different relationships since I’ve been married, and they’re all with the same person.” And I was like, “You know what? I wrote a song about this, actually.” [chuckle] It was before this one had come out. And “Fucked It Up” is I came up with that chorus lyric, and I was like, oh, this is a perfectly simple fun way to describe what’s been going on.
I like it. One of my personal favorites on the album is “Without Warning.”
Dallas Green: Oh, nice. Another simple one.
Another simple one but, oh God, is it good. I love how soulful your voice is as you sing, “Though we lost it all without warning, after dark always comes morning; you know we can make it one more night.” You pack a ton of pain, but also just as much love into this song. And then for me, the tears came flowing as you sang, “Sometimes things just are not meant to be,” which obviously brings us back to the first song. Would you mind sharing more about “Without Warning”?
Dallas Green: “Without Warning” was something that came really quickly. I had discovered this, I was going through an old file on my computer of demos and just some ideas and things, and I had stumbled upon this piano sort of verse-chorus idea I had laid down years ago. I didn’t even remember, but as soon as I heard it, it started to remind me of where I was when I was writing the melody. So I started to fiddle with it a bit, and it was like I saw the whole song in that moment. And I called Matthew, my friend Matthew Kelly who plays in my band and produced the record with me, ’cause he’s a wizard when it comes to musical instruments and arrangements and things like that. That’s the kind of stuff, when I said earlier I’ve made it easier on myself. An old me would have struggled through trying to put this thing together that I saw very clearly in my head but instead, I called Matt. I said, “Matt, I’m gonna send you a verse and a chorus piano thing. Build me a five-minute framework of a song that has a verse, a chorus, two verses, two choruses, blah, blah, blah.” And I was like, “I have a song in my head. I need to do it right now.” And a few hours later, he sent me back this demo and I wrote the song over it that evening.
‘Cause I just knew that I had it. And that doesn’t happen often for me, really it doesn’t. That makes me sound like a magician and I am not. That’s really every so often, I just can see what I’m hearing, if that makes sense – and that was when I knew. As soon as I came up with that first line, I knew what I wanted to write about, I knew the sentiment I wanted the song to portray. And if I played you the demo of it, it didn’t change much at all when we went to record it. It felt special right then and there and that was it.
I also think it's fun to hear your voice over a more soulful backdrop.
Dallas Green: Thanks, man.
It really shined. So maybe more of that, huh?
Dallas Green: Yeah. [laughs]
I actually think this is arguably City and Colour's loudest album to date. You really hold nothing back. Granted, there's a lot of ballads, but at the same time there's the never-ending guitar solo on “The Love Still Held Me Near,” where you're just always riffing in the background. And there's also the climax in “Hard, Hard Time” where you go off the rails… Do you have any personal favorites or highlights off of this record that we haven't yet touched on?
Dallas Green: My favorite song is “A Little Mercy” because I’m a sucker for two chords and that’s it. My favorite songs are always the ones like that which are just like that’s a song where I just needed to get something off my chest. And I just love the groove of it. I was trying to write some… I don’t know. It’s like me just really loving Shad, and just trying to imagine Shad sort of soulfully dancing on stage. So that’s where the music of that song comes from.
And I really love “Bow Down to Love.” That was important. I think those two are important to me because those are the two songs that don’t deal too directly with the grief or the personal turmoil I was experiencing. Those were two songs written just from an observational standpoint of like I was watching the world break apart and I just wanted to write. I just wanted to write songs about the pain I felt like everybody was experiencing.
And so those two I think are more important to me in a way because I wasn’t using them as total therapy sessions. They were more just like reminiscent of moments I’ve had where I just wanted to write a song about. “Bow Down to Love” was just watching all of the George Floyd protesting and all of that and just seeing how angry we were and how upset everyone was and how filled with anger we all were about everything. And I just wanted to write the opposite of that.
The day begins to blur
Under this bruised light
Within the beast still stirs
Am I unfit to guide?
And now I’m weeping towards the sky
For what seeps back into the earth
Are we not supposed to love
In fear of losing someone?
Are we too afraid to feel
Too many wounds to heal?
Will they ever heal?
Will they ever heal?
Cause we don’t need this pain and this suffering, no
We don’t need this pain and this suffering, no
Just a little mercy
I get what you mean. This is a very special record, but I can imagine that as time goes on, it may not be the one that you choose to press play on all the time just because of just how much it means to you, sometimes, getting something out. I write songs as well. I know what it's like to have something held up inside to write this song full of meaning and then say, “Alright, get away from me.”
Dallas Green: Absolutely. And I can’t wait for it to come out because that’s also part of it, too. Once it’s out, then it literally is not mine anymore. It just becomes this sort of my contribution to the ether and people can listen to it if they want. If they don’t, that’s okay.
You can be done having conversations like these.
Dallas Green: No, no. These are good. I’ve been sitting on the record for a while and I’m proud of it and I’m happy to talk about it. I am.
I appreciate that. I do like how you ended the record with the song “Begin Again.” At this point, you can tell I'm a bit of a sucker for the lyrics. I love how that song says, “Save me a seat at your table; I will meet you there; 'Cause I loved you once, I will love you again.” And then in the end you sing, “When all is said and done, we will begin again.” Thinking about it now, it makes me think about that quote, ‘I've had six different relationships all with the same person.’ Made me think about the idea of seeing somebody that you love once again, wherever they are, kind of joining them one day. It also made me think about how, in long loving relationships, you go through your ups and your downs, but you always come back together. A lot all at once.
Dallas Green: Yeah, that’s something. That’s where I was coming from, from both points of it. I think the songs, as much as they’re all personal to me in my own way, a lot of the times I’m trying to tackle, certain lines will mean this, and certain lines will mean this and they all end up as a sort of succinct statement as one. But I am really just having these big conversations with myself. And I’m glad to hear you say that that’s what it made you feel.
Of course. Do you have any lyrics that stand out to you?
Dallas Green: I’m gonna think back to it here. I do love the line, just it’s simple… I mean all of them are simple but I love the line in “A Little Mercy”: “Are we not supposed to love in fear of losing someone?” I think that’s an interesting question because when you do love someone and you lose them, you do realize how much you actually did fucking love the person. And you sometimes wonder, Is it a safe thing to do to yourself to put yourself out there in fear of losing it? But I think ultimately, yes, of course you should.
It's a very philosophical record. Not many albums these days are quite as conceptual, intentionally or not – I recognize this just happened to be what you were going through. It's not like you set out to write a concept album about grief and love. This is like what happens in our lives, we get old. Shit happens. Simple as that.
Dallas Green: No, it’s definitely my shit happens record, for sure. No, it is. It’s like, okay, well, this is the point of your life you’re in.
Now that we discussed it at length, where do you feel The Love Still Held Me Near sits in your catalog?
Dallas Green: Well, it’s hard for me to say or judge that because I don’t know that it’s up to me. I would say personally that it’s the best thing I’ve ever made.
Good to hear you say that.
Dallas Green: But I like to feel that way about everything. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be, I mean every new thing I make, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be on the whoever’s list of whatever. It’s just, I like to think that I’m constantly pushing myself forward, whatever that means. But I do feel like it is the best thing I’ve made because it was an intersection of the most emotionally distraught period of my life but mixed with 20 years of only doing this. And, like I said earlier, that switch just turned on where I was like, oh, this is what I do. I can just make music ’cause I’ve spent more time making music than doing anything else in my life at this point. So I really, like I said, I just made it easy on myself. I went in and I knew exactly what I needed to do to make the record, and I think I did that.
I recognize it may not be up to you, but what do you hope listeners take away from this album? And what have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?
Dallas Green: Well, like anything I make, I do hope that they can just take whatever they need from it, people who listen to it actually give it time ’cause, again, that will always be my favorite part about music is everybody has a different experience when they listen to something. But for me it was personally just, it was proof to myself that I could keep going. And I don’t mean that in a darkness way, like there was no way I was able to carry on. I just mean like I had no reason to make the record other than to make it for myself. I don’t have a record label forcing me to do it. I don’t have people pressuring me to write songs.
Like you said at the very beginning of our conversation, I write when I feel like I need to write and then I make music and put it out and hope that people like it. That’s my process. So for me, it was just proof that I could lean on the thing that has always gotten me through. It’s always been my saving grace, whether it’s listening or writing my own music. So that’s what I will always, I think, take from it is that it was a way to turn something painful into something beautiful.
That was really well put. Thank you. Do you feel like the nerves that you felt pre-releasing the first single have kind of dissipated?
Dallas Green: Yeah. I think because I’ve read a bunch of people’s thoughts on the song and I’ve spoken to people now about it, and I realize that I think it was the right thing to do was to share my experience because I could.
Like you said, when you're really just making something for yourself, you're not making it necessarily with the idea to put it out, it's harder. You don't have to share your most personal, most vulnerable songs. But I do think there's admirability in choosing to do so, and I think it helps. It doesn't have to be the thing that creates success or acclaim, but I think if it could really help somebody else, it goes back to why we make music in the first place, which is community and connection.
Dallas Green: Yeah, that’s it. And thankfully, I’m at a place too in my life, in my career, where I feel good about what I’ve done. And it’s just more so than ever about that, about what you just said. More than ever, I just wanna make music because I can.
I admire that. I think you're right. It's a point of privilege to be able to do that but, at the same time, it's something that's very admirable. And if you can do it, what's to stop you? In the spirit of paying it forward, what music are you listening to these days that you would recommend to our readers?
Dallas Green: Okay. What have I been listening to in the last few days? I’m gonna look at my phone quick. So there’s this girl. This girl’s got this great, great pop song. What is her name? Her name is Eloise. She’s English and she’s got a song called “Giant Feelings” that is just a perfect chorus. What else?
There’s a girl singer/songwriter from England named Billie Marten. She just put out some new songs that are really, really good. I’ve listening to the Alex G record ‘God Save the Animals’. That song “Miracles” is just a perfect… It’s like a Tom Petty song. What else? Lots of stuff. Lots of old stuff, lots of new stuff, but those are some newer things I’ve been jamming the last few days.
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