Q&A: City and Colour’s Dallas Green on the Hip’s influence, working with Pink

By David Friend, The Canadian Press

Dallas Green has been thinking about how Gord Downie shaped him as a musician.

The City and Colour singer-songwriter learned with the rest of us on May 24 that the Tragically Hip frontman is battling terminal brain cancer.

Green says he hopes to attend as many of the Hip’s upcoming summer shows as his schedule allows, even though he’ll be on the road himself for part of the season.

City and Colour play a series of dates across Canada over the next month and a half in support of the 2015 album “If I Should Go Before You.” This week they perform a number of Alberta concerts before hitting up Regina on Sunday and Winnipeg on June 14.

Other shows cover parts of Ontario, Quebec and the East Coast through late July.

Green talked to The Canadian Press about touring, his recent collaboration with pop star Pink, and Downie’s influence.

CP: You’ve called Downie a friend for years, and the two of you collaborated on the 2008 song “Sleeping Sickness.” What was it like working with one of Canada’s most beloved songwriters?

Green: He’s the gold standard — the way he writes and cares about music and the way he cares about the song. When he came and sang on my record it was a monumental experience of not only how I wanted to continue as a Canadian songwriter, but as a person as well.

CP: What was it like as a budding musician when the Hip was dominating Canadian radio stations and MuchMusic. Did that shape you as an artist?

Green: They mean so much to just about everybody in Canada, but I think as far as Canadian musicians, it might be indescribable to say what they mean to me and people like me, especially my age. I’m a little younger than they are, so I (was) growing up when they’re taking over Canada. If you’re a musician and you’re born in Canada it’s in your DNA to like the Tragically Hip.

CP: You’re well experienced with the road yourself, having played with hardcore band Alexisonfire for several years before going solo. How do you keep your live performances fresh?

Green: It’s the first Canadian tour on the new record so we have a whole bunch of songs to play live for the first time, which is important for me. We’re musicians so you can always breathe new life into an old song. I don’t think I ever sing a song the same way twice because I don’t know how to, in a sense. If I sing a song I wrote 10 years ago it’s going to sound different because I’m a different person now — my voice is 10 years older.

CP: After leaving Alexisonfire you switched up your sound for City and Colour, but you also released the 2014 folk collaboration You+Me with Alecia Moore, better known as pop singer Pink. How did that project happen?

Green: I made a record (that) I was touring and kind of winding down on. I knew I wanted to make a new City and Colour record but I didn’t really have any songs. Alecia and I had talked about (working together) for a long time — not about making a record, but the idea of singing together and trying to write a song. When we had the time to do it that really lit a fire of creativity because it was something different. The idea of collaborating with a female voice and a different writer was what I needed, I guess, to create a bunch of new songs.

CP: Do you think you’ll revisit You+Me with another album?

Green: I don’t know. We still talk and we’re still friends. The fact that it did work so well for us was amazing, but I think if we tried to plan it or say we were going to do another one we may defeat the purpose of the surprise that came out of that. I think we would both love to. It was maybe some of the most fun I’ve ever had making music because there was zero care in the world.

CP: Streaming music has been a hot topic for musicians lately, particularly how much artists are being paid by services like Spotify and Apple Music. What do you think of streaming music?

Green: Streaming is really disappointing to me. There’s bands and artists travelling around, eating on $5 a day, and sleeping in their van like we used to do and (executives are making six figures). It’s disgusting. It’s theft, that’s what it is.

CP: Do you see a future where streaming companies improve how they pay musicians?

Green: All the pressure lies on the musicians now. We’re still going to be looked at like we have to write music for people to listen to, but slowly and surely no one wants to pay for it. Nothing will be done unless a law is made — that’s the sad truth of it. I have no idea what it’s going to be like to start a band in a couple of years. You just won’t be able to sustain it.

— This interview has been edited and condensed.

Follow @dfriend on Twitter.

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