City and Colour: Giving Voice to Grief

Before making what would become his latest album, The Love Still Held Me Near, acclaimed singer/songwriter Dallas Green – aka City and Colour – reached a point where he wasn’t sure he’d ever write music again.

Green had just lost both his cousin, and his close friend and collaborator in less than a year’s time, and was facing down turning 40 in a global pandemic. 

He was also holding onto his marriage of over 11 years by a thread, and experiencing what he calls a “perfect midlife crisis.”

“It was for me really just about finding the sheer joy in creating again,” Green said about how songwriting actually helped him process his pain. “That’s what I’m always striving for, is to find that personal fulfillment in making the art.”

Beset by tragedy after tragedy, Green felt a profound loss of identity when lockdown hit and took the only livelihood he’s ever really known away from him in an instant. 

Completely unsure of the future, he found himself turning to his past, reconnecting with his former bandmates in iconic Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire in 2021.

Reuniting a decade after parting ways—and two decades after first forming the band in their late —Alexisonfire made their first record together in 13 years, Otherness, at the same time that Green began working through the powerfully personal songs that fill his latest City and Colour record.

“I think finding that spark with those guys really just allowed me to come home every day from those jams so invigorated, just by the sheer sake of creating a song,” Green said. “And that allowed me to almost use that positivity to dig into all of the real personal stuff I was trying to write about on the other side.”

Green began City and Colour in 2005 as a quieter solo project separate from his work in Alexisonfire. He’s since released seven albums, four of which have topped the charts in his native Canada, and has gained fame and fans all around the world. 

“I understand that I’ve had a very successful crack at this whole thing,” Green said. “But it’s been a very confusing ride with the two bands, and leaving one, and your solo thing becoming popular… I mean, I didn’t think anybody was going to like either of them.”

Touring nearly nonstop for almost 15 years in support of all his success, Green got blindsided by the abruptness of the pandemic forcing him to reexamine himself and his life built on recording and touring. His solution was to write the song “Begin Again,” the beautiful closing chapter to The Love Still Held Me Near

“When I first started digging into the first few lines in the verse, it was just a representation of where myself and my friends were at in that moment,” Green said, discussing the shock they all felt following the sudden drowning death of their friend Karl Bareham. “That was February 2020. We hadn’t even experienced the pandemic yet.”

When the pandemic did come, and Green began to see how it was affecting everyone, he realized he wasn’t alone in his feelings of loss, uncertainty, and grief. 

“I think realizing that what was going on in my life was not singular to me, that everyone will feel this at some point,” Green said. “That became a real moment where I could go, ‘All right, I can just write about this, because I’m not being selfish. I’m not being too personal, because what I’m singing about are just things that everyone goes through.’

“And realizing that you have a voice for that is really beneficial, because there was a part of me that thought maybe I shouldn’t write about some of this stuff, or maybe I shouldn’t dig too deep into the personal side of what I had been experiencing. But then you start to realize music is such a beautiful gift to so many people who don’t seem to have the words. And when you hear certain things sung or put into a nice melody, it really changes your perspective.”

Releasing The Love Still Held Me Near late last March, Green intended the album to stand as a front to back listen, going on the emotional journey with him track by track. Co-produced with longtime band member Matt Kelly, the 12-song record pushes Green’s haunting voice more to the front than ever before, as the band explores an even more expansive, sonically engaging sound.

“We’ve only played a few songs live so far because we were out on tour before it had come out and then we’d been off for a little bit,” Green said about how he plans to approach bringing the album to the live stage. “I’m interested to see which ones start to infiltrate the set because I do have a lot of records and I understand that there are a lot of opinionated fans of my music who want me to play certain songs and I will, so I’m still going to play a bunch of old ones. But I think there will be a couple of times this year where we play the whole record front to back just because I feel like it needs to happen.” 

City and Colour
GLC Live at 20 Monroe  |  11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
May 3, 7 p.m., $33.50+  |  (616) 482-2027,