City and Colour headlines Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Chris Azzopardi
Special to The Detroit News

Dallas Green’s story is written all over his hands.

He has a permanent indent on his baby finger. And calluses — lots of those.

These markings remind the Canadian singer-songwriter, known as City and Colour, of how far he’s come since he jittered up the steps to the place he first took guitar lessons at age 8. Because of that, he doesn’t mind them.

“She’s a harsh mistress, the guitar,” Green says. “But I love her.”

Even 25-plus years later, cradling his guitar feels like the first time. The thrill. The wonder. The mystery. “I’ve been playing a guitar longer than I’ve really been doing anything other than breathing,” says the musician, now 35, “and I still can be surprised by it and I still can feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, and I think that’s wonderful.”

And so does the Ark, apparently. In just three years, City and Colour will have made two headlining appearances at the Ann Arbor venue’s annual folk festival. For Anya Siglin, who handles the Ark’s booking, having Green perform songs from his latest release, “If I Should Go Before You,” during the opening night of the two-day event on Jan. 29, was a no-brainer.

“I love Dallas,” Siglin gushes. “I’m a big fan, and the timing is right. It’s a full-on band this time around and he played solo the last time. It’s a different show, a huge tour... and also, I happen to really like him!”

Many more people do, in fact — especially Pink fans. Under the moniker You+Me, he got folksy with the “So What” singer — who also happens to be his friend — for a side project called “rose ave.,” released in 2014.

“For her, she’s always collaborating, whereas I am, to a degree, a solitary songwriter,” he says. “I just sort of sit alone and stew over my thoughts and hope a song shows up. For me, that album was a really wonderful collaborative process.”

And yet, it wasn’t always easy. Simply driving to the L.A. studio where they recorded the album reinforced how, when his web-released songs led to a complete LP in 2005, he didn’t do it for the fame. In fact, he goes by City and Colour just so he can avoid it.

“I struggle with the idea of being known,” he admits, detailing his experience recording with Pink, born Alecia Moore.

“When I was making that record with Alecia, it was startling to see people following her from her house and paparazzi taking pictures. I have a hard time with that. I would get upset and she'd have to calm me down. She’s just used to it, but to me, that’s disgusting.”

Their collaboration, though, was not without its boons. Green credits the release for giving him the direction he needed to make his current album. “It opened the doors for me to really throw myself into wanting to make a record with my band,” he says. “After I made that record with Alecia, I knew I wanted to make a record with my guys.”

“If I Should Go Before You” preserves the gentleness of Green’s heartfelt musings, but this time, those chill-out vibes take a sonic detour. Not that he’s giving up the guitar anytime soon.

“I don't think I’ll ever be bored with the guitar,” he says. “I love playing quietly by myself and I love playing loud, and I still think there are endless possibilities and endless songs to write.”

Chris Azzopardi is a Canton-based freelance writer.

City and Colour

The Ann Arbor Folk Festival

6:30 p.m. Fri.

Hill Auditorium

825 N. University, Ann Arbor

Tickets: $37.50-$50

(734) 763-8587